And then there were seven. With the exception of Denzel Okafor's Lewisville team, all of the Texas Longhorns' commits for 2016 and 2017 saw their teams qualify for the postseason. Not counting the injured (whose team is still playing, by the way), only seven commits remain alive in the playoffs after last weekend's games, and we may need only one hand to count the ones still playing next week.
Shane Buechele's Lamar team must stop a Mansfield team that just ended Andrew Fitzgerald's season and has run through everything in its path over the past two months. Davion Curtis will attempt to run routes against a secondary that includes at least two future D1 players. And Lagaryonn Carson and his Liberty-Eylau teammates will have to get by an 11-win Kaufman team to advance their season. I'll have more details on each of those match-ups below.
This writer wishes all readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and invites you to consider watching one of the Longhorn commits play in person if you're in or near Arlington, Houston, Tyler, Waco, Royse City, or New Orleans this Friday and/or Saturday. If you do, feel free to come back and leave a comment on this post, or write up your own Fanpost if you feel so inspired.
QB Shane Buechele (Arlington Lamar)
Last week: Completed 10 of 14 passes for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns, and rushed 13 times for 116 yards and 2 TDs in a 42-35 win over El Paso Eastwood in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs
This week: Saturday, November 28 at 5:30, vs. Mansfield (Arlington's AT&T Stadium)
Notes: After needing a last-minute kickoff return TD to win their first round game, Lamar found itself in another tight matchup last Friday in Odessa versus the high-flying offense of El Paso Eastwood. The game was tied at 28 at halftime, and tied at 35 going into the 4th quarter, but a 3-yard TD pass from Buechele with 7:29 left in the game provided the winning points.
Buechele opened the scoring in the game with a 29-yard TD run, the first of five TDs the two teams would score in the opening frame. Buechele's second TD, a 7-yard run, came in the 2nd quarter and gave Lamar a 28-21 lead. The teams were tied at halftime and Eastwood scored first in the second half to take a 35-28 lead (it was the second and last time Eastwood led in the game), but a 31-yard TD pass from Buechele to Arkansas commit Kofi Boateng later in the quarter tied it at 35. Lamar's defense allowed 608 total yards and a pretty astounding 38 first downs(!), but also intercepted Eastwood's prolific senior QB Mark Torrez three times on the night, while their offense took care of the ball and the Dallas Morning News's box score indicates they were not assessed a single penalty.
Lamar now advances to the regional semifinal round for the first time since 2003, when Lamar finished one game short of playing for the 5A Division I state championship (which was ultimately won by a Galena Park North Shore team led by future Oklahoma State QB Bobby Reid). To make it into the fourth round, Lamar will have to stop a red-hot Mansfield team that has won nine straight games and boasts a very strong running game, which could be bad news because Lamar hasn't boasted an especially strong run defense when facing teams strong in that area. Lamar allowed 324 rushing yards in a 52-24 loss to Arlington Martin (their only loss of the season thus far), and a week later they allowed 364 yards (310 of them to DeAndre Cook alone) in a closely-contested 30-23 win over Arlington Bowie. Mansfield's star junior RB Kennedy Brooks has averaged 238 rushing yards over Mansfield's last 11 games, and another big night for him could spell the end of Lamar's season.
WR Davion Curtis (Temple)
Last week: Caught 6 passes for 102 yards and 1 TD in a 14-6 win over Houston Stratford in the area round of the 5A Division I playoffs
This week: Friday, November 27 at 7:00, vs. Richmond Foster (at Cypress's Berry Center)
Notes: Curtis scored his TD on a 48-yard reception with 6:13 left in the 2nd quarter. It gave Temple a 7-3 lead and ended up being all the points they would need. Temple's defense held Stratford to 193 total yards, and more remarkably they bottled up senior running back Rakeem Boyd (a Texas A&M commit) and only allowed him to gain 66 yards on 25 carries, some 350 yards less than he ran for when these teams met in the playoffs a year ago. Temple was ranked 5th and Stratford 9th in the AP's Class 5A poll at the end of the regular season, and with this game being the re-match of a 2014 playoff game in which 82 points were scored (Temple won 47-35), it had all the makings of another high-powered shootout. But defenses largely dominated instead. Boyd's longest carry of the night went for 10 yards, and while Temple gained 346 total yards they also committed three turnovers, only put 14 points on the board, and had a game-opening kickoff return for a TD called back due to a penalty.
In the regional semifinal round, Temple will face a 10-2 Richmond Foster team whose only losses on the season were a two-point defeat to eventual 6A playoff team Houston Reagan, and a seven-point loss to Lamar Consolidated ISD rival George Ranch, the 3rd ranked team in Class 5A. Davion Curtis will be competing against a Foster secondary that includes Houston safety commit Patrick Rosette and two-star senior cornerback Tykenzie Daniels.
