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Texas football commits in action, Sept. 13-15

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Several Longhorns performed well last week, but two had to leave their game due to injury. This week features a few rivalry games and matchups with ranked opponents.

2019 LB commit Marcus Tillman (Jones - Orlando, Florida), pictured during his visit to Austin in July for the Stars At Night camp.
@MarcusTillmanJr

Last week was a fairly eventful one for UT’s football commits, and not all in a good way. Future Texas Longhorns led their teams to wins over teams from six states plus Mexico, but one commit had his game canceled due to thunderstorms and lightning, the team of another came perilously close to blowing a 35-point 3rd quarter lead, and two commits had to be carried off the field after suffering 4th quarter injuries. Off the field, one commit issued a tweet on Sunday morning in the wake of UT’s ugly win over Tulsa that many observers interpreted as him wavering on his commitment.

One commit played in his first game last week after missing his team’s season-opener due to an ankle sprain, while another who suffered an offseason injury has yet to play his first game this season. It’s still very early in the 2018 season for most commits, but three commits will play in their team’s first district game this week, and others will within the next two weeks.

Several commits and top uncommitted targets will be in Austin for the USC-Texas game Saturday night, including at least one recruit who will be playing against a current commit on Friday. The full list of commits and where they’ll be playing this week is below. As always, the listed start times for their games is in the time zone for that particular location.

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2020 QB Hudson Card (Lake Travis)

Last week: Completed 11 of 17 passes for 88 yards and 1 touchdown, and had six carries for 9 yards and a TD in a game versus Mansfield Summit that was canceled due to inclement weather late in the 2nd quarter.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 8:00, at Austin Bowie
Notes: Heavy rains swept across the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Friday, which cancelled or delayed a number of games. The Lake Travis-Summit game, played in Mansfield, had a delayed kickoff due to heavy rains, then lightning delayed the game with 3:43 left in the 2nd quarter, and the contest was eventually canceled, with Lake Travis holding a 14-0 lead at the time.

Based on the Star-Telegram’s report of the game, Lake Travis had some of the same first half problems that showed up in its Week One game versus Arlington Martin, which I wrote about in last week’s post. Lake Travis scored twice and got some possession-extending plays from Ohio State wide receiver commit Garrett Wilson, but the Cavaliers were forced to punt on three of their five possessions. Card was reportedly flushed out of the pocket repeatedly and some of his six incomplete passes were on plays where he was forced to throw the ball away. After being assessed 12 penalties in its Week One win over Martin, Lake Travis was penalized six times in less than one half of football last week. Summit did not score against Lake Travis, but that was reportedly at least as much due to dropped passes that killed their drives as it was because of Lake Travis’s overall defensive prowess.

Lake Travis remains the #2 ranked team in Class 6A, and this week’s USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings have Lake Travis at #9 nationally. Having seen the Cavaliers in person two weeks ago, I have a hard time buying that there are only eight teams in the country better than them, as they have shown some clear vulnerabilities through two weeks. They will have to iron out whatever their issues are soon, as they begin district play this week versus 2-0 Austin Bowie, which dispatched its first two opponents of 2018 by a combined score of 94-35. Bowie and Lake Travis were district opponents from 2012 to 2015, and Lake Travis beat the Bulldogs in each of those four seasons by an average margin of 32 points.

Bowie’s offense features senior wide receiver Elijah Higgins, a composite four-star recruit and the #85 prospect in the nation for the 2019 class, and one of the Texas Longhorns’ top receiver targets in the class. Lake Travis’s secondary was barely challenged by Arlington Martin in Week One, but last week Mansfield Summit was reportedly one or two dropped passes away from either tying the score of making it a one-touchdown game before it was cancelled due to lightning. Bowie’s passing game may give Lake Travis the sternest test it has faced so far.

Elijah Higgins will be visiting Texas the following day for the USC game.

QB Roschon Johnson (Port Neches-Groves)

Last week: Completed 17 of 32 passes for 191 yards and one TD, and had 17 carries for 55 yards in a 31-14 loss to Huntsville.
This week: Saturday, September 15 at 2:00, at Tomball
Notes: For just the second time in the past two seasons, Roschon Johnson did not produce four or more touchdowns, and more seriously, he was carted off the field in the 4th quarter after sustaining what witnesses believed was a leg injury. Earlier he had left the game for part of a 3rd quarter possession after reportedly suffering from cramps. On Friday night after the game he tried to reassure fans and supporters on Twitter.

PN-G trailed Huntsville 24-14 at the time of Johnson’s injury, and Huntsville added another TD to its ledger before the game ended. On Saturday morning, HornSports.com publisher Aaron Carrara posted on that site’s message board that he had “Received confirmation that Johnson’s injury was an ankle sprain and nothing more serious.”

An ankle sprain likely means Johnson will sit out this Saturday afternoon’s non-district game versus Tomball. PN-G has a bye the following week and then begins district play on September 28 against Baytown Lee, a team that has won five games total since the start of the 2013 season and which last finished with a record above .500 in 2006, when its current seniors were in kindergarten. PN-G beat Lee in each of the past four seasons by an average margin of 38 points. I’ll predict Johnson sits out that game unless he’s reasonably close to 100% by then.

