2023 State Semifinals Mega Preview: 4A-2A

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Decatur (10-4) vs. Anna (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Denton’s Collins Stadium: It’s a Week 1 rematch as Decatur and Anna played a one-score game to open the season. So, there’s no reason to expect much different this week between these two evenly matched teams.

Decatur needed a last second touchdown to escape an upset bid from Brownwood in a 38-35 win. TCU RB commit Nate Palmer’s one-yard touchdown reception from Jed Ross to cap a 10-play, 87-yard drive in 1:25 to win the game for DHS.

Decatur raced out to a quick 14-0 lead and held a 21-7 first half lead before Brownwood roared back to take a 35-31 lead. Palmer led the charge for Decatur with 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns along with his game winning touchdown catch.

Anna’s offense grabs the headlines, but the Anna defense has been strong all year and that group has the Coyotes into the state semifinals for the first time in school history after a 41-21 win over Stephenville.

Anna’s defense forced five Stephenville turnovers, while sophomore QB Ziondre Williams added 183 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Anna got the running game going as well in the victory as Edward Chumley ran for 102 yards and a score.

If Anna can consistently run the football, the Coyotes may win themselves their first football state title.

Stepp’s Pick: Anna by 7


Tyler Chapel Hill (12-2) vs. San Antonio Davenport (11-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Waco’s McLane Stadium: Tyler Chapel Hill is into the state semifinals for the third consecutive year, and the Bulldogs will once again battle with a team from the San Antonio area as they look to get over that semifinal hump and play for a state title.

Standing in the way is upstart San Antonio Davenport, which is just in its second season playing varsity football.

Chapel Hill avenged a 40-16 regular season loss to Kilgore with an impressive 21-19 win Friday night as the Bulldogs scored 21-first quarter points and the defense held on down the stretch for the win.

SMU commits QB Demtrius Brison and RB Rickey Stewart each ran for a touchdown, while Jabo Cook, who has been sensational in the playoffs, added a touchdown run for the Bulldogs.

Davenport used a huge second half performance to roll past Port Lavaca Calhoun, 55-20. The Wolves, which were tied at 20-20 with just under nine minutes left, rattled off 35-straight points. QB Triston Hamlin was the star for DHS spreading the ball around to multiple receivers as he finished up with 333 yards through the air and five touchdowns.

Chapel Hill got to this round a year ago and they were overwhelmed by Boerne’s size up front. Davenport doesn’t present those type of challenges this week as the Wolves play a very similar style to Chapel Hill.

The problem for Davenport is Chapel Hill plays that style with some elite athletes and in a shootout, the Bulldogs play for their first state title since 2011 with a high scoring win.

Stepp’s Pick: Tyler Chapel Hill by 6


Glen Rose (10-4) vs. Gilmer (11-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Prosper’s Children’s Health Stadium: Glen Rose took a fortuitous route to its second straight state semifinal appearance by losing four of its first five games. But the Tigers have rattled off nine straight wins, including a dominant 45-13 win over Canyon West Plains last week.

The Tigers were led by junior QB Canyon Evans, who threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers poured on 31-first half points and the defense did their part to prevent a West Plains.

Gilmer stunned the state of Texas last week as the Buckeyes took down mighty Carthage, 47-44, in overtime. QB Caden Tennison led the usually explosive Gilmer offense with a monster night throwing three touchdowns and adding a rushing touchdown.

Gilmer’s defense gave up 44 points, but in key moments they made big plays forcing a turnover late in regulation and in overtime to seal the win.

Gilmer’s overall team speed is impressive; the Buckeyes will present some major challenges for Glen Rose, but the Glen Rose offense is firing on all cylinders as well. Look for a shootout, but Gilmer’s team speed is the key difference in this one.

Stepp’s Pick: Gilmer by 8


Bellville (14-0) vs. Wimberley (14-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pflugerville’s The Pfield: It’s a battle of unbeatens as the unquestioned best team in 4A-Division II in Region III in Bellville takes on last year’s state runner-up unbeaten Wimberley out of Region IV.

Bellville got pushed a bit last week, but its defense, led by junior DL D.J. Sanders, held Jasper in check in a 31-7 victory.

RB D.D. Murray ran for a pair of scores to lead the always balanced Bellville Slot-T offensive attack.

Wimberley rolled to an easy 38-13 win over Sinton a week ago as the Texans were led by QB Cody Stoever, who accounted for over 300 yards of offense and four touchdowns.

Bellville’s defense has been an absolute juggernaut all year and that unit propels the Brahmas to their first state title game appearance since 1977.

Stepp’s Pick: Bellville by 10


Franklin (13-1) vs. Edna (11-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Cypress’ Cy-Fair FCU Stadium: As competitive as 3A-Division I was in 2023, we actually have the same four semifinalists we had a year ago as Franklin, which has won 45 of its last 46 games and 16 straight playoff games, takes on dynamic Edna.

Franklin avenged its only loss in the past three years in a 49-27 win over Lorena last week.RB Jayden Jackson ran wild for the Lions with 312 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.

Edna didn’t win the district title this year, but the Cowboys cruised through Region IV in the playoffs and it culminated with a convincing 55-13 rout of Blanco last week. RB Kade Rodas ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and he had a receiving touchdown for the Cowboys in the victory, while QB Jaiden Clay ran for two scores and threw for two scores as well.

Edna fell to Franklin, 41-13, a year ago. The Cowboys have been looking forward to this rematch for a year and I think they’ll come out of the gates with a ton of intensity and give Franklin trouble early. But Franklin’s patient and consistent and the Lions wear the Cowboys down in the second half.

