The Texas high school football playoffs are upon us!
After eleven weeks of regular season play, the games that really matter begin tonight. Of the Texas Longhorns’ 22 current commits, two out-of-state pledges have lost in the playoffs, and the teams of four in-state products did not qualify for the postseason. The other 16 commits will all have games this week, with the state of Texas recruits beginning what they hope is a six-week-long playoff run, and the out-of-state commits continuing their respective playoff pushes that began either last week or two weeks ago.
Five of the games on tap for this week are re-matches between teams that met in the 2017 postseason, and another game features two teams that played each other in September.
I’ll have notes on every commit whose team is playing this week, and here are some of the storylines to watch.
- Lake Travis begins what it hopes will be a long playoff run against a normally solid San Antonio-area team, but they could be on a collision course with #3 Converse Judson in a few weeks.
- Roschon Johnson’s Port Neches-Groves team opens with a less than challenging first round opponent, but they too have a state-ranked foe they could face if they advance to the third round.
- Derrian Brown’s Buford (Georgia) team is one of the top contenders in Georgia’s AAAAA playoffs, but this week they play the first of what could be four consecutive state-ranked teams standing in their way of taking home the state championship.
- De’Mariyon Houston’s Millwood (Oklahoma) team has won 39 straight games, and in the second round will play one of the teams they dominated in their state championship run last year, one that will likely present more of a challenge this time around.
- Jake Smith’s Notre Dame Prep team is one win away from reaching Arizona’s 5A state championship game, but they have to get past the state’s second-ranked team to get there.
- Marcus Washington’s St. Louis Trinity Catholic team marched through the first three rounds of Missouri’s Class 3 playoffs with less resistance than what most of the SEC will face this weekend. Things get more difficult for them this week, as they face a ranked opponent for the first time in the postseason and could meet their class’s top-ranked team next week.
- Jared Wiley’s Temple team stumbled to an 0-2 finish after winning their first eight games, and though their loss last week meant they wouldn’t have to open the playoffs against Class 6A’s fourth-ranked team, they instead will face maybe the best 3-7 team in the state, one that has been battle-hardened by previous games against five teams that have one or no losses.
- Marcus Tillman’s Orlando (Florida) Jones team, which has never in its history advanced more than two rounds into the postseason, is in the second round of Florida’s 5A playoffs and faces its classification’s third-ranked team, which beat them in the playoffs a year ago.
- Peyton Powell’s Odessa Permian team begins its playoff run by hosting an El Paso foe that their school has faced 25 previous times and never lost to.
As always, the game times listed are for their location’s time zone.
2020 QB Hudson Card (Lake Travis)
Last week: Completed 12 of 18 passes for 210 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, and had had 2 carries for 9 yards in a 56-14 win over Austin Anderson.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. Smithson Valley (at Lake Travis ISD Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
Notes: Lake Travis finished off its regular season schedule with a customarily dominating performance against an Austin ISD school, beating Anderson 56-14. Lake Travis led 42-0 at halftime and Hudson Card sat out almost all of the second half. He tossed three touchdowns in his time under center and Lake Travis outgained Anderson 533-199, though the Cavaliers’ performance was not without blemish; they lost three fumbles and Card was intercepted for just his third time this season.
Anderson wasn’t a strong enough opponent for those mistakes to matter, but the Cavaliers may not be so fortunate in that regard should those issues surface in the playoffs. Lake Travis finished the regular season 8-1 overall and alone in second place in District 25-6A. They will host their first round playoff game on Friday against Smithson Valley, which officially punched its playoff ticket with a 20-3 win over New Braunfels last week and finished the regular season with an overall record of 5-4.
Smithson Valley lost 28-0 on October 19 to Class 6A’s current #3 team, Converse Judson, and their other three losses were all to eventual playoff teams and by margins of six points or less. This is Smithson Valley’s ninth straight season to reach the playoffs, and it has missed the postseason just once in the lifetime of its current seniors and only three times in the tenure of longtime head coach Larry Hill, who has led the Rangers since 1993.
Smithson Valley is decidedly a run-first team, but the Rangers are quarterbacked by senior Houston commit Levi Williams. Williams led Smithson Valley to a 10-2 record and a district title as a junior and was named District 27-6A’s all-district first team QB. Lake Travis and Smithson Valley have met in the playoffs on two previous occasions, with Lake Travis winning both times en route to eventual state titles. The 2016 Cavaliers eliminated the Rangers 40-21 in the second round of the playoffs, and in 2011 the Baker Mayfield-led Cavaliers beat Smithson Valley in the same round by a 42-21 score.
Lake Travis first played varsity football in 1984 and did not make its first playoff appearance until 2000, but this is now its fifteenth consecutive postseason. Not only that, but since 2007 Lake Travis has failed to advance at least five rounds into the playoffs on just two occasions. They’ll have to do some work to advance that far this time around, though Region 4 presents by far the least daunting path to Arlington out of the four regions in the 6A Division I bracket. Smithson Valley and San Antonio Madison (who Lake Travis could face in the second round) are both better than all but maybe 2 or 3 teams Lake Travis faced during the regular season, but the Cavaliers might not get a truly close game until the regional final in three weeks, with their probable opponent in that round being #3 Converse Judson, the only other ranked team in Region 4.
