Sam Ehlinger is coming back! We really mean it this time. Ehlinger was last seen playing for his Austin Westlake team in Week One but has sat out every game since then following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He’s slated to return this week. Two other commits who have missed multiple games due to injury, Xavier Newman and Taquon Graham, are also expected to play this week, so UT’s contingent of commitments for 2017 should be much closer to full strength and fully participating in Week Six’s action, except for three commits whose teams are idle this week.
In other news, all three of the Texas Longhorns’ defensive back commits scored an offensive touchdown in Week Five. And the Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week feature will take a bye this week, but feel free to leave nominations in the comments section for players who you think merit consideration for future posts.
QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)
Last week: did not play in a 17-10 win over Austin Vandegrift
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:30, vs. Buda Hays
Notes: Ehlinger could be seen dressed out and warming up on the field before last week’s game against Vandegrift, but he was ultimately held out of the contest. As regular readers of this site are no doubt aware, Ehlinger was injured in Westlake’s Week One win over Katy and missed Westlake’s next four games following knee surgery. He is expected to return to game action this Friday when Westlake hosts 1-4 Buda Hays. Westlake beat Hays 55-3 when the teams played in 2015. So this should be a good matchup to allow Ehlinger to ease back into his weekly game routine and lead some easy TD drives before Westlake plays state-ranked rival Lake Travis next week.
Westlake is 4-1 on the season and ranked 6th in this week’s AP poll for Class 6A, and a big part of their success in Ehlinger’s absence has been the emergence of junior running back Nakia Watson, who has rushed for 642 yards and 10 TDs and averaged just shy of six yards per carry in Westlake’s last four games. Watson, who rushed for just 133 yards on 36 carries as a sophomore at Manor, now has 700 rushing yards through five games this season, which is nearly twice as many yards on the ground as were gained in the 2015 season by any Westlake player not named Sam Ehlinger.
WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)
Last week: Caught 2 passes for 26 yards in a 42-14 win over North Mesquite
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:30, vs. Mesquite
Notes: John Tyler and North Mesquite were tied at 14 going into halftime, but John Tyler scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to run away with their district opener. Tyler’s offense gained 513 total yards, and senior QB Bryson Smith, a Houston commit, had a hand in 335 total yards and 4 TDs.
This week, Tyler will seek to remain undefeated in district play when they host Mesquite, a team that is 2-3 on the year and lost to North Mesquite 28-25 just two weeks ago.
OL Xavier Newman (DeSoto)
Last week: Team defeated Cedar Hill 33-18
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:30, vs. Irving MacArthur
Notes: Newman made his season debut in the annual “Battle of Belt Line” game last Friday against Cedar Hill. Both Newman and fellow senior offensive lineman Hyrin White, a Missouri commit, missed DeSoto’s first three games due to injuries suffered during the preseason, but both returned to the field against Cedar Hill.
In the game, DeSoto scored first on a field goal with 9:07 left in the 1st quarter, and they led for the remainder of the game. DeSoto compiled 403 total yards and committed no turnovers in the game. The Eagles led 26-10 at halftime and 33-18 at the end of the 3rd quarter, and their defense forced an incompletion on a 4th-and-goal play from the DeSoto six-yard line to end Cedar Hill’s longest drive of the 4th quarter.
DeSoto is 4-0 this season and moved up one spot to #2 in this week’s AP poll for Class 6A. This week, the Eagles will host 0-4 Irving MacArthur, a team that was outscored by its last two opponents by a combined 104-14, and somehow lost 43 of its players’ jerseys over the weekend before a motorist found them lying on the side of highway 183 on Monday morning.
DE LaGaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)
Last week: Team defeated Texarkana Pleasant Grove 44-35
This week: Idle
Notes: Liberty-Eylau went into last Friday’s game gunning for its first win after starting the season 0-4 for the first time in at least 46 years. They didn’t have a promising start though, as Pleasant Grove led 14-0 at the end of the 1st quarter, but L-E outscored them 33-7 in the 2nd quarter to take a 33-21 halftime lead, and they would eventually win 44-35. L-E gets a bye this week before going on the road to open its district schedule against Paris on October 7.
DE Taquon Graham (Temple)
Last week: Did not play in a 55-6 win over Waco University
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:30, at College Station A&M Consolidated
Notes: Graham missed his third straight game with what was reported to be a strained hip. His presence wasn’t needed last Friday as Temple ran roughshod over a Waco University team whose last win came three years ago to the week. Temple led 49-6 at halftime, got their reserves plenty of playing time in the second half, and cruised to a 55-6 win. Temple’s head coach Scott Stewart told the Temple Daily Telegram that Graham will play this week against A&M Consolidated, a team that has won three straight contests after losing 34-28 in their first official game of the season to Richmond Foster, which is currently the 5th-ranked team in Class 5A.