WR Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (Manvel)
Last week: Caught 3 passes for 33 yards in a 70-56 win over League City Clear Creek in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs
This week: Friday, November 27 at 8:00, vs. Houston Strake Jesuit (Houston's NRG Stadium)
Notes: The Houston Chronicle and Maxpreps box scores disagree on Manvel's passing and rushing figures for their win over Clear Creek, but both sources agree that the game was a track meet in which Manvel's running game pretty much did what it wanted. By the Chronicle's account, Manvel gained 819 total yards on 75 plays, with 658 of them coming on the ground. Running back D'Vaughn Pennamon (an Ole Miss commit) rushed for 361 yards and 5 TDs, and senior QB D'Eriq King (a TCU commit) added 231 rushing yards of his own. Not many teams can give up 56 points and 595 total yards, commit two turnovers, and still win by two touchdowns, but very few teams can boast of having ten seniors committed to FBS schools, as Manvel currently does (Deontay Anderson will soon make it eleven).
In the regional semifinal round Manvel will play Houston Strake Jesuit, which went 6-4 in the regular season but beat a talented Houston Reagan team and Houston Cypress Creek in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Strake Jesuit's offense is keyed by its passing game, with senior QB Zach Zubia connecting primarily with tall senior wide receivers Christian Charbonnet and Christian McStravick, and senior tight end Andrew Eichelberger, a trio that: A. has combined for 127 receptions, over 2,100 yards, and 27 receiving TDs this season, and B. really should open a law firm one day. McStravick is committed to Boston College.
Not to look a week ahead too early, but a win over Strake Jesuit would likely set up a titanic matchup between Manvel and 2nd ranked Katy for the Region III championship of 6A Division II.
WR(Valley Christian - San Jose, CA)
Notes: Johnson suffered a shoulder injury in his team's Week 3 game and he will miss the rest of the season. In Johnson's absence Valley Christian advanced to the playoffs and defeated Los Gatos 34-15 in the first round. They will face San Jose Oak Grove in the second round of the CIF Central Coast playoffs this week. Valley Christian beat Oak Grove 24-0 in early September in what turned out to be final high school game, as he suffered a shoulder injury that cost him the rest of his senior campaign.
TE Peyton Aucoin (Brother Martin - New Orleans, LA)
Last week:Team lost to Catholic-B.R. 49-48 in the second round of the LHSAA Division I playoffs.
Notes: Brother Martin gained 683 total yards and made 32 first downs, but trailed 49-42 until a TD pass to Texas A&M commit Irv Smith with 16 seconds left brought them to within one point. Brother Martin's coach elected to try for a two-point conversion and the win, but the attempt by junior running back Bruce Jordan-Swilling, who rushed for 179 yards and 2 TDs in the game, was stopped short, and Brother Martin fell 49-48. A year ago, Brother Martin ended Catholic-B.R.'s season in the playoffs by stopping Derrius Guice (now at LSU) on a two-point conversion attempt. Brother Martin ended the 2015 season with an overall record of 8-3.
OL Tope Imade (Arlington Bowie)
Last week: Did not play. Team lost to Odessa Permian in the bi-district round of the 6A Division I playoffs.
OL Denzel Okafor (Lewisville)
Last week: did not play; team did not qualify for the 6A playoffs.
DT Gerald Wilbon (Destrehan, LA)
Last week: Team defeated Barbe 52-27 in the second round of the LHSSA Class 5A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 27 at 7:00, vs. Bossier City Parkway (at Destrehan)
Notes: Destrehan scored their first TD just 12 seconds into the game and took a 28-0 1st quarter lead. The lead increased to 38-7 by halftime, and their defense allowed Barbe to score only once in the game's first three quarters. Destrehan led by as much as 52-7 before Barbe scored three times in the last ten minutes of the game to cut the deficit to a somewhat more respectable 25 points.
Destrehan, the 3rd seed in the 5A playoff bracket, will next face sixth seed Bossier City Parkway, a team that is 11-1 so far, with its only loss being a 56-21 defeat in late September to Shreveport Evangel Christian, the eventual 2nd seed in the (private school) Division I playoff bracket.
DE Andrew Fitzgerald (Flower Mound Marcus)
Last week: Team's defense allowed 490 total yards (337 rushing) in a 48-21 loss to Mansfield in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs
Notes: This game was a re-match of a week one game in which Marcus beat Mansfield 27-17. Marcus's defense held Mansfield junior running back to 25 yards on 20 carries that night, but both he and Mansfield had been red-hot in the weeks since. Mansfield went into their re-match with Marcus having won eight straight games, and since being held to just 25 yards against Marcus Kennedy had averaged well over 200 yards per game. Last Friday he had multiple carries that went for over 25 yards, and he topped his earlier total versus Marcus over thirteen-fold, rushing for 342 yards and 4 TDs.