QB Roschon Johnson (Port Neches-Groves)
Last week: Completed 8 of 18 passes for 93 yards, and had 35 carries for 258 yards and 5 TDs in a 34-21 win over Nederland.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. Houston Northside (at Port Neches’ Indian Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
Notes: Roschon Johnson scored all five of his team’s touchdowns last Friday to lead Port Neches-Groves to a win over Nederland and secure their district’s top playoff seed. The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but three Roschon Johnson TDs in the 3rd quarter gave PN-G a 27-7 lead going into the final frame.
Johnson scored on TD runs of 8, 7, 11, 44, and 14 yards in the game. The first two of his TDs were scored on 4th down plays, and the second and third TDs were set up by a pair of interceptions by PN-G’s senior defensive back Tyler Jackson. Nederland scored two minutes into the 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 27-14, but Johnson all but put the game out of reach with his fifth TD run with 6:11 left in regulation, which made the score 34-14.
With the win, the Indians officially finished the regular season 7-3 overall and 6-1 in district (the one loss being a forfeit), giving them a share of their district title for the third time in four seasons. They finished tied with Nederland, but because of their head-to-head win PN-G got the top playoff seed from District 12-5A Division II, and as a result their first round opponent will be the fourth-place finisher from District 11-5A Division II, Houston Northside (previously known as Jefferson Davis High School and renamed in 2016).
Northside went 5-5 in the regular season and was blown out in games against its district’s other three playoff teams by a combined score of 177-29. This is Northside’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Northside’s leading passer and rusher is sophomore quarterback Ronald Holmes, who’s in his second year starting under center and was named District 24-5A’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 2017. He may be a coveted recruit a couple of years from now, if not sooner.
The first two rounds of the playoffs don’t appear particularly daunting to the Port Neches-Groves Indians, but should they reach the third round they would likely have to contend with either Class 5A’s fourth-ranked team, Fort Bend Marshall, or an A&M Consolidated squad that went 9-1 in the regular season.
RB Derrian Brown (Buford, Georgia)
Last week: Rushed for two TDs in a 35-14 win over Miller Grove in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAA playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16, vs. Kell (at Buford High School) in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAA playoffs.
Notes: Buford had little trouble with Miller Grove in its first round playoff game last week, taking a 21-0 1st quarter lead and blanking Miller Grove for the game’s first three and a half quarters. Derrian Brown scored the game’s first two TDs on runs of 11 and 8 yards, the latter of which came with 2:51 left in the 1st quarter. Buford led 35-0 before Miller Grove scored twice in the game’s final 5:16 to narrow the final margin to three touchdowns.
In this week’s second round, Buford will face the first of potentially four straight state-ranked opponents that could stand in the way of the Wolves winning their 12th football state championship. Buford was ranked second in Class AAAAA in the final Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, and their second round opponent is ninth-ranked Kell, which advanced with an easy 48-8 first round win over Carver.
Kell has an overall record of 9-2 and has barely broken a sweat in the past two months. Its two losses came in back-to-back games in early September, one of them a 35-6 defeat on September 7 to AAAAA’s top-ranked team, Rome. But after those September setbacks Kell ran roughshod over its next seven opponents, winning those games by an average margin of 35 points. Buford and Kell last played each other in the semifinal round of the 2016 playoffs, with Buford winning 28-16.
If Buford advances to the third round it will face the winner of fourth-ranked Wayne County and 6-5 Bainbridge, which upset eighth-ranked Jones County in the first round.
WR De’Mariyon Houston (Oklahoma City Millwood)
Last week: Had three TD receptions in a 48-6 win over Dickson in the first round of the OSSAA Class 2A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16, vs. Vian in the second round of the OSSAA Class 2A playoffs.
Notes: The Oklahoman noted that De’Mariyon Houston caught three TD passes and made some plays at defensive back as well in Millwood’s first round playoff win. Stats for Millwood’s games have been hard to come by this season, but Houston has apparently been playing at least as much on defense as he has on offense in recent weeks. His teammate, Oklahoma running back commit Marcus Major, has recently missed time due to injury and did not play in the win over Dickson.
Millwood has now won 39 straight games and has been Oklahoma’s top-ranked Class 2A team all season. In the second round the Falcons will host tenth-ranked Vian, which is 9-2 on the year and advanced with a 74-21 first round win over Hugo. Vian’s two losses both came against ranked teams: a 21-13 loss on September 7 to Class 3A’s fifth-ranked Tulsa Lincoln Christian, and a close 15-14 loss on October 18 to district foe and ninth-ranked Tulsa Holland Hall. In its nine wins, Vian outscored its opponents by an average of 47 points.
