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Texas football commits in the playoffs, Dec. 14-15

Two future Longhorns are one win away from playing for a state championship next week.

2019 Texas Longhorns commit Jordan Whittington (Cuero) wearing his All-American Bowl jersey during a ceremony at his school on December 3.

The last of the Texas Longhorns’ out-of-state football commits concluded their 2018 season two weeks ago, with two of them ending their high school football careers as state champions. Three in-state commits were still playing as of last week, but just two remain as the Texas high school football playoffs moves into the state semifinal round (aka, the fifth round) this week.

As reported in last week’s post, T’Vondre Sweat’s Huntsville team lost on a heartbreaking last-minute TD pass after it had clawed back from a 20-point 1st quarter deficit. Hudson Card’s Lake Travis Cavaliers had a stiff challenge from state-ranked Converse Judson but made enough plays (and were on the fortunate end of a controversial 3rd quarter call by the officials) to pull out a victory, while Jordan Whittington’s Cuero Gobblers made quick work of a Geronimo Navarro team they were facing in the playoffs for a remarkable sixth straight season.

In order to win the school’s seventh state championship Lake Travis will have the stiffest of challenges now that it has reached the final four; they face second-ranked Galena Park North Shore in the semifinals tomorrow, and a possible state championship re-match with Allen (the 800-pound gorilla of Class 6A football for much of the past decade) looms should the Cavaliers upset North Shore.

Cuero is aiming for its fourth state championship, but first it must contend with a Silsbee team that has won 10 of its last 11 games and made its first-ever trip to the fifth round of the playoffs after starting off the season 0-3. And awaiting them in Arlington should they reach next week’s 4A Division II state championship game could be defending champion Texarkana Pleasant Grove.

It should be a great weekend of high school football, topped only by the action that will take place Wednesday through Saturday of next week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Before getting into notes on last week’s games and postseason honors UT’s commits have earned in recent weeks, I should note that Odessa Permian athlete Peyton Powell decommitted from the Longhorns this week, just over seven weeks after he announced his intention to sign with the #fUTure19 class on October 23. Good luck to him wherever he spends his college days.


QB Hudson Card (Lake Travis)

Last week: Completed 19 of 36 passes for 316 yards and 4 TDs, and had 15 carries for 13 yards in a 38-21 win over Converse Judson in the Region IV final of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
This week: Saturday, December 15 at 2:00, vs. Galena Park North Shore (at Houston’s NRG Stadium) in the semifinal round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
Notes: Lake Travis won a hard-fought playoff matchup with Converse Judson for a second straight year, and advanced to the state semifinal round of the playoffs for a fourth straight season, and for the tenth time in the span of 12 seasons.

The game was arguably a closer affair than its 17-point final deficit might indicate. Judson scored first on a 2-yard run by senior running back Sincere McCormick, a UTSA commit who finished the game with 131 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches. Lake Travis tied the game later in the 1st quarter on a 15-yard run by sophomore Weston Stephens, then took the lead with 4:28 left in the 2nd quarter on the first of three TD passes on the day from Card to Ohio State wide receiver commit Garrett Wilson, and the Cavaliers never trailed afterward.

Judson would tie the game at 14 and had the ball late in the 2nd quarter with a chance to take back the lead. A long McCormick run gave Judson the ball at the 2-yard line with just seconds left in the half. Instead of attempting a field goal, Judson lined up and went for a touchdown, but the snap was mishandled and the ball was recovered with no time left on the clock.

Card connected with Wilson on a 60-yard TD pass in the 3rd quarter that gave the Cavaliers a 21-14 lead. Later in the quarter, Lake Travis again advanced into Judson territory but had a 3rd-and-14 situation from the 20-yard line. Judson senior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, a Texas A&M commit, hit Card from behind and forced what was close to being a fumble returned the other way for a game-tying TD, but the official nearest to the play blew the whistle and ruled it an incomplete pass. You can see the play in question below.

Lake Travis kept possession and kicked a 37-yard field goal on the next play, extending its lead to 24-14 with 6:15 left in the 3rd quarter. Despite that setback, Judson didn’t quit. The Rockets put together a scoring drive in the 4th quarter that was capped off by a 37-yard TD pass from junior QB Mike Chandler II to junior WR Antony Shelton with 8:53 left in regulation.

