Week 5 Mega Preview: Breaking down & predicting the biggest Texas high school football games

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Arlington Martin vs Denton Ryan at AT&T Stadium: The first game of a doubleheader at AT&T Stadium celebrating the 100th anniversary of UIL football is a fascinating matchup featuring Class 5A’s No. 1 team tangling with an up-and-coming Arlington Martin squad aiming to make noise in Class 6A. Martin, who was 11-2 last season, is poised for big things in 2020 with the offense returning QB Zach Mundell, who accounted for 36 touchdowns a year ago; WR Cal Robinson and RB Lenard Lemmons are key skill players. The offensive line has some questions, but they are young and talented. Martin’s group of linebackers is led by Texas commit Morice Blackwell, while junior DE Ernest Cooper IV holds offers from just about every big-time program in the nation. Denton Ryan, who suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 5A-Division I title game last year, appears to be loaded for a big run once again. Texas commits WR/DB Billy Bowman, Jr and WR/DE Ja’Tavion Sanders are two of the most dynamic two-way players in the state; keeping them healthy and fresh late in games is key for the Raiders, who aren’t a super deep squad. QB Seth Henigan, a Memphis commit, returns to lead the offense after throwing 37 touchdown passes a year ago. Rice LB commit DJ Arkansas is the quiet leader of the defense, and although he doesn’t generate a ton of attention, he’s incredibly productive across the board. Ryan’s playmakers and versatility, especially on offense, will be enough to keep Martin off-balance in what should be a really entertaining game featuring as many as 10 future FBS signees. Stepp’s Pick: Denton Ryan by 5

Longview vs Temple at AT&T Stadium: Two programs that are among the most decorated in the history of Texas High School Football hook up in the UIL 100 nightcap at AT&T Stadium. Longview plays its first game after the Haynes King era, as the decorated QB is now at Texas A&M, but the Lobos are still going to be plenty dynamic. RB Kaden Meredith and WR Jalen Hale are big time playmakers; expect Longview to be more than solid in the trenches as teams coached by John King always are good up front. The defense is young and very fast with LB Kybrien Jackson-Jamerson and S Tyree Hale key returning contributors. Temple is going with a real youth movement as Scott Stewart’s squad is going to lean on several sophomores. Keep an eye on sophomore QB Mikal Harrison-Pilot, who started for the Wildcats in the secondary as a freshman; he could slide over and lead the offense this year. Sophomore LB Taurean York is another big-time young contributor. Senior WR AJ McDuffey and junior ATH Samari Howard will be counted on to provide veteran leadership. Both teams rely on a lot of young players to contribute but the edge goes to Longview, who has a bit more senior leadership which will be crucial early on. Stepp’s Pick: Longview by 10

Schertz Clemens at Austin Westlake: Defending Class 6A-Division II state champion Westlake was supposed to play Southlake Carroll in the season opener, but county health regulations derailed those plans. Then Covid-19 took out the Chaps’ second Week 1 opponent in Highland Park. Now Westlake gets another tough task in Schertz Clemens. QB Cade Klubnik is back to lead the Chaps offense, and will do so full-time after splitting duties a year ago. RB Zane Minors and sophomore WR Jaden Greathouse are back and will be key playmakers for an explosive spread offense. Greathouse hauled in 10 touchdown passes for a state title team as a freshman, so the potential for major numbers is certainly there. Clemens brings back eight offensive starters from a team that posted an impressive 10-2 mark a year ago. QB Max DiDomenico is back after accounting for 33 touchdowns while RB A’mari Williams leads a veteran group of skill players. The big questions for the Buffs are on defense where Clemens is usually very strong. This year’s unit has a lot of youth, which could mean a long night ahead against this Westlake offense. Stepp’s Pick: Austin Westlake by 14