Vian will not only be trying on Friday to get one round closer to its first state championship since 1971, but it will be seeking to avenge a 44-0 defeat it was dealt by Millwood in the third round of the playoffs a year ago, the third of four straight postseason shutouts Millwood would have in its state championship run.
WR Jake Smith (Notre Dame Prep - Scottsdale, Arizona)
Last week: Caught six passes for 48 yards, had seven carries for 13 yards, made two tackles and one sack, and punted three times for an average of 48 yards in a 14-0 win over Goodyear (AZ) Millennium in the quarterfinal round of the AIA Conference 5A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:00, vs. Williams Field (at Campo Verde High School) in the semifinal round of the AIA Conference 5A playoffs.
Notes: Jake Smith failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season in last week’s second round playoff win over Millennium, but he had a key sack on defense and launched three punts that averaged a Michael Dickson-esque 48 yards.
Notre Dame Prep took a 14-0 halftime lead and maintained that score for the entire second half, as its defense consistently turned back Millennium’s attempts at putting points on the board. Millennium got no points out of three drives into the red zone, and Jake Smith had a sack on a 3rd-and-17 play in Notre Dame territory in the 2nd quarter that knocked Millennium well out of field goal range.
Notre Dame Prep remains perfect for the year at 12-0. The Saints were the third seed in the 5A playoffs and in this week’s semifinal round they will take on second seed Williams Field. Williams Field lost its season-opener 49-21 to Norco, California, one of the top Division 2 teams in the CIF Southern Section, but has won eleven straight games since then. Nine of its eleven wins have come against teams that qualified for the 5A playoffs, and its first two playoff games were re-matches against teams it beat in the regular season.
In the final 5A power rankings done before the playoffs, Williams Field had the third highest “average opponent rating” out of the 16 teams in that conference’s playoff bracket, while Notre Dame Prep had the third-lowest, and it’s obvious just from looking at each team’s schedule that Williams Field has been tested far more than has Notre Dame.
The last time these two teams met was in the semifinals of the 2010 Class 4A Division II playoffs, with Williams Field edging out Notre Dame Prep 49-48. Williams Field won the 5A state championship in 2016, while Notre Dame Prep was the 5A state runner-up last year.
Jake Smith and company will face a Williams Field defense that includes one of the nation’s top-ranked 2019 defensive back recruits in Noa Pola-Gates, who was offered by Texas in April and included the Longhorns in his top ten in early July. Pola-Gates is scheduled for an official visit to Alabama next week when the Crimson Tide host arch-rival Auburn, and they have long been the favorite to land his commitment.
WR Marcus Washington (Trinity Catholic - St. Louis, Missouri)
Last week: Caught one pass for 38 yards in a 39-6 win over St. Charles West in the district championship round of the MSHSAA Class 3 playoffs.
This week: Saturday, November 17, at Southern Boone in the state quarterfinal round of the MSHSAA Class 3 playoffs.
Notes: I said in last wek’s post that after winning its first two playoff games by a combined score of 159-10, Trinity Catholic’s district championship round game last week against St. Charles West “should be at least marginally more difficult”. That prediction was borne out, as Trinity Catholic defeated St. Charles West by only 33 points.
Marcus Washington had just one offensive touch in the game, and Trinity Catholic had just six completed passes in the game, which was played in very cold and windy conditions, but the Titans raced to a 39-0 halftime lead and cruised in the second half. Trinity Catholic’s junior running back Mookie Cooper, who has offers from Texas and some two dozen other programs and is predicted as a future Texas commit by a half-dozen Crystal Ball projections on 247Sports, caught a 60-yard TD pass on the game’s first offensive play, and finished the contest with three catches for 133 yards and a pair of scores.
Trinity Catholic’s path will get markedly more difficult this week and next, should it advance. On Saturday the Titans, ranked second in Class 3, will play eighth-ranked Southern Boone (which sounds like it should be a whiskey brand). Southern Boone is 10-2 this season and has won five straight games after a 56-17 loss on October 5 to Class 2’s top-ranked team, Blair Oaks. In its ten wins it has allowed only one opponent to score more than 16 points.
Southern Boone advanced to the state quarterfinal round with a 12-6 win over Moberly in last week’s district championship round, a game that was reportedly played with wind chills in the teens and in which Southern Boone committed four turnovers. The winner of Trinity Catholic and Southern Boone’s quarterfinal game will play the winner between #1 Odessa and #5 Maryville in next week’s Class 3 semifinals.
WR Jordan Whittington (Cuero)
Last week: Caught four passes for 161 yards and three TDs, had two carries for 26 yards, made two interceptions and returned one for a TD, and made three tackles in a 73-14 win over Wimberley.
This week: Thursday, November 15 at 7:00, vs. Pearsall (at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
Notes: Cuero finished its regular season last Friday with a game against Wimberley, a team they have faced in the playoffs six times in the past 14 seasons but have likely never shared a district with before, as the two schools are 93 miles apart. The teams met in the quarterfinal round of last year’s 4A Division II playoffs, and Wimberley outscored Cuero 20-7 in the 4th quarter for a come-from-behind 44-36 win.