Stepp’s Pick: Franklin by 14


Daingerfield (11-3) vs. Tidehaven (13-0), 7 p.m. Thursday at New Caney’s Randall Reed Stadium: Red hot Daingerfield looks to make a return to the state title game in a state semifinal bout with Tidehaven.

There’s some familiarity between these two teams as they played at the State 7-on-7 Tournament last summer; not that it means much but Daingerfield won that meeting.

DHS has knocked off two previously unbeaten teams in the playoffs, including last week’s 42-21 win over Newton. The Blue Tigers rattled off three straight second half touchdowns with the score knotted at 21 to pull away from their opponents from Southeast Texas.

WR/DB Aeryn Hampton, who is committed to Texas, grabs headlines, but the straw that stirs the drink for Daingerfield is QB Chase Johnson and when he’s on his game there aren’t many in 3A-Division II that can beat Daingerfield.

Tidehaven finally got pushed last week and THS was able to escape taking down last year’s state runner-up Poth in an instant classic 34-28 in two overtimes. Baylor commit RB Joseph Dodds put his team on his back with 228 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while adding 90 yards receiving and a touchdown for Tidehaven, which roared back after trailing 21-7 early.

Tidehaven has the feel of a team of destiny (much like Poth out of Region IV a year ago); it is more consistent than Daingerfield. The key is trying to control the tempo with Dodds. Can their secondary keep up with Daingerfield’s playmakers in space?

Stepp’s Pick: Daingerfield by 14


Stratford (14-0) vs. Tolar (13-1), 5 p.m. Thursday at Vernon’s Lion Stadium: If you like physical, old-school football, this is the game for you as unbeaten Stratford, which won the 2A-Division II state title in 2021, looks for a shot at the Division I title against a Tolar team that has designs on playing for its first state championship.

Stratford is led by bulldozer QB/LB Bryce Braden, who started for the Elks as a freshman on their state title team. They absolutely hammered defending state champion Hawley a week ago, 46-6.

QB Braden ran for three touchdowns and threw for two scores to lead the Elks. The key sequence was leading 14-6 right before halftime - Stratford got a touchdown, then recovered a fumble and scored on the final play of the half to jump out to a 28-6 lead and effectively put the game away.

Tolar got a closer-than-anticipated game last week from Marlin, but the Rattlers put the Bulldogs away in the second half, 42-19. QB Isaac Blessing ran for three touchdowns and threw for two other scores.

The thing that keeps coming up for me in this game is Tolar’s depth edge over Stratford. Tolar is a school that will be 3A-Division II in 2024, while Stratford is likely dropping to 2A-Division II.

I think Tolar wears Stratford down in the second half as both team’s physical styles will take a toll down the stretch.

Stepp’s Pick: Tolar by 8


Timpson (14-0) vs. Ganado (12-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Shenadoah’s Woodforest Bank Stadium: After making the state semifinals three straight years and falling in each try, Timpson will get a final shot with Terry Bussey leading the way as the Bears look to knock off the newest challenger from Region IV in Ganado.

After Bussey’s partner in crime RB/LB JJ Garner went down with an injury, Bussey put the Bears on his back and led Timpson to its second win over Garrison this year, 35-23.

Ganado stunned the state last Thursday as the Indians knocked off mighty Refugio, 41-12. RB/LB Dylan Holt dominated the game on both sides of the ball rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown and he tallied two defensive touchdowns as well.

Expect Ganado to utilize a similar gameplan that Refugio employed a year ago - ball control on offense and swarming defense on Bussey.

Ganado has been one of the true pleasant surprises of the year; Josh Ervin is one of the state’s bright young coaches. but this Timpson team has been to this stage three straight times and come up short. I don’t believe Terry Bussey is letting this team lose before the state title game.

Stepp’s Pick: Timpson by 7


Sunray (12-2) vs. Albany (14-0), 6 p.m. Thursday at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field: One of the most impressive performances in the state last week was Sunray’s absolute domination of Clarendon in a stunning 67-6 win.

The Bobcats rolled up 617 yards of offense in the win led by QB Armando Lujan, who had a hand in eight of Sunray’s touchdowns before resting with the game well in hand.

Albany had its own big game last week as the Lions rolled through Collinsville, 52-14, as RB Adam Hill ran for 223 yards and four touchdowns and he added a 24-yard touchdown reception as well, while Albany’s defense completely dominated one of the state’s most explosive offensive attacks.

Albany’s got that state title pedigree, and that Lions defense will focus in on Lujan and make Sunray beat them with someone else.

Stepp’s Pick: Albany by 12


Mart (14-0) vs. Chilton (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Belton’s Crusader Stadium: Central Texas will be jumping on Friday night as two towns about 30 miles apart meet up for a spot at AT&T Stadium.

Perennial powerhouse Mart will look to get back to AT&T Stadium after falling in the state title game in 2020 and 2022.

The Panthers got a bit of a test from Lovelady last week, but Mart pulled away down the stretch for a 57-20 win. After trailing 20-10 at halftime, Mart outscored the Lions 47-0 in the second half.

QB DeMontrel Medlock led the way for the Panthers with three touchdown passes and a touchdown run, while RB JD Bell ran for four touchdowns.

Chilton’s team speed was simply too much for Falls City last week as the Pirates rolled to a 53-7 victory. QB Isaiah Redd ran for four touchdowns and threw for two other scores in the win as Chilton the last two weeks has outscored opponents 98-7.

The key question for Chilton is can they play mistake-free football in this massive game in a big game environment? If Chilton can limit mistakes, they are talented enough to pull the upset. But Mart’s been here and done that. The Panthers get back to the state title game where they’ll look to avenge last year’s loss to Albany.

Stepp’s Pick: Mart by 12


Last Week Record: 17-7 70.8%

Playoff Record: 139-29 82.7%

Season Record: 294-74 79.9%


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