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Texas Longhorns commits: Week Seven Preview

Westlake takes on Lake Travis in the state’s game of the week

Texas LB Malik Jefferson (left) with 2017 commit Sam Ehlinger

The Red River Shootout won’t be the only big rivalry game taking place this weekend. Sam Ehlinger’s Austin Westlake squad will face their longtime nemesis Lake Travis in what might be the state’s game of the week.

Elsewhere, Damion Miller’s team gets a bye, and the teams of several of the other commits will play opponents that could be charitably described as the high school equivalent of a Baylor non-conference adversary. So it should be a big week for most of the commits and their teams.

After this week’s preview, I’ll profile an accomplished and explosive athlete from a small school just outside of Dallas who is waiting for his first offer.

QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)

Last week: Completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 209 yards and 4 touchdowns, and had 2 carries for 12 yards in a 44-14 win over Buda Hays

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, at Lake Travis

Notes: BON’s own Cody Daniel attended the Westlake-Hays game to take in Ehlinger’s return to game action following four weeks missed due to injury, and wrote about it last week. Ehlinger put up a good stat line in only one half of playing time, helping stake Westlake to a 44-0 halftime lead before sitting out the second half.

Westlake moved up one spot to 5th in this week’s AP poll for Class 6A, and they will go on the road for a huge matchup with local rival and 3rd-ranked Lake Travis. When the teams met last year, Lake Travis was ranked 6th and Westlake 8th.

Lake Travis has won eight consecutive games in this series, with Westlake’s last win coming on September 7, 2007. That 2007 Lake Travis team featured then-junior QB (and future Texas Longhorn and SMU Mustang) Garrett Gilbert, and following the loss to Westlake they went on to win their next 42 consecutive games and take home state championship trophies in five straight years (2007-2011), a five-season span in which they had an incredible record of 77-3.

There might not be a better high school game in the state this week than this one, and tickets will surely be hard to come by as Friday gets closer. Sam Ehlinger’s ultimate goal for his senior season is to lead Westlake to a state championship, but surely one of his secondary goals is for his school to beat Lake Travis for the first time in 9 years.

WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)

Last week: Caught 2 passes for 20 yards and blocked a field goal in a 20-14 win over Mesquite

This week: Idle

Notes: John Tyler came away with a hard-fought and close win over district foe Mesquite last Friday, getting an interception deep in their own territory with just over a minute left in the 4th quarter to kill Mesquite’s final drive. It was a tougher-than-expected victory, as Mesquite came into the game with a 2-3 record and had already lost to the North Mesquite team that Tyler beat 42-14 one week earlier.

Miller didn’t have a strong showing in the stat sheet, grabbing just two receptions for 20 yards, but he blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt in the 1st quarter, which, if successful, could have led to Mesquite taking a 17-7 halftime lead instead of 14-7.

Tyler gets a bye this week before facing Rockwall-Heath next week.

OL Xavier Newman (DeSoto)

Last week: Team beat irving MacArthur 48-7

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, at Grand Prairie

Notes: DeSoto dominated the entire game versus MacArthur last Friday, as they scored on each of their first three drives while MacArthur’s four drives in the first half ended with two missed field goal attempts and two punts. DeSoto led 42-0 before MacArthur’s only score of the game came with 2:00 left in the 4th quarter.

DeSoto is the 2nd ranked team in Class 6A according to this week’s AP poll, and they’re ranked 9th nationally in MaxPreps’s composite rankings. This week they face Grand Prairie, a traditionally weak team that has not reached the playoffs since 1989 and has not had a winning season since 2003, when they finished 6-4 and were led by five-star senior QB and future Oklahoma Sooner (and Big Red Sports & Imports non-salesman) Rhett Bomar. Grand Prairie is 2-3 this season but notably played a good Arlington Bowie team to within six points a few weeks ago, and last week they trailed cross-town rival South Grand Prairie by just three points late in the 4th quarter before losing 24-14.

DE LaGaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)

Last week: Idle

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, at Paris

Notes: Carson is probably the highest-rated of UT’s commits, but his senior season thus far has been anything but encouraging. He was suspended earlier in the season, and it has been reported (originally by Inside Texas and shared on Barking Carnival) that he was suspended for a second time last week. So it seems unlikely that he’ll be playing this week, and there’s probably a decent chance he won’t see the field again this year. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that though.