It’s a safe bet that Wimberley would prefer to play anyone other than Cuero in the playoffs this year, as the Gobblers crushed Wimberley 73-14 last week. The score was 49-7 at halftime. The game’s Maxpreps stats credit Jordan Whittington with three receiving TDs, though the Victoria Advocate’s brief recap of says Whittington had two receiving scores and credited Marcus Gomez with the team’s third receiving TD. Whittington also did work on defense, grabbing two of the four interceptions Cuero had off of Wimberley’s junior QB Colby Boyle, and returning one for a 62-yard TD.
The win was Cuero’s eighth straight for the season and completed an undefeated run for the Gobblers through District 13-4A Division II in which they outscored their five opponents 305-44 and won their eleventh outright or shared district title in 16 seasons.
Cuero enters the playoffs with a 9-1 record and as the fifth-ranked team in Class 4A in the final AP poll, the highest ranking for any team on the Division II side of that class. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, however, ranks Cuero third among teams in 4A Division II. The Gobblers have what should be considered among the easier paths to the state championship; out of the ten teams DCTF sees as the best in 4A DII, Cuero is the only one in Region 4. So they will be the favorite to advance from their region and reach the state semifinals.
Cuero opens its playoff run on Thursday night in San Antonio against Pearsall, the fourth-place finisher out of District 14-4A Division II. Pearsall finished the regular season 4-6 and only officially punched its postseason ticket with a 30-26 win last week over winless Poteet, which - amazingly - could have received that district’s final playoff spot had it beaten Pearsall by 17 points.
Cuero and Pearsall’s only previous postseason meeting was in 1938, a first round game Cuero won 6-0. Pearsall has reached the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, but has made a swift exit each time, and its Mavericks have not won a playoff game since 1993. By contrast, Cuero has not only made the playoffs in every season except one since 2004, the Gobblers have lost a first round game just once during that time period while advancing to the third round or further 11 times. Don’t expect that to change this year.
TE Brayden Liebrock (Chandler, Arizona)
Last week: Caught three passes for 22 yards in a 49-21 win over Phoenix Mountain Pointe in the quarterfinal round of the AIA Conference 6A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:00, vs. Gilbert Highland (at Basha High School) in the semifinal round of the AIA Conference 6A playoffs.
Notes: After catching two TD passes in Chandler’s first round playoff win two weeks ago, Brayden Liebrock caught just three passes total for 22 yards in last week’s quarterfinal win over Mountain Pointe. Chandler’s offense last week largely consisted of senior running back DeCarlos Brooks, a Cal commit who compiled 317 yards from scrimmage on 33 offensive touches and scored six total touchdowns. Brooks has scored 28 total TDs this season and is closing in on 2,000 total yards from scrimmage.
The win over Mountain Pointe was Chandler’s eleventh straight this season and moved the Wolves into the semifinal round for a sixth straight year. Chandler is the top seed in the 6A playoffs and in Friday night’s semifinal game they will play fifth seed Highland, which advanced courtesy of a 15-12 win over Peoria Liberty. Highland is 11-1 for the season, and its only loss was a 48-27 defeat on September 28 to the Mountain Pointe team Chandler just beat. Since the start of the 2017 season, Highland is 0-3 against Mountain Pointe, and 19-2 against all other opponents.
Chandler has won its last five games against Highland, dating back to 2006. Among the Highland defenders Liebrock will likely encounter a time or two is senior Kohner Cullimore, who earned all-state honors as a junior and is the team’s leading rusher, fourth-leading receiver, second-leading tackler, and primary punt and kick returner.
TE Jared Wiley (Temple)
Last week: Completed 7 of 15 passes for 47 yards, and had three carries for 18 yards in a 22-18 loss to Copperas Cove.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. Mesquite Horn (at Temple’s Wildcat Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.
Notes: I said two weeks ago that the loser of the November 2 game between Temple and Waco Midway would likely have to face Class 6A’s fourth-ranked team Longview in the first round of the playoffs if any team other than Copperas Cove received the final playoff spot in District 12-6A. Temple won its first eight games of the season before losing to Midway in a close game, and who should Temple play in the final week of the regular season but Copperas Cove, which needed a win over Temple to claim a postseason berth.
Temple’s loss to Midway put it in an unenviable position going into week 11: beat Copperas Cove and face Longview the following week, or lose to Cove and face a far weaker first round playoff foe.
Temple head coach Scott Stewart opted to play his starters against Copperas Cove, but in the 3rd and 4th quarters they gave way to their backups, a plan that was possibly accelerated by three Temple starters having to leave the game with knee injuries, including junior receiver and the team’s breakout star of this season Quentin Johnston. Temple produced a season-low 175 yards of total offense but still led 12-0 at halftime.