Dickinson at Manvel: A super underrated inter-class matchup features two teams who have been near the top of their respective classes in Houston, but are coming into 2020 with a lot of questions due to youth. Dickinson loses a three-year starter at QB and most of their offensive line, but do return dynamic skill players in RB’s Ausaru Allah and Donovan Bradley along with ATH Reggie Sanders. The headliner for the Gators defense is DE Keith Cooper, who is one of Houston’s most disruptive edge rushers. Manvel, who made a surprise run to the regional finals in 5A-Division II last year, makes the jump up to Division I and the schedule has been upgraded a bit with the addition of a team like Dickinson. The Mavericks have a good 1-2 punch running the ball with Jordan Vaughn and De’Monte Seymour, but there are questions on the offensive line and at quarterback. The Mavericks defense has a deep and versatile defense line, while LB Justin Medlock is generating major college interest and will be the Mavericks next big time recruit. Dickinson gets the edge with experience and just a bit more depth early on, but this is a great early season measuring stick for both programs. Stepp’s Pick: Dickinson by 5

Alvin Shadow Creek at Galena Park North Shore: It’s a battle of defending state champions as 5A-Division I state champion Shadow Creek steps right into the fire in Class 6A against two-time defending 6A-Division I state champion North Shore. Both teams come into this one having won 31 of their last 32 games and both teams are led by two of the best signal-callers in Texas - Shadow Creek’s Kyron Drones (Baylor commit) and North Shore’s Dematrius Davis (Auburn commit). Shadow Creek has a pair of dynamic WR’s in Houston commit CJ Guidry and junior Randy Masters, a Baylor commit. The offensive line has some holes to fill, but elite skill players who see a lot of time even when not starting gives SCHS a lot of firepower. The defense only brings back three starters, but LB Terrence Cooks, who has offers from nearly every major Power 5 program, is a real headliner for the Sharks. The secondary is elite as well with Houston commit Jalen Emery and UNLV commit Jaylen Lane. North Shore doesn’t have any shortage of offensive talent with Davis back for his fourth season to lead the offense; he’s led the Mustangs to lofty heights and Davis excels in the biggest games posting a 15-1 record in the playoffs in his high school career and a 37-2 overall record. Texas A&M commit WR Shadrach Banks, who was sensational as a sophomore before battling injuries all year in 2019, is healthy and will make the Mustangs passing game even better. Also returning is WR Charles King, who emerged as a FBS prospect. If defenses pay too much attention to Banks, King will torch you. North Shore again will be elite in the trenches led by Auburn commit Jaeden Roberts. The Mustangs defense doesn’t have as many headliners as they’ve had in years past, and some new faces will need to emerge if they want to get back to Arlington. They may struggle early on, but the offense is one of the state’s best. Despite a major test from Shadow Creek, the Mustangs defend their homefield. Stepp’s Pick: Galena Park North Shore by 6

Hutto at College Station: Hutto plays its first game as a 6A school, but it’s a difficult road trip east to the Brazos Valley to take on 5A-Division I power College Station. Don’t be surprised if the Hippos transition seamlessly to 6A ball as Brad LaPlante’s squad looks primed to contend for a playoff spot. QB Grayson Doggett, who threw for 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, is primed for a big junior campaign. The offensive line brings back a good amount of experience, but the Hippos have youth at the skill spots. Defensively, keep your eye on TCU commit DE Landyn Watson, who is a pass rushing force off the edge. College Station is a young program, but already has a state title under their belts and expects to contend for a district title. RB Roderick Brown, QB Jett Huff and WR’s Houston Thomas and Dalton Carnes give CSHS a dynamic quartet of skill players. The questions for the Cougars lie along the offensive line and on the defensive side of the ball where they will be very young. The edge in this showdown goes to 6A Hutto who has a bit more on defense returning to slow College Station down. Stepp’s Pick: Hutto by 7