DE Taquon Graham (Temple)

Last week: Was credited with 2 total tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss in a 34-22 win over College Station A&M Consolidated

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, vs. Bryan Rudder

Notes: Temple got a road win last week over a solid A&M Consolidated team whose only previous loss was a six-point defeat to Richmond Foster, Class 5A’s fifth-ranked team. This week, Temple turns around and gets a home date with a Bryan Rudder team that has lost five straight games and been outscored by 30 points per game in the process. In other words, this shouldn’t be a close game. Looming large on Temple’s schedule is a home date three weeks hence with College Station, which is currently undefeated and ranked 9th in Class 5A.

CB Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)

Last week: Had one carry for 6 yards, made 2 tackles, forced a fumble, blocked a field goal, and lost a fumble on a punt return in a 48-27 win over Carrollton R.L. Turner

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:00, at McKinney North

Notes: According to the Dallas Morning News’s summary of the Lake Dallas-R.L. Turner game, Lake Dallas was led at QB by sophomore backup Ryan Depperschmidt due to senior starter Spencer Frederickson being out with an injury, revealing that Lake Dallas might have the longest-named (36 letters between them, 25 in their last names alone) one-two QB combo in the state!

In one of last year’s preview posts I noted that the last names of Houston Strake Jesuit’s top three receivers (Charbonnet, McStravick, and Eichelberger) sounded like a prestigious law firm. I think one could say the same about Depperschmidt & Frederickson.

Anyway, the game itself was a much closer one that it probably should have been. As I noted last week, R.L. Turner had a 49-35 loss earlier this season to Joshua, a perennial doormat that before the start of the 2016 season had gone most of four years without scoring more than 23 points in a single game. Lake Dallas missed a field goal on their first possession, then scored TDs on their next four possessions (two of them following R.L. Turner turnovers), but the game was tied at 27 following a Turner score with 5:12 left in the 3rd quarter. Lake Dallas pulled away afterward, closing the game with 21 unanswered points.

Boyce did lose a fumble on a punt return late in the 3rd quarter that could have turned the momentum of the game against Lake Dallas, but in the end no damage ensued. LD was leading 34-27 at the time and Boyce’s fumble began a strange sequence in which the two teams combined to lose four fumbles in the span of 8 plays. Seriously! After Boyce’s fumble, Turner took over at the Lake Dallas 18, but fumbled the ball back three plays later at the 8-yard line. Then Lake Dallas gave the ball back via a fumble two plays later at their own 11, and Turner - still trailing by just seven points and starting a possession less than 35 feet from the end zone - fumbled the ball right back on their second play, after which Lake Dallas ran four plays and punted, and Turner didn’t get further than the Lake Dallas 44-yard line on any of their last three drives.

This week Lake Dallas takes on McKinney North, which has a 2-3 record despite averaging 40 points per game.

CB Josh Thompson (Nacogdoches)

Last week: Idle

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, at Lindale

Notes: Thompson took advantage of Nacogdoches’s bye week and went to watch and cheer on his friend Baron Browning, the five-star 2017 linebacker and top Texas recruiting target whose Kennedale team was playing a neutral site game in Nacogdoches on Friday against West Orange-Stark, the top-ranked team in Class 4A.

Kennedale ended up falling 45-21, but that could still be considered a respectable finish because WOS had defeated its first five foes by a combined score of 254-2.

This week Nacogdoches will travel to play a Lindale team that is also coming off a bye week. Lindale (which is in Class 5A) opened its season with a 42-39 win over Kaufman, a quality 4A team, but has since lost four straight games, the last three of them all coming against 4A squads.

S Montrell Estell (Hooks)

Last week: Team defeated New Diana 55-18

This week: Friday, October 7 at 7:30, vs. Ore City

Notes: My online searches haven’t turned up any stories re-capping Hooks’s lopsided win over New Diana, but Estell’s highlights from last Friday show him making an interception from his safety position, running for a long TD, and generally making difficult plays look easy.

Speaking of easy, this week Hooks will play a 1-5 Ore City team that, A. is scoring 40 points per game, but B. has lost five consecutive contests. It takes some bad luck or truly horrendous defense (hmm, can you think of a college football team that might describe?) to lose by 20 points or more in games in which you score 71 points and 43 points, but Ore City has managed it somehow.

Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week: RB/S Trey Sterling (Sunnyvale)

Class 3A is home to two of the state’s fastest-rising new programs. Its current top-ranked team, Brock, won the 3A Division I state title last year in just the program’s second season to play a full U.I.L. schedule.

Sunnyvale High School, which is less than a decade old and played its first varsity football season in 2010, doesn’t own a football state title yet (though it has already won one each in baseball and girls basketball), but its Raiders advanced four rounds into the playoffs in 2015, have won 27 of their past 30 games, and are ranked 4th in this week’s AP poll for Class 3A. A big reason for their dominance so far in 2016 has been the work of senior Trey Sterling, an explosive two-way player.

In 2015, Sterling earned All State honors as a defensive back after grabbing six interceptions, scoring five defensive TDs, and compiling - depending on the source - somewhere between 192 and 209 tackles in 14 games. He also spent time at running back on offense and led the team in rushing TDs (9), though he was a distant third on the team in terms of carries and fourth in rushing yards, and most of Sunnyvale’s offensive playmaking was done by wide receivers Lawson Ayo (now a freshman at Angelo State) and junior Cash Goodhart, who combined for 43 receiving TDs.

Sterling has continued to be an impact player on defense this season, recording 36 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions. But has also taken over the starting running back spot, and in just five games he has blown past his rushing touchdown total from last season and surpassed by over 100 yards the yardage gained by Sunnyvale’s leading rusher a year ago. Coming into his senior year, Sterling had - according to Maxpreps stats - 73 career carries for 441 yards (6.0 yards/carry). In five games this season, he has 79 carries for 860 yards (10.9 yards/carry) and 14 TDs, and for good measure he has also caught 5 passes for 130 yards and another score.

Those numbers might have been bigger if not for a few blowout wins in the first half of Sunnyvale’s season. Three weeks ago he rushed for 148 yards and 4 TDs on just seven carries and had a 68-yard TD reception before sitting out the 2nd half of a 70-0 demolishing of Palmer. He played the role of workhorse two weeks ago in a 45-36 win over previously unbeaten Grandview, rushing 38 times for 300 yards and 4 TDs.

His exploits have put him on the radar of several college coaches, but, somewhat shockingly, as of this writing he has no offers from schools at any level.

Unlike with many under-the-radar prospects, his lack of offers can’t be chalked up to size, skills, genes, or geography. Sunnyvale head coach John Settle reports that Sterling is 6’1” and about 195 pounds, and “is without a doubt our most explosive player on both sides of the ball.” As great as his junior year was, especially with his gaudy defensive stats and postseason honors, Settle describes him as a late bloomer who has improved a lot since his junior season and says, “the sky is the limit for him.”

Sterling is also a North Texas legacy, as his father Ron Sterling, who is Sunnyvale High School’s principal, played tight end at UNT in the late 90s and was a two-year letterman. The elder Sterling is 6’5”, and Coach Settle believes Trey may yet grow to be 6’2” or 6’3”.

He is very quick and shows a nice burst with the ball in his hands and appears to be a fluid athlete at running back, though I think his college position will more likely be at safety, where he is a ballhawk of the first order and has very good closing speed when pursuing running backs or dropping into the box before the snap and blitzing. Settle, who has coached for 26 years and is in his 14th season as a head coach, says Sterling is “as good a football player as I have ever had.”

His midseason senior highlights can be seen below.

Sunnyvale, though a small school in a relatively small town, is on the eastern edge of Dallas County and would seem to be in an enviable location to attract college recruiters; its city limits border Garland to the north and recruiting hotbed Mesquite to the west. But unfortunately SHS is both a small school and still a very new football program, currently playing in just its seventh varsity season with only two playoff appearances in its short history and no established track record of producing Division 1-level talent. Yet.

At this point, a lot of the recruiting traffic that finds its way to Sunnyvale’s bigger neighbors seems to bypass them, but that should change as the program continues its newfound run of success and produces talents like Trey Sterling and the aforementioned Lawson Ayo (who has played in each of Angelo State’s first five games this season as a true freshman).

If you’d like to see Trey Sterling and Class 3A’s fourth-ranked Sunnyvale Raiders in person, below is their remaining regular season schedule.

October 7 - at Dallas Madison
October 14 - vs. Dallas Life Oak Cliff
October 21 - at Scurry-Rosser
October 28 - at Maypearl
November 4 - vs. Kemp