WR De’Mariyon Houston (Oklahoma City Millwood)

Last week: Had a 92-yard kickoff return TD in a 56-0 win over Oklahoma City Douglass.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:00, vs. Tulsa Cascia Hall
Notes: Houston returned the opening kickoff in last week’s game versus Douglass for a long TD, and Douglass never got closer after that. Millwood’s offense staked the Falcons to a 50-0 halftime lead and the second half was played with a running clock. Millwood’s defense held Douglass’s offense to -11 total yards, and Douglass was penalized an additional 66 yards on 11 assessed infractions.

Millwood is the top-ranked team in Oklahoma’s Class 2A, and on Friday night it will host 3A’s #8 team Cascia Hall. Millwood won September matchups with Cascia Hall in both of its back-to-back 2A state championship seasons of 2016 and 2017. The Falcons dominated Cascia Hall 52-15 in 2017, but won by a much narrower score of 34-32 in 2016, a season in which Cascia Hall advanced to the 4A semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Wagoner. Since that two-point win over Cascia Hall two years ago, only one team has lost to Millwood by a margin of less than 23 points.

(Authors note: The Oklahoman has been styling Houston’s first name as “De’Mariyon” in recent articles in which he has been mentioned, so I will henceforth be doing the same in my recaps.)

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

Last week: Caught 2 passes for 40 yards and one TD, and had 3 carries for 27 yards and 3 TDs in a 63-21 win over Glendale Apollo.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:00, vs. Scottsdale Desert Mountain
Notes: Smith’s numbers weren’t the stuff of video game legend, as his first two games of the season were, but he was very efficient, reaching the end zone on four of his five offensive touches. Smith now has 16 total touchdowns for the season through his team’s first four games.

Notre Dame Prep is 4-0 and this week will face a 0-4 Desert Mountain team that has lost games to two teams Notre Dame has beaten. The Apollo team who Notre Dame just beat 63-21 last week beat Desert Mountain 48-41 in the season’s first week. And Fairfax, a team Notre Dame defeated 41-32 in its first game, beat Desert Mountain 62-49 two weeks ago. Jake Smith gained 330 yards from scrimmage and scored four touchdowns when the two teams played in 2017, a game Notre Dame won 41-17.

WR Jordan Whittington (Cuero)

Last week: Did not play in a 30-20 loss to Yoakum.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:30, vs. El Campo
Notes: Jordan Whittington sat out his second straight game with a groin injury. He had surgery for a sports hernia in the spring and apparently hasn’t been at 100% since. Last Friday he missed getting to play in one of the state’s most longstanding rivalries, as Cuero and Yoakum (two schools that are only 17 miles apart) played each other for the 109th time. In his absence, Cuero committed six turnovers and were unable to come back from a 24-7 halftime deficit. In addition (or subtraction?) to Whittington, Cuero was also missing senior running back Keiran Grant, an Army commit.

As a result, Cuero dropped out of this week’s AP rankings for Class 4A, while Yoakum is ranked #10 in Class 3A. This Friday, Cuero will face El Campo, which has won games against 5A Division I Texas City and 4A Division II Rockport-Fulton, both by single digits. Cuero is 1-1 and has three more non-district games plus a bye week before it begins district play on October 12 at Bandera, which gives Whittington a month to get healthy before his team has to play games that count toward its playoff standing.

TE Brayden Liebrock (Chandler, Arizona)

Last week: Caught 6 passes for 59 yards in a 35-21 win over Las Vegas Faith Lutheran.
This week: Bye
Notes: Liebrock had his most productive game of the young season last Saturday in Chandler’s win over Nevada program Faith Lutheran in one of three games featured that day in the Polynesian Football Classic. He caught his first TD pass of the season and almost doubled his season receiving yardage total (63 going into the game) by accumulating 59 yards on six catches.

Chandler is 3-1 on the year and has a bye this week. The Wolves will have one more non-league game before facing their first sectional (Arizona’s equivalent to Texas’s districts) opponent on September 28.

TE Jared Wiley (Temple)

Last week: Passed for 225 yards and 4 TDs in a 43-14 win over Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:30, vs. Killeen Harker Heights
Notes: Temple breezed through Mexican team Autonoma de Nuevo Leon last Friday, racing out to a 35-0 halftime lead and holding the visitors to 19 offensive yards in the first half, before giving way to its reserves for the second half.

Wiley tossed four touchdowns in the game, two of them to talented junior receiver Quentin Johnston, who scored four times in Temple’s Week One win over Round Rock Cedar Ridge.

Temple opens district play this week against Harker Heights, a team the Wildcats shared a district with for over a decade but whom they have not faced since 2015. Harker Heights is 0-2 and was outscored 81-29 in losses to Round Rock and Round Rock Stony Point.