That score cut Lake Travis’s lead to 24-21. But the Cavaliers quickly answered with a 64-yard TD pass from Card to junior Kyle Eaves that gave them another 10-point cushion. And the game effectively ended when Judson fumbled on the kickoff return, giving Lake Travis the ball back. Garrett Wilson’s third TD of the day then gave Lake Travis an insurmountable 38-21 lead. Wilson and Eaves combined to catch 15 passes for 270 yards and 4 TDs.

On Saturday, 12-1 Lake Travis will attempt to punch its ticket to the 6A Division I state championship game for the second consecutive season when it takes on 14-0 Galena Park North Shore in the state semifinal round in a matchup of teams that were ranked 2nd (North Shore) and 10th (Lake Travis) in Class 6A in the AP’s final regular season poll.

The North Shore Mustangs opened their season with a 35-21 win over Katy, the team that had eliminated them in the fourth round of the 2017 playoffs, and they beat Katy a second time two weeks ago in the third round of the playoffs by a score of 49-38. Sandwiched between those two wins over Katy were eleven games in which North Shore’s average margin of victory was 51.5 points! Last week North Shore eliminated defending 6A Division II state champion Cy-Fair with a 38-21 win.

Lake Travis and North Shore — which have never previously met in the playoffs — have been among the state’s most successful programs in recent memory, winning a combined eight state championships in the previous 15 seasons. And interestingly, both schools had pretty nondescript football programs and no history of success for a long period of time before finally bursting onto the playoff scene and never leaving it.

Lake Travis played its first varsity football season in 1984 and didn’t reach the postseason until 2000, but since 2004 they’ve made the playoffs every year and won six state championships along the way.

North Shore played its first varsity season in 1963, yet didn’t make its first playoff appearance until three decades later, but the Mustangs have now reached the postseason every year since 1994, winning two state titles, going undefeated in the regular season 11 times, and becoming one of the state’s most talent-rich programs during that time period. Longhorn running back Tristian Houston is a North Shore alum, as were former Longhorns Chykie Brown, Barrett Matthews, Trey Hopkins, and Sedrick Flowers. The Rivals football recruit database, which goes back to the class of 2002, lists no fewer than 40 North Shore recruits who received grades of three or more stars.

Unfortunately for Lake Travis, the most highly-touted North Shore recruit ever is on its current roster: five-star junior running back Zachary Evans, the current #2 overall recruit in the nation for the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. With North Shore routinely beating its 2018 opponents by six touchdowns or more, Evans hasn’t been on the field long enough to compile big stat lines in most games; in the Mustangs’ four playoff wins he has totaled 54 carries for 602 yards (11.1 yards/carry) and 9 TDs, along with 5 receptions for 64 yards and one TD.

Evans is far from the only talented weapon on North Shore’s offense. Sharing carries with Evans is fellow junior running back John Gentry, who reportedly holds an Arkansas offer. They run behind an offensive line that includes four-star junior prospect Damieon George, who Texas offered in October.

North Shore’s receiving corps is headlined by five-star sophomore Shadrach Banks (who Texas offered in September), and also includes senior UTEP commit Ajani Carter. They catch passes from sophomore QB Dematrius Davis, who already has reported offers from Baylor and Memphis.

On the defensive side, the Mustangs boast several future FBS athletes, including senior defensive end Tony Bradford (a three-star Texas Tech commit), senior safety Dorian Hewett (a three-star Syracuse commit), and senior cornerback Keeyon Stewart (a three-star recruit with well over a dozen offers).

I said in last week’s post when previewing the Lake Travis-Converse Judson game that Judson might have the most experienced defense Lake Travis sees all season, as all of its top 11 leading tacklers were seniors. But North Shore’s defense might be the deepest in terms of future college talent.

The winner of the semifinal between Lake Travis and North Shore will advance to next week’s 6A Division I state championship and will play either top-ranked Allen or fifth-ranked Duncanville.