Odessa Permian at Abilene Cooper: It’s an old Little Southwest Conference matchup as Odessa Permian heads east on I-20 to take on Class 5A Abilene Cooper. Permian will lean on a talented group of skill players that they think can put them in contention for the district title. RB Malachi Medlock and QB Harper Terry are the primary cogs to the offense. Even though the Panthers don’t throw it much, they have playmakers in WR’s Terran Limuel and Amarion Garrett. MOJO lacks big names on defense, but there is experience returning on all three levels. Abilene Cooper, who was 11-2 last season, has a lot of holes to fill on offense, but the Cougars have plenty of quality back to replace the quantity. RB Noah Garcia, who ran for nearly 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns, is back along with QB Aiden Thompson, a three-year starter who topped 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago. DB Brady Miller, who picked off five passes a year ago, will lead the Cougars in the secondary. Permian’s returning experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball, will be key in this one. Look for the Panthers to start out the year strong. Stepp’s Pick: Odessa Permian by 6

Sherman at Denison: The Battle of the Axe is set as the season opener for the third straight season. Even though the kickoff for the 5A/6A schools was pushed back a week, the anticipation for this Texoma rivalry is never dampened. Denison is currently on its longest winning streak of the rivalry as the ‘Jackets have taken six straight games over their bigger rivals six miles to the south. Sherman feels like it has the offensive firepower to get it done with versatile ATH Benji Omayebu and QB Tate Bethel leading the way. TE/DE Jacoby Hunt is a force on both sides of the ball and is a player to keep an eye on as well. Denison and its ground-oriented attack had to battle injuries a year ago; they’ve been unable to reach the postseason despite a 13-7 record the last two years. Denison has its sights set on a district title with 16 returning starters back and an outstanding group of seniors. RB Jadarian Price is the headliner, but RB Asa Osboure and junior QB Caleb Heavner bring plenty to the table as well. Denison will move the football this year; the keys for the ‘Jackets will be in the trenches. If Denison improves up front they’ll be able to contend for the district title and a few playoff wins this year. Sherman keeps it close like they typically do, but barring Denison turnovers, the Yellowjackets are just too experienced on both sides of the ball. Stepp’s Pick: Denison by 8

Ennis at Red Oak: Two teams with eyes on state titles at the 5A level meet up in what should be a fascinating showdown in Ellis County. Ennis, a regional finalist at the Division II level last year, pushed eventual state champion Aledo to the brink before falling in overtime. The Lions appear loaded for a state title run with the return of senior QB Collin Drake, who was sensational in his first year after transferring in from McKinney Boyd. The Lions are loaded with playmakers like WR Laylon Spencer and RB’s Devion Beasley and Dee Johnson. Defense is really where Ennis shines. The Lions’ front seven is flat out nasty with DE Jarveon Williams and DT DeRyous Stokes leading the way. Williams makes the “splash” plays, but Stokes ability to draw constant double teams frees his teammates up consistently. The only real question for Ennis is how its young, but talented secondary performs. Luckily for us fans, we’ll get to see right away as the Lions deal with up-and-coming Red Oak. The Hawks, who made the move to Division I after an 11-2 campaign a year ago, have a new coach in Michael Quintero. WR’s Raymond Gray and LaKelsey Johnson are as dangerous a combo as there is in the DFW area, but the big mystery with ROHS is who will take snaps? QB Josh Ervin returns after throwing for 39 touchdowns a year ago, but Red Oak got a big transfer this off-season with sophomore QB Chris Parson moving in from Duncanville; he started the 2019 6A-D1 state title game as a freshman. Defensively, Red Oak will be as talented as anyone in the state in the secondary and LB Jackson Bailey is definitely an underrated playmaker. But how will the Hawks defensive line hold up against a big and physical Ennis offensive line? That matchup will decide this showdown. Stepp’s Pick: Ennis by 4

Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial (0-0) vs Corpus Christi Miller (2-1): These two met twice in 2019 and it resulted in two instant classics. Miller proved it could play with, and beat the best in Corpus with a regular season victory but Veterans Memorial got revenge in the 5A-Division I regional semifinals. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there won’t be a packed house at Buc Stadium Friday, but every ticket that is available will be sold as VMHS finally gets to open a much-anticipated season that the Eagles feel could end in a Region IV crown. The key for Vets is keeping QB Carter Senterfitt healthy. When he’s in the lineup, the Eagles offense is among the best in South Texas; Vets was most vulnerable when he missed time due to injury. LB’s Jaden Mora and Josef Davis lead what should be an improved defense. Miller saw its state ranking and regular season winning streak disappear last week as the Buccaneers were stunned on the road in a 44-41 loss to Rockport-Fulton. Miller’s offense was again sensational with QB Andrew Body and RB McCullion Williams both putting up good numbers, but two key turnovers and Miller’s defensive struggles proved to be their undoing in the loss. Miller will be much sharper than Vets simply due to having three games played, while Vets will be in sloppy Week 1 mode. The Miller defense is still a concern and this team won’t live up to their potential in 2020 unless it improves. Expect an emotional, hard fought game, but give me Vets to get the season started on the right foot. Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial by 3

Midlothian Heritage (3-1) at Springtown (3-1): With 5-4A Division I moving their schedule up one week, this game was moved to Thursday night giving the DFW area an extra solid Thursday option. Midlothian Heritage was knocked from the state rankings in their 28-14 loss to Paris; the Jaguars simply couldn’t slow the Paris running game as they allowed 423 yards on the ground and the MHHS offense just couldn’t get enough touches. Springtown has rattled off three straight wins after a disappointing season opening loss to Glen Rose, including their best performance to date - a 52-20 win over Godley. QB Camden Chesney tossed three first half touchdown passes to help Springtown to 38 first half points and the Porcupines defense did the rest of the work pitching a second half shutout in the victory. On paper these two look pretty evenly matched. We’ll give a slight nod to Midlothian Heritage as they are a bit more battle tested, having knocked heads with good Division I teams like Lindale and Paris, while this is Springtown’s first test of the year against a Division I opponent. Stepp’s Pick: Midlothian Heritage by 6

Paris (3-1) at Melissa (4-0): It’s a top 10 matchup and the district opener in 7-4A Division I as both Paris and Melissa are battling it out in a game is ripe with playoff implications. Paris, who suffered a disappointing loss to Texarkana Pleasant Grove two weeks ago, bounced back nicely with an impressive 28-14 win over Midlothian Heritage last week. The Wildcats ran wild in the victory with Zy’kius Jackson and KD Washington combining for 314 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Paris’ defense did the job as well, containing a usually stout MHHS offense. Melissa’s offense needs no introduction as the Cardinals attack has been out-of-this-world good early on averaging over 51 points per game. Melissa needed a fourth-quarter rally to knock off Stephenville last week, 65-58. RB Jaylen Williams scored two touchdowns in the final 2:02 of the game, while RB’s Braden Smith and Ashton Mitchell-Johnson combined for 251 yards rushing and three touchdowns. This game is going to come down to pace; if the score gets much past 30, it’s Melissa’s game, while Paris wants to make this a physical slug-fest. If the score is under the 30-point mark, the edge is with Paris. My money is on a faster paced game, with Melissa having the advantage. Stepp’s Pick: Melissa by 8

Midland Greenwood (2-1) at Canyon (3-0): Greenwood, fresh off a bye week, takes the trip up to the Texas panhandle to try and take down state-ranked Canyon. The Rangers got a big win over a strong Andrews squad two weeks ago, 36-29, as Trey Cross ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns, while the Rangers defense forced four turnovers. Canyon ripped past Borger 40-3 last week as QB Jay Defoor threw for 248 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles offense generates the headlines, but it’s the defense that could be the key to a run in Region I as Canyon has allowed just three points in the last two games. That defense will be vital against a strong Greenwood attack this week. Stepp’s Pick: Canyon by 12

