Week 3 Mega Preview: Breaking down & predicting the biggest Texas high school football games

Darrell Gest

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Waco La Vega (2-0) vs Corpus Christi Calallen (1-1) at San Marcos: For the third straight week, La Vega takes on a team ranked in the top 10 as the Pirates meet up with Calallen in a neutral site game in San Marcos. La Vega, who was the pre-season No. 1 team in in the state in 4A-Division I, dropped to No. 2 in the state, but that has more to do with how good Argyle has looked early in the year. The Pirates defense through two games is as advertised allowing just 17 total points after last week’s hard fought 13-10 win over Waco Connally. The offense hasn’t been as a sharp and it may struggle even more with the news of QB Ara Rauls likely being out for some time after an arm injury in last week’s win. With inexperience at the QB spot, look for more of the offense to fall on the shoulders of RB’s Jar’Que Walton and Jesse Majors-Sterling; the duo combined for 216 tough yards and both touchdowns last week in the win. Calallen’s offense got in gear last week with a fourth quarter flurry to pull away from Jourdanton in a 56-35 victory. RB Jeremiah Earls led the way for the Wildcats rushing for 317 yards and three touchdowns. The personality of both of these teams is to play things close to the vest, run the football and rely on their defense. So expect a smash-mouth low scoring contest. La Vega’s defense, which has been really good early in the year, may make the difference again as they are sensational at slowing down teams who are one dimensional. Unless Calallen takes to the air, the Pirates defense should have a handle on them. First team to 20 wins! Stepp’s Pick: Waco La Vega by 4

El Campo (1-0) at Port Lavaca Calhoun (1-1): A pair of old rivals down on the coast hook up in a top 10 4A-Division I non-district tilt… and an elite mascot matchup. El Campo’s Ricebirds had the week off after an impressive 35-0 season opening win over Gonzales two weeks ago. El Campo raced out to a quick 14-0 lead as Charles Shorter returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. After forcing a three and out, the ‘Birds scored two plays later as sophomore RB Reuben Owens scored on a 78-yard run. El Campo didn’t have a back top 100-yards, but their three-headed monster of Shorter, Owens and Jontre Davis is going to be tough for any offense to slow down. They have a unique challenge this week trying to slow the “Flying Veer” offense of the Calhoun Sandcrabs; but having an extra week to prep should help El Campo. After falling in the season opener to Waco La Vega, Calhoun bounced back nicely last week rolling past Stafford, 40-15. With RB Steven Johnston more of a decoy on offense last week, QB Jarius Stewart was sensational for Calhoun rushing for 213 yards and five touchdowns. Calhoun’s defense, which was the biggest question mark going into the season, has been solid through two weeks and they showed they can contain a team with speed like La Vega. They’ve got a big test this week with the multiple threats El Campo presents on offense. This one is going to be an absolute thriller, but it won’t last long as both teams will run and run and when they get tired they’ll run the ball some more. El Campo gets the slightest of edges, but it’ll be a fun game to watch. Stepp’s Pick: El Campo by 3

Canadian (1-1) at Bushland (1-1): Two of the premier 3A programs in the panhandle match up as Division II Canadian visits Division I Bushland. The Wildcats went on the road last week and raced out to a 21-0 lead on a very good 4A team in Iowa Park, but the Hawks rallied for four straight touchdowns to hand the Wildcats their first regular season loss to a UIL school since 2016, 28-21. QB Joshua Culwell started out strong with two rushing touchdowns to help CHS build their 21-0 lead into the third quarter, but four straight touchdowns from Iowa Park late undid the Wildcats. They’ll look to bounce back this week against Bushland, who, after getting blown out by Brock to open the year, did what good teams do and that’s bounce back with an impressive 56-10 win over Hereford on Friday. QB Coleman Junnell had 196 yards passing and three touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown, while RB Leaford Calder ran for two scores and hauled in two touchdown passes as the Falcons led 42-3 at the half. This will be a tough road environment for Canadian, but this is also old hat for a Wildcats squad that has a bit more veteran experience, especially at key positions. Don’t look for a second half meltdown from Chris Koetting’s bunch. Stepp’s Pick: Canadian by 9