WR Jordan Whittington (Cuero)

Last week: Caught 2 passes for 24 yards, had 5 carries for 102 yards and 3 TDs, made six tackles and had two tackles for loss in a 48-23 win over Geronimo Navarro in the Region IV final of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, December 14 at 7:30, vs. Silsbee (at Katy’s Legacy Stadium) in the semifinal round fo the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
Notes: Last week Cuero faced Geronimo Navarro in the playoffs for a sixth straight season, and for the fifth time out of those six meetings it was Cuero that emerged victorious.

It was also the second time in the span of six weeks that Cuero and Navarro had met on the football field. Cuero handily beat Navarro 43-7 in a November 2 district game in which the Gobblers led 30-0 at halftime. In last week’s fourth round game, the final score was closer but the game was just as lopsided; Cuero led 34-0 at halftime and 48-0 going into the 4th quarter, before Navarro scored 23 unanswered points against Cuero’s backups in the final frame.

The Gobblers scored five first half TDs despite possessing the ball for a mere 4:37 out of the 24 minutes across the game’s first two quarters, according to the Victoria Advocate. Despite losing by 25 points, Navarro played Cuero closer than any team has in over two months; since the beginning of October, the Gobblers have won nine games by an average margin of 48 points.

Cuero improved to 13-1 and advanced to the 4A Division II state semifinal round, where tonight in Katy they will play 10-4 Silsbee. The Silsbee Tigers have achieved double digit wins for just the sixth time in school history, and this is their first ever trip to the fifth round of the playoffs. The two schools have not previously played each other in the postseason.

Silsbee has played quite the challenging schedule this season and went into the playoffs with four losses. Those defeats came at the hands of eventual District 12-5A Division II champion Port Neches-Groves (48-14) in the season-opener, to defending 3A Division II state champion and Class 3A’s top-ranked team Newton (56-14) in early September, to 5A Division II playoff team Nederland (21-14) a week later, and to southeast Texas powerhouse and 2017’s 4A Division II state runner-up West-Orange Stark (24-21) on October 12. Silsbee went on to get revenge on West Orange-Stark by knocking them out of the playoffs last week by a score of 19-9.

Cuero and Silsbee have only one mutual opponent this season in Wharton, who Silsbee blew out in the second round of the playoffs by a score of 56-14, and who Cuero beat 43-21 back on September 28 in Jordan Whittington’s first game of the season after he had sat out the Gobblers’ preseason scrimmage and first four games due to a lingering groin injury.

The winner between Cuero and Silsbee will play for the 4A Division II state championship on Friday, December 21 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and will face either Iowa Park or defending state champion Texarkana Pleasant Grove.

DE T’Vondre Sweat (Huntsville)

Last week: Team lost to Fort Bend Marshall 47-43 in the Region III final of the Class 5A Division II playoffs
Season over
Notes: I re-capped Huntsville’s loss to Fort Bend Marshall in last week’s post, as the game occurred on a Thursday night before that post had been completed. The loss was a heartbreaking one for the Hornets, who fell behind Class 5A’s fourth-ranked Marshall Buffalos 20-0 in the 1st quarter, but fought back over the next three quarters and eventually took a 43-40 lead with 2:31 left in regulation.

With under a minute left, Marshall had the ball on the Huntsville 47-yard line and faced a 4th-and-12 situation. Marshall dialed up a trick play in which a receiver took the handoff running left on a jet sweep, then pitched the ball to junior running back Devon Achane (who had 254 total yards of offense and five total TDs on the night) while being blown up in the backfield by T’Vondre Sweat, and afterwards Achane lofted a pass down to the 25-yard line, where receiver Dalevon Campbell caught it and escaped two nearby Hornet defenders and ran into the end zone to put Marshall back in front with 33 seconds left.

Trailing 47-43, Huntsville’s last-ditch drive ended with an interception.