It was backup QB Vance Willis, not Jared Wiley, who was under center late in the final minutes of the 3rd quarter and scored on a 5-yard TD run to put Temple ahead 18-7 after Copperas Cove had scored its first points earlier in the quarter. In the 4th quarter, Copperas Cove outplayed Temple’s reserves and scored twice, taking a 22-18 lead with 3:31 left in regulation and holding on for the win.
No doubt anticipating what critics would say about his personnel decisions in the game, Stewart was quoted by the Temple Daily Telegram after the game saying, “We did not throw this game. Their 1s were better than our 2s (during the final quarter-plus). Hat’s off to Cove. They executed their plan and got after it.”
For better or worse, the loss gave Copperas Cove the district’s fourth playoff spot and pushed Midway up to the 6A Division I bracket, making Temple the district’s top seed in the Division II bracket and ensuring that it wouldn’t face Longview until the fourth round, though the Wildcats do have a potential third round game with ninth-ranked and undefeated Cypress Ranch.
But before Temple can game plan for either of those stout squads it must beat Mesquite Horn, who it will host in its first round game on Friday. Horn enters the playoffs 3-7, but its record is exceedingly deceiving. Horn began its season with four non-district contests against defending 6A Division I state champion Allen, defending 5A Division I state champion Highland Park, south Dallas blue chip factory Cedar Hill, and Arlington, a quartet that finished the regular season with a combined record of 39-1. Add in district foe Longview and that’s four opponents Horn faced that have yet to lose a game this season. The number of teams in the state that could play that slate and finish with a record of .500 or better is a very small one.
Horn, understandably, had a very rough start to its season and was 0-7 as recently as October 25, but closed with three straight wins, including a 55-41 victory over Tyler Lee last week that clinched the school’s eleventh consecutive playoff berth. A healthy Temple team should be able to advance past Horn, but Horn has played a handful of teams already that are at least as good as Temple and is riding on the emotional high of reaching the postseason after a start that most teams not have recovered from, so the Wildcats definitely can’t take them for granted.
OL Tyler Johnson (Conroe Oak Ridge)
Last week: Team defeated Conroe 73-14.
Notes: Tyler Johnson and his Oak Ridge teammates knew after Week Nine that they had no chance to qualify for the playoffs and they had only pride on the line in their final two games. The 2018 War Eagles went out with some offensive fireworks, scoring 73 points to beat cross-town rival Conroe for a sixth consecutive time and finish the season 5-5 overall.
Oak Ridge spread the wealth around on senior night, as four different players attempted a pass, 12 players had at least one carry, the team’s ten completed passes went to six different receivers, and seven different players scored touchdowns. Oak Ridge went 4-4 in district play to tie for fifth place in District 15-6A.
2020 OL Logan Parr (San Antonio O’Connor)
Last week: Team beat San Antonio Stevens 33-3.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. San Antonio Reagan (at San Antonio’s Farris Stadium) in the bi-district round of the 6A Division I playoffs.
Notes: For a second straight week, O’Connor didn’t have an overwhelming offensive performance, but its defense made some big plays and the Panthers won convincingly in their regular season finale over Stevens. O’Connor gained just 176 offensive yards, but its defense forced three turnovers, returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and added a safety early in the 4th quarter that concluded the game’s scoring. Stevens scored its only points of the game on a 29-yard field goal as time expired at the end of the first half.
With the win, O’Connor completed an undefeated regular season for a second straight year, the first two times in school history the Panthers have accomplished that feat. O’Connor has reached the playoffs every year since 2003, and they’ll face a strong first round opponent in fellow San Antonio program Reagan, which finished second in District 27-6A and is itself in the postseason for an eighth straight year.
O’Connor and Reagan have met in the playoffs on four previous occasions, with Reagan winning the first three (starting with a wild four-overtime 49-47 area round game in 2006) and O’Connor winning an area round game last year by the score of 45-21. Reagan’s roster includes three senior FBS commits in wide receiver/tight end Konnor Fox (a Kansas State pledge), linebacker Lucas Eatman (a SMU commit and the son of longtime NFL offensive lineman Irv Eatman), and offensive lineman Carson Pharris (a New Mexico State commit).
OL Javonne Shepherd (Houston North Forest)
Last week: Team beat Houston Yates 47-22.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. Splendora (at Houston’s Barnett Stadium) in the bi-district round of the 4A Division I playoffs.
Notes: After starting off the season 1-6 and experiencing some off-the-field drama in which Javonne Shepherd was temporarily suspended from the team, North Forest finished its regular season on a three-game winning streak to nab the final playoff spot out of District 12-4A Division I. A loss to Yates last week would have kept North Forest home for the postseason for the first time in seven years, but the Bulldogs won a decisive 25-point victory to punch their ticket.
On Friday, North Forest will play its first round game against Splendora, the largest school in all of Class 4A and champion of District 11-4A Division I. Splendora spent the previous two seasons as one of the smallest schools in Class 5A and had a combined record of 5-14, but the Wildcats have found 4A Division I much more to their liking this fall, winning the school’s first district championship since 2007.