Mansfield took a 6-0 lead just over two minutes into the game, and Marcus answered and held a 7-6 lead for just over three minutes before Mansfield took back the lead for good. Mansfield led 20-7 at the end of the 1st quarter and 34-7 at halftime. Marcus scored twice in the 3rd quarter to pull within 34-21, but they got no closer. Mansfield will attempt to end the season of a Longhorn commit for a second consecutive week when they play Shane Buechele's Arlington Lamar team on Saturday. The winner of that game will move on to the region I final versus either Denton Guyer or San Angelo Central, both of which coincidentally are led by QBs committed to TCU: junior Shawn Robinson (Guyer) and senior Brennen Wooten (Central).
DE Malcolm Roach (Madison Prep Academy - Baton Rouge, LA)
Last week: Blocked a PAT attempt in a 13-12 loss to LaPlace St. Charles Catholic in the second round of the LHSAA Division III playoff bracket.
Notes: Both teams scored two TDs in the game, and while Roach blocked the PAT following St. Charles's second score, Madison Prep had both of its extra point attempts blocked, which ended up being the difference in the game. Trailing 13-6, Madison Prep went on a 83-yard drive and scored on a 38-yard TD pass with 2:16 left in the game, but its PAT was blocked and they remained behind 13-12. Madison Prep finished the season with an overall record of 11-1-1.
LB DeMarco Boyd (Gilmer)
Last week: Had 6 carries for 26 yards and 1 TD, caught 1 pass for 5 yards, scored on a two-point conversion, and made 3 tackles in a 63-14 win over Mexia in the area round of the 4A Division II playoffs
This week: Friday, November 27 at 7:30, vs. Center (Tyler's Rose Stadium)
Notes: Gilmer dominated against Mexia, scoring as many TDs on defense as Mexia did on offense. Gilmer scored on a pick-six and returned a fumble for another score, while Mexia managed a meager 14 points, which tends to not get the job done in the playoffs when facing teams with 27 consecutive wins.
Gilmer will play Center this Friday in round three. Center has an overall record of 10-2, with losses to Class 3A's #5 team and defending 3A Division II state champion Waskom (in week one) and Gladewater (by two points in their regular season finale). Gilmer and Center have played two common opponents this season: Tatum and Emory Rains. Tatum lost to Gilmer 23-0 in early September, then lost to Center 42-7 five weeks later. Rains lost to Gilmer 49-22 in the teams' regular season finale, then lost to Center 51-14 a week later in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
DB Obi Eboh (Southlake Carroll)
Last week: Team defense allowed 609 total yards on 65 plays in a 48-35 loss to Denton Guyer in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs
Notes: Denton Guyer QB Shawn Robinson (a 2017 TCU pledge) attempted just 6 passes and only completed 3 of them, but he made huge plays with his legs, rushing for 263 yards. Carroll has made a habit in the past couple of years of falling behind early, sometimes by double digits, before adjusting and rallying to win handily, and against Guyer they found themselves trailing 20-7 late in the 2nd quarter. Carroll scored twice in the span of 0:45 to take a brief 21-20 lead, but a Shawn Robinson TD run with 0:26 left in the half put Guyer back ahead 27-21. Robinson ran for three more TDs in the second half and Carroll was able to score only two of their own in response.
This Carroll team just wasn't as good as most of the ones the school has fielded in the past decade or so. They had their usual playmakers on offense but their defense struggled multiple times to slow down teams with a strong running game. Guyer gashed them for 544 rushing yards in last week's playoff loss, and earlier in the season Carroll had been run over to the tune of 603 yards in a loss to Euless Trinity, and allowed 261, 358, and 214 yards on the ground in close wins over Tulsa Union, Coppell, and Cedar Hill, respectively (they won those games by a combined nine points). Carroll finished the 2015 season with an overall record of 9-3.
QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)
Last week: Completed 13 of 22 passes for 160 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, and rushed 27 times for 100 yards and 3 TDs in a 28-3 win over The Woodlands in the area round of the 6A Division I playoffs
This week: Saturday, November 28 at 2:00, vs. North Mesquite (Waco ISD Stadium)
Notes: Ehlinger was one of the most notable snubs for ESPN's recently-released rankings of the top 300 national recruits for the 2017 class. Guess the recruiting experts at the Worldwide Leader haven't been reading these reports. Or, you know, watching Ehlinger's game film.
As in Westlake's bi-district win over Round Rock, Ehlinger had a hand in all of the team's touchdowns in their area win over The Woodlands, though he was also picked off for the second time in as many weeks after not being intercepted once in the regular season. Ehlinger rushed for TDs in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters, and also had a passing TD in the 4th. Westlake's defense limited The Woodlands to just 176 total yards, and a 2nd quarter field goal was all the scoring The Woodlands managed. Ehlinger went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, and he is now 133 passing yards shy of the 3,000-yard mark in 2015.