Omaha Pewitt (1-0) at Mount Vernon (2-0): Pewitt opened up the season a week later than anticipated after having to cancel their opener, but Richard Strickland’s squad looked sharp in their opener rolling past Atlanta, 40-21. RB Kadrien Johnson returned a kickoff 90-yards for a touchdown and a pair of rushing touchdowns, totaling 139 yards on the ground, while Deiontary Hill had 155 yards rushing and a score and a 63-yard touchdown pass to pace the Pewitt attack. Mount Vernon only played a half last week, but it counts as a win by our standards (36-7 over Pittsburg). QB Brock Nellor was on fire in the first half throwing for 285 yards and five touchdowns. It appears MVHS has not only figured out their spread offense in Year 2, but they may already have mastered and that could make what is already a really tough Region II in 3A-Division I that much better. Pewitt is going to try and control the clock, limit Mt Vernon’s touches and get a timely stop or two. If the Brahmas do that they’ll win this one, but if they fall behind early or the Tigers lure them into a shootout, that’s edge to the boys in purple. I think Pewitt finds a way late, but this one will be high-scoring and it’ll be our first real gauge into how good this Mt Vernon squad is. Stepp’s Pick: Omaha Pewitt by 6

West Rusk (0-1) at Mineola (2-0): The Raiders, who had their season opener canceled due to Hurricane Laura, started the season off on the wrong foot Friday taking a 29-7 loss to Sabine. Turnovers and the inability to slow down a big and physical Sabine squad proved to be West Rusk’s undoing in the defeat. They’ll have their hands full this week with a tough Mineola squad led by SMU commit RB/LB Trevion Sneed. Last week in the Yellow Jackets 41-10 victory over Wills Point, Sneed ran for 301 yards and three touchdowns, while also chipping in eight tackles on defense. Expect a major step forward for West Rusk from Week 1 to Week 2 as some of that early season rust will start to shake off. However, Sneed and Mineola are looking like they have a chance to be a real pleasant surprise out of East Texas and they keep that good momentum going this week. Stepp’s Pick: Mineola by 7

Grandview (2-0) at Godley (2-0): Old Johnson County rivals meet on the gridiron for the first time since 2013. Both head coached decided to get this game back on schedule during realignment despite being in different classifications. Expect things to heat up quickly as the players from both teams know each other well and the competitive juices and pride will rise up quickly. Grandview had to battle the weather down in Central Texas and a very good Salado squad, but the Zebras found a way in a tough 21-7 win. Although QB Dane Jentsch and the offense grabs the headlines, it was the Grandview defense that made plays last week by forcing key turnovers and even getting a touchdown of their own. Godley, on the other hand, is a bit more explosive as the Wildcats are averaging 55 points per game as they blasted Mineral Wells, 61-20, a week ago. QB Cade Burke was the catalyst for the Wildcats throwing for 335 yards and five touchdowns in just his second varsity start. Godley’s offense will be up against a much stiffer test this week as the Grandview defense - led by Dematrious Crownover - is one of the better units in the state. How that matchup goes down will ultimately decide this showdown. Godley is a good 4A program and has made great strides, but in these big game moments, you go with the team with the best player (Jentsch) and the team with the pedigree, and that’s Grandview. Stepp’s Pick: Grandview by 10

Rockdale (2-0) at Lexington (2-0): Kobe Mitchell was scintillating in his first varsity start by throwing for 295 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for another score as Rockdale rolled past Taylor, 55-21. WR KeSean Raven led the receiving corps with 133 yards and a pair of touchdowns. RHS raced out to a 41-0 lead at halftime and coasted to the easy victory in the second half. The Tigers will have a much tougher test this week against a strong Lexington squad from just down the road on Highway 77. The Eagles rolled past Thrall, 35-6, a week ago as RB Jared Kerr ran for 252 yards and four touchdowns. Lexington, which has some of their best skill players in recent memory, will still play second fiddle to Rockdale’s loaded group of skill players. The Eagles need to slow this game down and hope they can control the game up front and keep the score below 30. If they do that then the chance for an upset is there. Rockdale, however, is the clear favorite as the larger school and the pick in this game. Stepp’s Pick: Rockdale by 10