As I pointed out last week, the Thursday night game against Fort Bend Marshall had Huntsville playing with an unusually quick turnaround after their third round win over east Texas foe Marshall High. That third round Huntsville-Marshall game was played on Saturday, December 1 at The Star in Frisco (a facility 195 miles from Huntsville’s campus) and went down to the wire, ending just after 11 PM. Fort Bend Marshall’s third round game, by comparison, had been a drama-free 53-14 win over Port Neches-Groves on Friday, November 30 in Baytown at a stadium only 50 miles from its campus. So while Fort Bend Marshall obviously didn’t know what team they’d be facing next until the late hours the following day, its players inarguably had one more day of rest than Huntsville did before the teams faced off in their fourth round game on Thursday, December 6.

Whether that was really a factor in the final outcome is up for debate (it’s not like Huntsville didn’t put itself in a position to pull out a victory late in the game), but it’s a point worth mentioning. Huntsville finished the season with a 12-2 record and made its deepest playoff run since 1989. T’Vondre Sweat was voted the District MVP by the coaches of District 10-5A Division II.

Remarkably, he’s still rated as a three-star recruit and is in fact the fourth lowest-rated out of UT’s 20 current commits in the 2019 class. If this guy is your favorite team’s fourth lowest-rated commit, you should be excited about their defense’s future.


QB Roschon Johnson (Port Neches Groves)

Johnson led his team to the third round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs before they fell to fourth-ranked Fort Bend Marshall 53-14. Johnson was voted his district’s MVP for the third straight season, and he finished his decorated high school career with 12,610 total yards, 85 touchdowns passing, and 85 touchdowns rushing.

RB Derrian Brown (Buford, Georgia)

Senior highlights
Buford finished the season with an overall record of 10-3, falling short of the state semifinals for the first time since 2006. Derrian Brown finished his senior season with 246 carries for 1,897 yards (7.7 yards/carry) and 28 TDs.

Buford went into Georgia’s 5A playoffs as the 2nd ranked team, but lost 23-20 in the third round to a Cinderella-like Bainbridge squad that had gone 5-5 in the regular season (including losses to a 3A and 2A team) but caught fire in the playoffs. Bainbridge beat the #8 and #4 teams in its first two playoff games before eliminating #2 Buford, then #6 Stockbridge in the semifinals, and finally #3 Warner Robins in Georgia’s 5A state championship game. Warner Robins (which advanced to the state championship with a 45-28 upset win in the semifinals over a Rome team USA Today had ranked 13th in the country that week) had beaten Bainbridge 38-0 when the teams played on October 19, but Bainbridge avenged that defeat by topping Warner Robins 47-41 in triple-overtime in the state championship.

Buford had multiple chances to beat Bainbridge in their 23-20 loss back on November 23, and its players will no doubt be wondering what might have been had they pulled out the win that night, as the Bainbridge team they lost to needed three overtimes to win its state championship matchup and won its semifinal game by just one point.

WR Jake Smith (Notre Dame Prep - Scottsdale, Arizona)

Smith finished his senior season with over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and scored 39 total TDs. He helped lead his team to Arizona’s Conference 5A state championship game for the second year in a row, but they were once again defeated by a dominating Peoria Centennial team, 60-7. Earlier this week he was honored as the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

WR Marcus Washington (Trinity Catholic - St. Louis, Missouri)

Senior highlights
Washington helped lead his Trinity Catholic team to its first state championship win, catching three TD passes in the Titans’ 45-19 win over local rival Cardinal Ritter in the Class 3 state championship game on December 1.

TE Brayden Liebrock (Chandler, Arizona)

Senior highlights
Liebrock finished his senior season with 65 catches for 784 yards and 11 TDs, and his Chandler Wolves team won Arizona’s Conference 6A state championship for a third straight season, and won the program’s fourth state title in five seasons.

TE Jared Wiley (Temple)

Team lost to Mesquite Horn 45-38 in the bi-district (first) round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs on November 16. Temple won its first eight games of the season before dropping each of its last three. Horn lost its first seven games of the season before winning its final three to sneak into the playoffs, then it upset Temple and made it as far as the third round before being eliminated by Spring Westfield by a score of 35-16.

Jared Wiley shared District 12-6A’s offensive player of the year honor with two other players. The district’s postseason honors announcement listed him as 6’7” and 230 pounds!

OL Tyler Johnson (Conroe Oak Ridge)

Senior highlights
Oak Ridge finished 5-5 overall and did not qualify for the Class 6A playoffs. Tyler Johnson was one of twelve (12!) offensive linemen voted to the all-district first team from District 15-6A.