In the regional semifinal round, Westlake will face a surprising North Mesquite team. North Mesquite had not won a playoff game in 15 years before they beat Irving MacArthur 56-25 in the bi-district round, and in last week's area round they defeated Killeen Shoemaker 14-13 in overtime after Shoemaker missed a PAT that would have send the game into a second overtime. North Mesquite beat Shoemaker despite being outgained 440-109, and with that win became the school's first ten-win team in 19 years. The winner of the Westlake-North Mesquite game will take on the winner of the Rowlett-Humble Atascocita game (which will also take place in Waco on Saturday afternoon) for the Region II final in the 6A Division I bracket. The most notable name on the North Mesquite roster for Texas fans is senior offensive tackle Jean Delance, a four-star recruit who remains uncommitted and has been one of UT's top offensive line targets in the 2016 class.
WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)
Last week: Caught 2 passes for 66 yards and 1 TD in a 77-51 loss to Mansfield Lake Ridge in the area round of the 5A Division I playoffs
Notes: Miller's touchdown came on a 53-yard reception less than a minute into the 4th quarter, and happened just nine seconds after another John Tyler score. It was too little too late, though, as Lake Ridge was far ahead and it was a three-possession game. John Tyler outscored Lake Ridge 51-35 in the 2nd and 4th quarters, but, crucially, they were kept off the scoreboard entirely in the 1st and 3rd quarters and outscored by a combined 42-0. Very strong winds that day made it difficult for either team to put on a strong passing display, as the two starting QBs combined to complete just 11 of 33 pass attempts. But Lake Ridge - undefeated and ranked 7th in the 5A going into the playoffs - ran the ball at will on John Tyler's defense, totaling 519 yards on the ground.
On John Tyler's first four possessions they lost a fumble (on their very first play), turned the ball over on downs twice at the Lake Ridge 20-yard line, and punted to midfield, and they trailed 21-0 in the 2nd quarter before putting together their first scoring drive. When John Tyler's drives stalled and they were forced to punt, the strong winds (they drove against the wind in the 1st and 3rd quarters) often resulted in very short punts and did them no favors vis-á-vis field position. John Tyler had two of its punts blocked, and none of its other ones traveled further than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. It hurts when you're in a 4th-and-long situation deep on your end of the field and you can't even punt the ball past midfield.
The loss marked the end of an impressive run for John Tyler, which came into the game having won eight consecutive games after losing its first three. The team finished with an overall record of 8-4, and Damion Miller finished his junior season with 41 receptions for 912 yards and 9 TDs.
TE Major Tennison (Bullard)
Last week: Did not play. Team lost 44-22 to Atlanta in the bi-district round of the 4A Division II playoffs
DE Lagaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)
Last week: Had two sacks and three other tackles for loss in a 48-9 win over Sanger in the area round of the 4A Division I playoffs
This week: Friday, November 27 at 7:30, vs. Kaufman (Royse City ISD Stadium)
Notes: After nearly blowing a 27-point lead in the final eight minutes before holding on for a win over Van in the bi-district round, Liberty-Eylau had a much easier time in the area round vs. Sanger, which went into the game at 10-1. L-E won by nearly 40 points in a game that probably shouldn't have been that close. L-E took an early 7-0 lead but turned the ball over inside the Sanger 30-yard line on both of its next two drives. Ultimately it didn't matter, as L-E shook off those miscues to lead 21-3 at halftime, then scored 21 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter, and their starters were pulled early in the 4th. Per the ETSN recap of the game, Sanger rushed for just two yards in the first half and all but avoided running toward Carson in the second half. L-E's defense held Sanger to 224 total yards and forced two turnovers.
In this week's regional semifinal round they will face Kaufman, which is 11-1, has wins over seven teams that made the playoffs (including one in 5A), and has only lost (by seven points) to Kennedale, which was ranked 4th in Class 4A in the AP's final regular season poll. The final four teams in region II of the 4A Division I bracket are a very tough bunch. Dave Campbell's Texas Football's final regular season rankings for 4A Division I had Liberty-Eylau fourth and Kaufman sixth, and the winner of their game gets to face the winner of Argyle (second) vs. Kennedale (third) in the regional final round.
L-E and Kaufman have two opponents in common this season: Paris and Van. Against Paris, L-E won 52-38 in early October following their bye week, and Kaufman won 37-21 in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Van came very close to pulling off a shocking upset of L-E in the bi-district round, making a furious 4th quarter comeback after trailing 48-21 to make the score 48-41 and getting the ball back and driving inside L-E's 40-yard line in the final seconds of regulation, but the game ended following a sack. The week prior in their regular season finale, Kaufman defeated Van 42-30.