Vega (2-0) at Panhandle (1-1): Vega rolled in its annual Oldham County rivalry game drilling Boys Ranch 49-0 last week. QB Ryan Grawunder accounted for five touchdowns and 239 yards of offense to lead the way, while Vega’s defense pitched the shutout in the big win to go to 2-0. After falling in a shootout to Childress to open the season, Panhandle evened their record with a dominant 69-6 win over Gruver. The Panthers rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense and held Gruver to just 62 yards on the night. QB Landyn Haack led a balanced attack with 206 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a true team win for the Panthers, who had seven different players score touchdowns. Panhandle’s explosive offense is the difference in this one as they’ll pull away in the second half of what looks to be a shootout. Stepp’s Pick: Panhandle by 13

Alpine (1-1) at Wink (2-0): It’ll be a fascinating showdown in the Permian Basin as 3A Alpine visits Wink, a team ranked in the top 10 of 2A-Division II. Alpine is fresh off its home-and-home series with 4A Fort Stockton and the Fightin Bucks got themselves their first win of the year with a 20-14 win last week. Alpine trailed most of the night and were down 14-0 at the half, but the Bucks battled back in the second half and QB Jayden Canaba’s touchdown run late gave Alpine the win in front of raucous crowd at Jackson Field. Wink was a bit sloppy last week, but the Wildcats did enough to get past Ozona, 35-19. Brock Gibson did it all for Wink in the win as he had 67 receiving yards and a touchdown, posted 13 tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble, blocked a punt and PAT and kicked three PAT’s to boot! Alpine will enjoy the role of being the larger school with better depth in this matchup after knocking heads with a 4A program the past two weeks. Alpine pulls away in this one and wears down Wink. Stepp’s Pick: Alpine by 8

Hamlin (2-0) at Albany (2-0): In what may be the best rivalry in the Big Country, Hamlin and Albany meet in a non-district matchup after playing in the same district for several years. Both are off to blistering hot starts and are in the 2A-Division II top 10. Hamlin made quite the statement last week as the Pied Pipers drilled Hawley, 35-6. Versatile Jackson Sepeda got it done for Hamlin, rushing for 120 yards, catching two passes for 29 yards and scoring four touchdowns on the night. Albany, which has flown a bit under the radar early in the year, is now on the map after the Lions blasted 3A Dublin, 64-27, last week. RB Jaheim Newton was sensational for the Lions posting 310 yards rushing two touchdowns, while quarterback Barrett Beal was quite efficient hitting on 14 of 20 passes for 165 yards and four touchdown passes. Albany beat Hamlin twice in 2018, but Hamlin got a measure of revenge in their only meeting of 2019 winning that one by 46 points. This one is going to be much closer as both teams have a lot of offensive firepower. It’ll come down to which defense is best equipped to get stops. That edge is with Hamlin and that state title game experience they got a year ago. Stepp’s Pick: Hamlin by 6


Quick Picks

Andrews (2-0) at Midland Greenwood (1-1) Stepp’s Pick: Andrews by 11

China Spring (2-0) at Brownwood (1-1) Stepp’s Pick: China Spring by 2

Texarkana Pleasant Grove (1-1) at Paris (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Pleasant Grove by 14

Sinton (1-1) at Corpus Christi Miller (1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Miller by 12

Anahuac (0-1) vs Mart (2-0) at Madisonville Stepp’s Pick: Mart by 17

Comfort (2-0) at Marion (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Marion by 3

Childress (2-0) at Stamford (1-1) Stepp’s Pick: Childress by 11

San Saba (2-0) at Mason (0-2) Stepp’s Pick: San Saba by 4

Johnson City (1-1) at Holland (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Holland by 16

Falls City (1-1) at Flatonia (2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Flatonia by 8

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