2020 OL Logan Parr (San Antonio O’Connor)

Junior highlights
O’Connor went undefeated in the regular season for a second straight year, but lost to San Antonio Reagan 30-7 in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs on November 16. Parr was one of five offensive linemen (the perfect number, in this writer’s opinion) voted onto District 28-6A’s all-district first team. He was listed at 6’4” 280 on the all-district list.

OL Javonne Shepherd (Houston North Forest)

North Forest qualified for the 4A Division I playoffs but lost in the bi-district round to Splendora on November 16 by a score of 47-19. North Forest finished 4-7. Javonne Shepherd was one of four offensive tackles voted to the all-district first team out of District 12-4A Division I.

DE Jacoby Jones (Butler Community College - El Dorado, Kansas)

Jones helped lead his Butler squad to an 8-4 record and a 34-30 win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the Midwest Classic Bowl to conclude its season on December 2. Jones finished the 2018 season with 58 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and three pass break-ups, and he was named to the All-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference first team at defensive end.

DE Peter Mpagi (Richmond George Ranch)

Senior highlights
George Ranch went 4-6 this season and did not qualify for the Class 6A playoffs. Peter Mpagi was one of three defensive ends voted to the all-district first team out of District 23-6A.

DE Myron Warren (Many, Louisiana)

Senior highlights
Warren’s team went into Louisiana’s Class 2A playoffs as the top overall seed and reached the state semifinals, but lost 28-21 to #5 seed Welsh on November 30. Welsh, the defending 2A state champion, went on to lose 47-20 to #2 seed Amite in the state championship game last week. According to the stats in Warren’s senior highlight video, he finished the 2018 season with 85 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks.

LB De’Gabriel Floyd (Westlake - Westlake Village, California)

Senior highlights
Westlake went 7-4 and ended its season with a 19-14 loss to Los Alamitos in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on November 2. Full season stats are not available, but for the eight games for which Westlake’s stats were reported De’Gabriel Floyd was credited with 103 tackles (72 solo), 3 sacks, 2 interceptions (one returned for a TD), and 4 rushing TDs. He also returned a punt for a TD early in the season. Floyd was named the Marmonte League’s Co-Linebacker of the Year along with Oaks Christian’s Josh Calvert, a four-star Washington commit.

LB David Gbenda (Katy Cinco Ranch)

Senior highlights
Cinco Ranch finished 3-7 and did not qualify for the Class 6A playoffs. For the season Gbenda was credited with 79 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 blocked punt, and he rushed for 5 TDs on 13 carries in short-yardage situations. He was a unanimous all-district first team selection at linebacker and was also voted the Defensive Player of the Year for District 19-6A.

LB Marcus Tillman (Jones - Orlando, Florida)

Senior highlights
Jones had a record of 10-2 and ended its season with a 30-27 loss on November 16 to Cardinal Gibbons in the second round of the FHSAA Class 5A playoffs. Cardinal Gibbons beat defending state champion American Heritage the following week and went on to win the 5A state championship on December 7.

DB Chris Adimora (Mayfair - Lakewood, California)

Senior highlights
Mayfair went 9-3 overall and its season ended with a 31-28 overtime loss on November 10 to Oxnard Pacifica in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs. Chris Adimora, who made his presence felt at both safety and wide receiver, was voted the MVP of the Suburban League.

DB Marques Caldwell (Alvin)

Caldwell suffered a torn labrum and missed much of his senior season. Alvin finished 0-10 and did not qualify for the Class 6A playoffs.

DB Tyler Owens (Plano East)

Senior highlights
Plano East finished 8-3 and achieved its best win total since 2006. The Panthers lost 35-25 to Sachse in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs on November 16. Sachse went on to lose 56-28 the following week to Waco Midway.

DB Kenyatta Watson (Grayson - Loganville, Georgia)

Grayson lost to Lowndes 20-15 in the quarterfinal round of the GHSA Class 7A playoffs on November 23. Lowndes lost 28-17 the following week in the semifinal round to eventual state champion Milton.