Albany (15-0) vs. Mart (15-0), 11 a.m. Thursday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium
Mart is looking for its first state title since 2019 - kind of crazy right? The team that prevented the Panthers from securing another title is back to do it once again as Albany looks to dispatch Mart for the second straight year.
We’ve been on a collision course for this game all year long as these two have been 1-2 in the state rankings from the start.
Albany rolled past upstart Sunray last week in impressive fashion, 34-14. RB Adam Hill gets the headlines for Albany and it is deserved as the senior ran for 164 yards and three touchdowns, while QB Chip Chambers added 174 yards passing and two scores for the Lions.
Albany’s defense for the second week in a row held one of the state’s top offensive attacks to just 14 points.
Mart for the second week in a row trailed at halftime, but the Panthers showed that elite second half burst to take down Central Texas rival Chilton, 38-24. The Panthers outscored Chilton 24-0 after falling behind 24-14 early in the third quarter. RB JD Bell led Mart with 142 rushing yards and two touchdowns, followed up by QB DeMontrel Medlock, who ran for 122 and touchdown and added 180 passing yards and a score.
Mart got dominated up front by Albany a year ago. The Panthers are better up front but that gap hasn’t closed enough to go against defending champion Albany.
Stepp’s Pick: Albany by 9
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB/DE Adam Hill - Hill dominated the Panthers in the state title game a year ago with over 100 yards on the ground, 70 yards receiving and contributing on defense as well. This season he has over 2,500 yards rushing and has emerged as one of Albany’s key defensive players too with 15.5 sacks.
LB/RB Jaxson Hoel - Mart’s ground attack will need to be held in check like last season and that’s where Albany’s senior linebacker comes in. Hoel leads the Lions with 143 tackles. Fellow senior linebacker Tyler Chapman will also play a significant role if Albany hopes to pull the back-to-back.
WR Cason Fairchild - You don’t often see a dominant wideout at the Class 2A level. Mart’s known for its team speed and even if they’re able to key in on Adam Hill, the passing game with Chip Chambers and Cason Fairchild will be a viable Option B.
RB/LB JD Bell - Mart’s 2,300-yard rusher is the bell cow of this offense with 41 touchdowns and was held in check last season by his standards with just 97 yards on the ground. He also plays a massive role as a lead blocker for De’Montrel Medlock as well. Defensively, the junior also plays a role at linebacker with 32 tackles to his name.
QB/DB De’Montrel Medlock - The other option in the run game is Mart’s junior quarterback with his ability to weave in and out of tackles. His 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns through the air lets him keep defenses honest just when front sevens key in on the run game.
OL/DL Monte Swaner - If Mart wants to avoid a repeat of last season, it’ll come down to its disruptive senior defensive lineman Monte Swaner. With 21 tackles for loss, 58 tackles on the season and five sacks, Swaner’s biggest task will be shutting down a dominant Albany rushing attack.
Albany RB Adam Hill against Mart’s Front Seven - The last time Adam Hill stepped on AT&T Stadium’s turf, he helped Albany to its first state championship since 1961 with 173 all purpose yards and a touchdown. Now, the Texas Tech commit is seeking back-to-back titles over Mart. The 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound bruiser rumbled to 1,636 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. Mart may be the best front seven he’s faced yet. Monte Swaner is a 6-foot, 285-pound wrecking ball at defensive end. He’s got a bevy of pass rush moves, but if Hill tries to bounce it outside, Swaner can set the edge hard.
The trenches - In last year’s title bout, Albany pulled the upset on Mart by milking the clock with nearly 30 minutes of possession. Mart will need to remedy that if they want to avenge their loss. Albany defensive tackle Zane Waggoner forms a fearsome duo with Adam Hill at defensive end, which means Mart’s offensive line will need a standout performance to open holes for running back Ja’Deriun Bell.
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