Splendora finished the regular season 9-1, and this year’s squad has not only matched the most wins the school has ever had in a single season (tied with its 1991 team that finished 9-2), but equaled its win total of the previous four seasons combined! A Splendora victory on Friday night would be the program’s first-ever postseason win.
Splendora did not play a difficult non-district schedule, beating two weak 5A Division II teams, and two 4A Division II teams, and five of its nine wins this season came by seven points or less. So that 9-1 record could well be a mirage, and this could be one of the few first round games in one district’s fourth seed beats another district’s champion.
The winner of the North Forest-Splendora game will play the winner of Van-Athens.
DE Peter Mpagi (Richmond George Ranch)
Last week: Team lost to Pearland 28-7.
Notes: George Ranch went into the final week of the regular season with a 3-3 district record and only the most long shot of chances to reach the playoffs. To nab a postseason berth, the Longhorns needed to not only upset unbeaten Pearland, but for two of District 23-6A’s other top four teams to lose games against its two last-place teams. Alas, none of those things happened.
George Ranch was held to 165 total yards by Pearland, which finished the regular season undefeated for the sixth time since 2001. George Ranch finished 4-6 for its lowest single-season win total in school history, and missed the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural varsity season in 2012.
DE T’Vondre Sweat (Huntsville)
Last week: Team beat Bryan Rudder 50-7.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. Nacogdoches (at Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
Notes: Huntsville finished its regular season last Friday with a 50-7 win over Bryan Rudder, the seventh straight game in which the Hornets held their opponent to seven points or less. Huntsville won its first outright district title since 2008 and outscored its seven district opponents 335-28.
Huntsville’s first round opponent is Nacogdoches, which began its season 2-4 but won three of its final four games to finish fourth in District 9-5A Division II and snag its first playoff berth since 2014. Nacogdoches has recently produced a pair of Texas Longhorn defensive backs in Brandon Jones and Josh Thompson, but the Dragons have not won a playoff game since 1992, and this season marks just the program’s sixth postseason appearance in the past 47 seasons!
DCTF ranks Huntsville fifth among 5A Division II teams entering the playoffs. Should the Hornets beat Nacogdoches they would likely have to play DCTF’s #3 team Manvel next week.
LB De’Gabriel Floyd (Westlake - Westlake Village, California)
De’Gabriel Floyd’s Westlake team lost to Los Alamitos in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs on November 2.
LB David Gbenda (Katy Cinco Ranch)
Last week: Made six tackles (one for loss) and blocked a punt in a 40-10 loss to Katy Seven Lakes.
Notes: Needing a win in the final week of the regular season to reach the playoffs for a 13th consecutive year, and facing a team it had never lost to in Katy Seven Lakes, David Gbenda and his Cinco Ranch team made history in the wrong way, losing a win-or-go-home game to Seven Lakes 40-10. The loss dropped Cinco Ranch’s record to 3-7 overall, giving the Cougars their worst finish since going 2-8 back in 2001, the school’s second season of varsity football.
LB Marcus Tillman (Jones - Orlando, Florida)
Last week: Team beat Orlando Bishop Moore 14-7 in the regional quarterfinal round of the FHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, at Cardinal Gibbons in the regional semifinal round of the FHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
Notes: Facing a legitimate challenge for essentially the first time since August, the Jones Fightin’ Tigers played their customarily tough defense to pull out a 14-7 win over Bishop Moore in the first round of the playoffs last week. Jones had beaten Bishop Moore 50-7 six weeks earlier, but found points much harder to come by in the re-match.
Jones led 7-0 at halftime courtesy of a 1st quarter TD run by junior running back Avarius Sparrow, and Sparrow ran in another TD from 34 yards out with 7:47 left in the 3rd quarter to make the score 14-0. Bishop Moore cut the deficit to 14-7 just over three minutes into the 4th quarter, and later drove deep into Jones territory in the final minute of regulation, but ultimately turned the ball over on downs, and Jones escaped with the win.
The win allowed Jones, which was ranked sixth in Class 5A going into the playoffs, to advance to the second round, where this week they will battle third-ranked Cardinal Gibbons, the team that eliminated Jones from the playoffs a year ago. That Cardinal Gibbons squad went on to lose 58-57 in overtime to eventual state champion American Heritage.
Cardinal Gibbons began this season with a pair of losses, but since then has won nine straight games and not allowed any team to score more than 16 points. Jones has never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs, and if it succeeds in doing so on Friday night it will next take on the winner of Region 4’s other semifinal between fourth-ranked American Heritage and fifth-ranked Rockledge.
DB Chris Adimora (Mayfair - Lakewood, California)
Last week: Team lost 31-28 in overtime to Oxnard Pacifica in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.
Notes: Chris Adimora was not mentioned in any of the recaps I’ve found for last week’s second round playoff game between Mayfair and Pacifica. The game was originally scheduled for last Friday but was moved to Saturday night in Ventura because of nearby wildfires.
The game was a back-and-forth contest that was tied four different times and saw a huge performance from Pacifica’s junior running back/defensive back Malik Sherrod.