CB Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)
Last week: Made 2 tackles and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in a 41-10 win over Carrollton Newman Smith
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:00, vs. Carrollton R.L. Turner
Notes: In their win last week, Lake Dallas limited Newman Smith to 133 offensive yards. Their opponent in Week Six is R.L. Turner, against whom they really should win handily. R.L. Turner started off the season with wins against two bad teams, then followed it up with losses against two other mediocre-to-bad teams, including a 49-35 loss to perennial Metroplex doormat Joshua, a team that before the 2016 season had not scored more than 23 points in a game since 2012.
CB Josh Thompson (Nacogdoches)
Last week: Caught a TD pass, and had an interception and fumble recovery in a 56-52 loss to Gilmer
This week: Idle
Notes: After this season, Josh Thompson and LaGaryonn Carson will either never want to see Gilmer’s junior QB Aaron “Poppy” Brown again, or they’ll beg Charlie Strong to recruit him for UT’s 2018 class. Brown broke Gilmer’s single-game school record for passing yardage in Gilmer’s season-opening win over Carson’s Liberty-Eylau team (which was Brown’s first career start at QB). Then last week, Brown passed for 454 yards and was responsible for 7 TDs (5 passing, 2 rushing) in leading his Gilmer Buckeyes of Class 4A Division II to a 56-52 win over Josh Thompson’s Nacogdoches Dragons of Class 5A.
It was a high-scoring and back-and-forth game between two quality teams, and despite Nacogdoches’s secondary being shredded for video game passing stats by Gilmer, Thompson still made a few plays that will no doubt end up in his season highlight reel.
He caught a 23-yard pass in the right corner of the end zone for a TD that tied the game at 21 with 33 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Early in the 3rd quarter he intercepted a pass deep in Gilmer territory that set up a short Nacogdoches TD run that tied the game at 28. Nac would take their first lead of the game at 38-35 late in the 3rd quarter, and on Gilmer’s ensuing possession a receiver’s fumble was recovered by Thompson and returned to the 4-yard line. Nac scored then scored on the first play of the 4th quarter to push its lead to 45-35.
Gilmer came back to take the lead with two TDs sandwiched around an onside kick recovery, and they led 49-45 with just under eight minutes left in regulation. Nac answered with a score of their own that re-took the lead with 4:00 left, but Gilmer needed just five plays and less than two minutes to march 67 yards for the winning TD, and Nac was unable to score on its final drive.
Nacodgoches gets a bye this week before starting their district schedule next week with a road game against 1-4 Lindale.
S Montrell Estell (Hooks)
Last week: Team beat Queen City 40-9
This week: Friday, September 30 at 7:30, at New Diana
Notes: I haven’t found a detailed report or summary of Hooks’s lopsided win over Queen City last week, but Estell’s highlights from the game (see below) show him making two long TD runs, one of about 50 yards after receiving the handoff on a jet sweep, and the other a 69-yard scamper in which he lines up at QB and receives the snap and shows some very nice burst and fluidity as he avoids two would-be tacklers and shoots down the right sideline, making the play look easy. Hooks is about 15 miles west of Texarkana and seems to get very little in the way of media coverage out there, and the Texarkana Gazette’s online articles seem to be almost uniformly hidden behind a paywall. So solid info on Estell’s exploits this season has been hard to come by.
Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week: TBD
This is the space where I usually spotlight a senior athlete who I feel is underrated, under-recruited, or otherwise just talented but all but unknown outside of his hometown and his school’s district. I’m taking a break from that feature this week, because it’s a long season and everyone needs a bye week at some point.
In lieu of that, I’ll invite you readers who enjoy that feature to submit nominations for any seniors who you think merit consideration to be featured in a future post. I’ve got a short list of athletes who I want to mention at some point, but after this week there are another 11 weeks left in the season, counting the playoffs, and I’m sure there are a number of deserving candidates who I have yet to read or hear about who would make for good subjects of this type.
So if you know of any, feel free to mention them in the comments below or send me an email.
Previous Unheralded 2017 Athletes of the Week:
Week Five - WR/TE Tyler Henderson (Kyle Lehman)
Week Four - RB Roman Turner (Wichita Falls Hirschi)
Week Three - DE/TE Xavier Waggoner (Electra)
Week Two - WR/RB Caleb Twyford (Farmersville)
Week One - RB Ted Fuller (Harleton)