3A Division I UIL Football State Championship Preview: Malakoff (15-0) vs. Franklin (14-1)

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Malakoff (15-0) vs. Franklin (14-1), 3 p.m. Thursday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium

Unbeaten Malakoff, making just its second state title appearance in school history, will look to take down mighty Franklin, who is the Class 3A team of record in the 2020’s to this point.

Franklin comes into this one with one of the state’s most impressive resumes over the past four seasons with back-to-back state titles in 2021 and 2022 and a combined 58-2 record since Week 3 of 2020. In fact, Franklin’s two losses in that span came in the waning moments of the 2020 title game and this year on a last second field goal against Lorena, a loss the Lions avenged in the regional final.

Last week, Franklin feasted on Edna turnovers in a lopsided 52-14. FHS unleashed a lethal passing game as Cort Lowrey and Devyn Hidrogo connected for three touchdown passes. Hidrogo added a rushing touchdown, while Jayden Jackson ran for a score and also blocked a punt.

Franklin raced out to a 38-0 halftime lead after forcing two turnovers and blocking a first half punt.

Malakoff avenged its state semifinal loss last year to Brock with a thrilling come-from-behind 38-31 victory Thursday at the Ford Center.

The Tigers twice trailed by 10 points early, but QB Mike Jones and an opportunistic defense and special teams led the day for MHS. Jones threw for two touchdowns and scored the game winning touchdown on a QB sneak from a yard out with 19 seconds left in the game. The score was set up by a Malakoff INT from defensive lineman Daniel Norrell, while Malakoff’s defense also came up with a pick six; special teams had a strip and score touchdown on a kickoff as well.

Malakoff may need more of the same magic from its defense and special teams this week. The Tigers have the speed and athleticism to run with Franklin, but the Lions are just lethally efficient on offense. Combine that with good team speed and big game experience and they are a tough out. The Lions wear Malakoff down in the second half of this one. 

Stepp’s Pick: Franklin by 10 




QB Mike Jones - Who? Mike Jones. So much of what Malakoff tries to do offensively is tied to Jones' ability to create with his legs. He's a tough-nosed, no-nonsense team leader who will be asked to find tough yards in the teeth of Franklin's defense. Jones isn't afraid to air it out when called upon. He throws a solid deep ball.

DL Daniel Norrell - The Class od 2026 prospect became a Malakoff legend in the state semifinals against Brock when he intercepted a pass to set up the Tigers' game-winning score. But that was far from the only big-time play he made. Norrell (6-1, 250) was impossible to move at the line of scrimmage. He'll be key to slowing down that potent Franklin rushing attack.

TE/DE Demetrius Lewis - If there's one thing you can be sure of, this game will have Lewis' fingerprints all over it in all three phases. In Malakoff's victory over Brock, Lewis caught a long touchdown reception, blocked a punt and made several momentum-changing plays on defense. He looks the part at 6-3, 225.


RB Jayden Jackson - One of the top playmakers in the state, Jackson is an absolute load to "attempt" to take down at 5-11, 215. In fact, he might be at the top of the list of players you'd hate to tackle because he'll dish out just as much (or more) punishment as defenders. He's been there and done that as a two-time state champ.

QB Cort Lowry - The Tarleton baseball commit is in complete control of one of the most impressive offenses in the state at any level. His accuracy through the air has turned  a traditional ground-and-pound offense into a really good passing team.

OL/TE Braden Smith - One of the most disruptive offensive linemen at the 3A level, Smith (6-4, 285) has over 150 pancake blocks this season and paves the way for the Lions' lethal offensive attack. The Tarleton commit had 28 pancake blocks alone in Franklin's playoff victory over Lorena.

WR/DB Devyn Hidrogo - When Franklin does air it out, it's likely going to the 6-1, 185-pound Hidrogo... and it's most likely going to end up being a big play for the Lions.

William Wilkerson



Malakoff DE Doc Renberg vs. Franklin RB Jayden Jackson - When Franklin’s offense lines up against Malakoff’s defense, there’s going to be two grown men on the field. Running back Jayden Jackson split carries with Baylor running back Bryson Washington on Franklin’s undefeated state championship team last year, and he got bigger this season. He’s the bell-cow of Franklin’s run-first attack. Malakoff defensive end Doc Renberg is one of the state’s biggest sleepers on the recruiting trail at 6-foot-2-inches, 220 pounds. He made a strip sack in the state semis against Brock that proved to be the game’s difference, AND he caught a 70-yard TD pass lining up at tight end.

Franklin LBs Brayden Youree and Caleb Smith vs. Malakoff QB Mike Jones - Youree and Smith are the dynamic duo at the forefront of Franklin’s defense. They’ve shared district defensive MVP honors the previous two seasons, have each put up well over 100 tackles and are the leaders of a Franklin program that’s won 22 of its last 23 playoff games. Malakoff QB Mike Jones has a cannon, but he’s a difference-maker on the ground. He scored a 52-yard rushing touchdown in the state semifinal win over Brock. When Jones decides to tuck it and run, Youree and Smith will have to meet him in the hole.

Carter Yates






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