Sherrod had 30 carries for 220 yards and a 3rd quarter TD run, returned a 2nd quarter kickoff 80 yards for a TD that put Pacifica ahead 14-7 at the time, and intercepted a 4th-and-long pass on Mayfair’s opening possession of overtime.
The game was tied at 14 at halftime, and after both teams scored once it remained tied 21-21 going into the 4th quarter. Mayfair took its first lead of the game at 28-21 with 10:10 left in regulation, but Pacifica once again tied the score in the game’s final minutes to send it into overtime.
Mayfair had the first possession in overtime, and after advancing to the Pacifica 12-yard line, but a sack and three penalties (including one for intentional grounding) backed the Monsoons to around the 45-yard line, and a desperate 4th-and-long pass was picked off by Sherrod. Pacifica then took possession and ended the game with a 37-yard field goal.
Mayfair ended its season with an overall record of 9-3.
DB Marques Caldwell (Alvin)
Last week: Team lost to Dickinson 41-7.
Notes: Alvin’s miserable 2018 season mercifully came to an end last Friday with a 41-7 loss to Dickinson. Dickinson led 34-0 at halftime but added only one more score in the second half, likely choosing to rest its starters in preparation for its first round playoff matchup this week against unbeaten Pearland.
Alvin did not complete a pass in the game and gained just 150 total yards, while Dickinson gained 509 offensive yards, with 309 coming on the ground. Alvin finished 0-10 for its first winless season since 2007, and the 118 points the Yellowjackets scored matched their point total from that lowly 2007 campaign. Alvin’s opponents scored to their hearts’ content, as the Yellowjackets allowed 542 points, smashing the school record for points allowed, previously held by their 1998 team that went 1-9 and allowed 377 points. If the records for points allowed posted at the Texas High School Football History website are accurate (I think they’re off a bit for a few teams), then Alvin’s 542 points allowed this season would put it well within the top ten for most generous defenses in Class 6A (formerly 5A) history.
Marques Caldwell suffered a torn labrum earlier in the season and missed almost all of his senior season.
DB Tyler Owens (Plano East)
Last week: Team beat Dallas Jesuit 58-44.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:00, vs. Sachse (at Garland’s Homer B. Johnson Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
Notes: Plano East needed a win last Friday over Dallas Jesuit to ensure itself a playoff spot. Jesuit, a usually strong team that had its worst season in several years, was keen to deny the Panthers that postseason bid, scoring a season-high 44 points and leading the game three different times in the first three quarters, but Plano East seized control of the game by outscoring Jesuit 35-24 in the second half, aided by three interceptions.
In a back-and-forth game, Jesuit scored on an 18-yard TD pass with four seconds left in the 2nd quarter to make the score 23-20 in favor of Plano East at halftime. Jesuit scored on its first possession of the second half to take a 27-23 lead. But Plano East answered with 55-yard TD pass two plays later, then intercepted Jesuit on its next play and scored again two plays later to take a 38-27 lead.
After Jesuit turned the ball over on downs on their own side of the field, Plano East had a third consecutive two-play scoring drive to push its lead to 44-27 with 5:48 left in the 3rd quarter. Jesuit settled down and scored on its next two drives to get within 44-41, but after intercepting Jesuit on its next possession, Plano East senior QB Brandon Mallory, who accounted for 385 total yards and six touchdowns in the game, ran in a TD from 22 yards out to give his team a 51-41 lead with 8:50 left in the game.
Jesuit held the ball nearly four minutes on its ensuing possession before settling for a field goal, then Mallory put the nail in the coffin with a 50-yard TD pass to senior receiver Josh Allison (who had 4 catches for 159 yards and three scores on the night) with 3:12 left in regulation to put the Panthers ahead 58-44.
Because of Friday night’s other results, Plano East would have missed the playoffs had they lost to Jesuit, but the win moved the Panthers to 8-2 for the season, giving them their best regular season record since 2006, and the 384 points they have scored is already the third-best season total in school history, behind the 448 points scored by its 2016 team.
Plano East was the second Division I seed out of District 9-6A and on Friday night it will play the champion of District 10-6A, Sachse. Sachse began the season 0-3, but rebounded to run the table on its district opponents, winning its last seven games by an average margin of nearly 33 points and claiming its fourth district title in six seasons. Sachse has scored 42 or more points in each of its last five games.
Plano East beat Sachse 29-7 in a September 14 non-district game in which the Panthers forced three turnovers and held Sachse to 193 total yards after Sachse had a 52-yard TD run on the game’s first offensive play. That Sachse team was coming off two hard-fought losses; the Mustangs led Coppell 28-27 in the final minute of their Week One game, before Coppell won it on a last-second 57-yard field goal(!) by Texas A&M commit Caden Davis, and Sachse was tied with Euless Trinity in the 4th quarter the following week but fell 20-14. Sachse also took a few weeks to settle on its primary QB this season and that had not yet been resolved when Plano East first played them in Week Three.