Carthage (1-0) at Gilmer (4-0): Carthage is in a unique situation; the Bulldogs looked solid in their opener, a 27-7 win over Kilgore, but the Bulldogs had bye weeks set for September 4 and September 18. Their September 11 game with Little Cypress-Mauriceville was cancelled due to lingering effects in the Golden Triangle of Hurricane Laura, so Carthage has had a significant amount of time off. It’ll be interesting to see just how sharp Carthage is with their young, but talented skill players. One area where there is no concern is at QB with Kai Horton triggering the Bulldogs multiple offensive attack. Gilmer trailed Lindale 35-14 last week, before erupting in the second half for six second half touchdowns en route to a 56-49 win. QB Brandon Tennison continues to put up big numbers, throwing for 248 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown. Gilmer’s defense, which struggled in the first half, forced three second half turnovers. Carthage won’t gift Gilmer turnovers as the Bulldogs typically play clean football. Gilmer’s really playing well and has this one on “Upset Watch” and at home this one is on upset watch, but in the end take Carthage until proven otherwise as the Bulldogs are on an incredible run that includes a 17-game winning streak, and a win in 57 of their last 58 games.  Stepp’s Pick: Carthage by 5

Maypearl (4-0) at Grandview (3-0):  Maypearl is a surprise unbeaten team and they’ll get a major chance in their 7-3A Division I opener to send some shockwaves through the state if they can knock off two-time defending state champion Grandview. The Panthers rolled past Trenton 35-0 last week and that strong defensive effort has been the trend early on; through four games they are allowing just over eight points per game. Grandview had their unbeaten showdown with Glen Rose canceled on Friday afternoon, so the Zebras come into this one with some question marks. Will any key players be out of action this week? That’s the big unknown when a team has to cancel due to Covid-19 protocols. At full strength, Grandview and QB Dane Jentsch is just too explosive. Stepp’s Pick: Grandview by 17

Ballinger (4-0) at Llano (4-0): Ballinger heads south to the Hill Country in a matchup of under the radar unbeaten teams in Class 3A. Division II Ballinger has battled injuries most of the year, but the Bearcats have managed to win their first four games. They were pushed last week against Clyde in a 21-14 win; the Bearcats trailed 14-7, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Ballinger proved to be the difference. Ballinger’s defense through four games has been lights out allowing just 7.5 points per game. Llano needed some late heroics of their own last week in a 35-31 win over 2A powerhouse San Saba. The Yellowjackets trailed 31-21 going into the fourth, but LHS rallied for the homecoming victory. WR Quincy Prince hauled in three touchdown passes, including the game winner late in the fourth, to complete the comeback. Ballinger’s defense will be a test for the ‘Jackets, but Ballinger doesn’t have the secondary to match up with Llano’s stable of fleet receivers. Stepp’s Pick: Llano by 11

Childress (3-0) at Spearman (4-0): Childress had their unbeaten showdown with Shallowater canceled due to Covid-19 concerns, but it doesn’t get any easier for the Bobcats this week in one of the deepest districts in 3A-Division II as they take on unbeaten Spearman. This one has the chance to be a real shootout as Childress has the ability to throw points up in a hurry with QB Collin Bishop and WR’s Lamont Nickleberry and Devron Sims. Spearman, who is led by ATH Brennan Thompson, did play last week and the Lynx rolled in a 49-7 win over Vega. Thompson accounted for 152 yards on the ground with a pair of scores, had 69 receiving yards and a touchdown and chipped in an interception return for his fourth touchdown of the game. QB Jack Wilkerson and RB Fabian Hernandez also had big games. Childress doesn’t have anyone quite like Thompson, but their athleticism matches up with Spearman and their edge in the trenches will be the key in a big early season district matchup. Stepp’s Pick: Childress by 8

Lexington (3-0) at Franklin (1-2): It’s the district opener in 13-3A Division II and both teams have been impacted by Covid-19 protocols. Lexington had their showdown with Cameron Yoe canceled a week ago as Yoe was dealing with protocols, while Franklin had their Week 2 game canceled due to the Lions dealing with protocols. Lexington has been one of the real stories out of Central Texas, especially after their win two weeks ago over Rockdale. Eagles junior RB/LB Jared Kerr gets the headlines, but this is a well-rounded team. Franklin got their first win of the season and in impressive fashion knocking off a good Troy squad, 42-27. RB’s Bryson Washington and Seth Spiller were sensational for the Lions in the win as Franklin topped 500 yards on the ground; Washington ran for 283 yards and three touchdowns, while Spiller added 178 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Lexington is the favorite in this one, but this is a tough matchup because Franklin’s size in the trenches will be a challenge for a smallish, but quick Lexington defense. However, Lexington has the difference maker in Kerr and that is enough for the Eagles to remain unbeaten. Stepp’s Pick: Lexington by 4