Sachse drummed its last five regular season foes 243-47, shutting out three of them, and it enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the Dallas area. The winner between Plano East and Sachse will move on to play the winner of Friday night’s bi-district game between Waco Midway and Mesquite.
DB Kenyatta Watson (Grayson - Loganville, Georgia)
Last week: Made six tackles in a 38-6 win over South Forsyth in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAAAA playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:00 vs. Norcross (at Grayson Community Stadium) in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAAA playoffs.
Notes: Grayson, the third-ranked team in AAAAAAA, got off to a slow start in its first round playoff game last week against South Forsyth, letting South Forsyth get on the board first before taking a 7-6 lead mid-way through the 2nd quarter. In the 3rd quarter, Grayson scored 17 unanswered points while holding South Forsyth to -8 offensive yards to take a 24-6 lead into the 4th quarter, and the Rams continued their runaway in the final frame, winning 38-6. Grayson’s defense and special teams units were the recipient of six turnovers by South Forsyth.
Grayson has won six straight games and held those opponents to 14 points or less. In the second round this week, Grayson takes on 7-4 Norcross, which finished in second place in Region 7 and advanced past the first round with a 30-23 win over Mountain View. The one common opponent Grayson and Norcross had this season was Archer, which finished the regular season ranked eighth. Archer beat Norcross 37-0 on September 14, then was soundly beaten by Grayson 41-14 on October 11.
Norcross is led on offense by 6’4” senior QB Louis Williams, a second-year starter who has completed over 62% of his passes and thrown for over 2,000 yards, 20 TDs and 8 INTs. Williams’s top target is senior receiver Isaiah Wilson, who is averaging 19 yards/catch and has 10 TDs this season, and has reported offers from Marshall and Southern Miss.
Grayson beat Norcross in the first round of the 2017 playoffs 31-14.
ATH Peyton Powell (Odessa Permian)
Last week: Completed 11 of 24 passes for 308 yards and three TDs, and had 10 carries for 31 yards in a 43-36 loss to Midland Lee.
This week: Friday, November 16 at 7:30, vs. El Paso Coronado (at Odessa’s Ratliff Stadium) in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
Notes: Peyton Powell returned to his starting QB spot for Permian after missing their previous game with an unspecified injury and put up his best passing numbers of the season, but it wasn’t enough to get the Panthers a win over arch-rival Midland Lee.
Powell connected with his receivers on several long passes that either resulted in touchdowns or helped set up Permian scores. Permian scored the game’s first two TDs and led 14-0 with 3:44 left in the 1st quarter, but Midland Lee responded with three TDs of its own to take a 21-14 lead with 4:19 left in the 2nd quarter.
Lee led 28-21 going into the second half and padded that lead with the fourth TD run of the game by senior running back Josh Traylor just over three minutes into the 3rd quarter. Traylor finished the game with 230 yards on 27 carries. He and former Texas Longhorn running back Cedric Benson are the only Midland Lee Rebels to rush for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.
Trailing 35-21, Powell threw a 44-yard pass that got Permian inside the 10-yard line in a drive that ended with a field goal to cut the deficit to 35-24 with 3:42 left in the 3rd. Powell later threw TD passes from 42 and 43 yards out in the 4th quarter, the latter of which came a few plays after he had run for a conversion on 4th-and-1, and that drive’s score gave Permian a 36-35 lead with 5:24 left in regulation. But Lee took back the lead on a TD pass with 1:07 left on the clock, which was a few plays after a penalty wiped out a Permian interception that could have iced the game.
With Lee ahead 43-36, Permian was unable to move down the field and even the score in the game’s final minute. The loss dropped Permian to 7-3 for the season and left them tied with Lee and Amarillo Tascosa for the top record in District 2-6A. Permian had already been assured of having the district’s top seed in the Division I bracket, and once the dust settled on Friday night’s football action, Permian learned that it would begin the playoffs by hosting El Paso Coronado, which needed a 42-25 win in its regular season finale to reach the postseason.
El Paso Franklin was the one mutual opponent Permian and Coronado had this season; Permian beat Franklin in El Paso 43-27 on September 7, and Franklin blanked Coronado 44-0 in a district game on October 18.
Permian almost always faces El Paso teams in the first or second round of the playoffs and often plays them in non-district games, and Coronado is the school from that area with which the Panthers have by far the most history. Permian has never lost in 25 previous games against Coronado, four of which were playoff games, including a 50-17 win in the bi-district round last year.
The teams did tie once in a 1975 state quarterfinal playoff game that ended with both teams having 14 points, but that was over two decades before overtime periods were played, and because of the rules in place at the time Permian was declared the winner due to having more penetrations inside the 20-yard line. That 1975 Permian team went on to beat Longview 10-9 in the state semifinals, then lost 20-10 to Port Neches-Groves in the Class 4A state championship.
The winner of Friday night’s Permian-Coronado playoff tilt will advance and face the winner between San Angelo Central and Arlington Lamar.