Albany (3-1) at Anson (3-1): Both teams have just one blemish on their record, and there’s no shame in either loss as both teams fell to Hamlin. Albany bounced back nicely by routing Haskell, 43-0, last week. Albany held Haskell to just six yards of offense in the win and their offense was plenty balanced with QB Barrett Beal throwing for 211 yards and two scores and RB Jaheim Newton rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown. Anson had to deal with mighty Hamlin last week and the Tigers took it on the chin, 48-6. Anson had no answers for Hamlin falling behind 41-6 at the half; their undoing was getting outscored 27-0 in the second quarter. The Tigers defense is going to be up against it this week as the Albany offense, aside from the loss to Hamlin, has been dynamic thus far. Stepp’s Pick: Albany by 10

Centerville (3-1) at Bremond (3-1): This is a sneaky underrated game in Central Texas as Centerville appears to be back among the better teams in Region III in 2A-Division I with a 3-1 start. The Tigers rolled past Palestine Westwood 36-10 as CHS took full advantage of four Westwood turnovers. Sophomore RB Paxton Hancock ran for 166 yards, filling in nicely for senior RB Kaden Dunn, who was battling through an injury. Dunn did finish with 64 yards and a touchdown on the ground in spot duty. After losing its season opener, Bremond has won three straight, including a 24-13 win over Dawson. Bremond fell behind 13-0 early but bounced back for 24 straight down the stretch. QB Seth Kasowski had three touchdown runs to lead the Tigers. Centerville and their physical style is a tough matchup for Bremond. Add in the fact that Centerville is a bit larger school and the Tigers look poised for an upset win over Bremond this week. Stepp’s Pick: Centerville by 5

 

Quick Picks

San Angelo Central at Killeen Shoemaker Stepp’s Pick: Killeen Shoemaker by 9

Klein Cain at Cypress Bridgeland Stepp’s Pick: Cypress Bridgeland by 6

Humble Atascocita at Klein Collins Stepp’s Pick: Humble Atascocita by 11

New Braunfels at San Marcos Stepp’s Pick: New Braunfels by 4

Colleyville Heritage vs Grapevine at Globe Life Park Stepp’s Pick: Grapevine by 1

Tyler John Tyler at Texarkana Texas Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Texas by 6

Port Arthur Memorial at Port Neches-Groves Stepp’s Pick: Port Neches-Groves by 3

Kerrville Tivy at Dripping Springs Stepp’s Pick: Dripping Springs by 7

Nederland at Huntsville Stepp’s Pick: Huntsville by 11

Gregory-Portland (0-0) at Corpus Christi Calallen (1-2) Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen by 13

Fredericksburg (3-1) at Boerne (3-1) Stepp’s Pick: Boerne by 14

Denver City (2-2) at Crane (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Denver City by 10

Mineola (3-0) at Winnsboro (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Winnsboro by 6

George West (3-1, 1-0) at Natalia (2-2, 1-1) Stepp’s Pick: George West by 16

Refugio (4-0) at Taft (3-1) Stepp’s Pick: Refugio by 33

Stratford (2-2) at Panhandle (2-1) Stepp’s Pick: Panhandle by 3

Cisco (2-2) at Comanche (4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Comanche by 8

Wolfe City (3-1, 1-0) at Bogota Rivercrest (2-2, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Bogota Rivercrest by 6

Holland (3-1) at Hearne (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Holland by 14

Goldthwaite (2-2) at Christoval (3-1) Stepp’s Pick: Christoval by 11

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