The 247Sports Composite ratings currently show Jared Wiley as the Longhorns’ lowest-rated commit. Any program that has a player like him as its lowest-rated commit is going to have a pretty good signing class.

OL Tyler Johnson (Conroe Oak Ridge)

Last week: Team defeated Alief Elsik 60-13.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:00, at The Woodlands
Notes: Johnson’s Oak Ridge team thoroughly dominated Alief Elsik last week, rushing for 386 yards and 4 TDs as a team and only attempting four passes. Oak Ridge built up a 37-6 lead at the half, and cruised the rest of the way. Along with four rushing and two passing TDs, the War Eagles also got points on a safety and punt return TD in their 60-13 win. I noted in last week’s post that Elsik had averaged just shy of 13 points per game since the start of the 2016 season, and true to form, Elsik managed exactly 13 points against Oak Ridge.

Oak Ridge opens its district schedule on Friday with a road contest against The Woodlands, a fellow Conroe ISD school and a program that has reached the playoffs in 23 consecutive seasons. The Woodlands has beaten Oak Ridge at least the last 14 consecutive times the teams have played (Maxpreps’s records only go back to 2004), and its margin of victory was less than 21 points just once in that time.

OL Javonne Shepherd (Houston North Forest)

Last week: Team lost to New Caney Porter 35-0.
This week: Thursday, September 13 at 7:00, vs. Houston Washington
Notes: As noted in last week’s post, Javonne Shepherd plays for one of the largest Class 4A schools, but North Forest has less than half the enrollment of its opponent from last week: Porter, which is one of the 15 largest schools in Class 5A. Against Porter, North Forest committed three turnovers and was limited to 211 yards of offense. Junior receiver Demond Demas, a composite five-star prospect in the 2020 class who committed to Texas A&M last Saturday, caught six passes for 51 yards, but North Forest wasn’t able to put any points on the board. It was the program’s first shutout loss since October of 2014.

North Forest will look to rebound and get its first win of the season on Thursday night against a Washington team that is likewise 0-2. North Forest and Washington were district opponents in the previous two seasons, and North Forest won both of those contests by a combined score of 95-0.

DE Peter Mpagi (Richmond George Ranch)

Last week: Team beat Houston Clear Lake in double overtime 27-24.
This week: Saturday, September 15 at 6:00, vs. League City Clear Springs
Notes: After sitting out his team’s first game with an ankle sprain, Mpagi returned to the field last week in a defensive struggle with Clear Lake that was tied at 17-17 at the end of regulation and needed two overtimes before the game was decided.

George Ranch will next have a Saturday evening game (which will prevent Mpagi from getting to attend the USC-Texas game, much to his chagrin) against Clear Springs, which has dropped both of its first two games against strong opponents in Converse Judson (46-28) and Klein Collins (28-21). The two schools have never played each other before. Clear Springs first played varsity football in 2008 and has reached the postseason in nine straight seasons, while George Ranch is currently in its seventh varsity football season and has reached the playoffs in five straight years.

Clear Springs also has a future D1 defensive end in senior Jason Gold, who is committed to Northwestern. Peter Mpagi and the George Ranch defense will have to contend with Clear Springs’s senior running back Todd Hudson, who has over 3,100 yards from scrimmage and 39 total TDs for his career and was District 24-6A’s Offensive MVP a year ago; and junior quarterback Garrett Rooker, who passed for 1,772 yards and 22 TDs en route to being named the same district’s Newcomer of the Year in 2017.

DE T’Vondre Sweat (Huntsville)

Last week: Forced a fumble in a 31-14 win over Port Neches-Groves
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:30, vs. College Station
Notes: Sweat and the Huntsville defense forced two turnovers by Texas QB commit Roschon Johnson in last week’s win over Port Neches-Groves, one of them a fumble forced by Sweat and returned by a teammate for a 17-yard touchdown. That play occurred just over a minute into the 3rd quarter and gave Huntsville a 24-7 lead.

Sweat and company improved to 2-0 with the win and on Friday will host the defending 5A Division II state champions from College Station. College Station opened its season two weeks ago with a 42-38 win over Richmond Foster and is coming off an unusual Week Two bye. College Station and Huntsville have played on two previous occasions, as the schools were district foes in 2014 and 2015; College Station won both games by an identical margin of 21 points. This week’s AP poll has College Station ranked 6th in Class 5A, while Texas Football (which splits its rankings by division) ranks College Station #6 in 5A Division I and Huntsville #6 in 5A Division II.

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

Last week: Scored two rushing TDs in a 35-21 win over La Canada St. Francis.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:00, at Moorpark
Notes: Floyd scored on a pair of five-yard runs in the second half, and Westlake’s special teams units scored all of its other TDs. In the final two minutes of the first half, the Warriors returned a St. Francis punt for a 89-yard TD, then blocked a punt and returned it for a 13-yard TD to give Westlake a 14-0 halftime lead.

The second of Floyd’s two TD runs came with 8:59 left in regulation and extended Westlake’s lead to 28-14 after St. Francis had scored a TD, recovered an onside kick, and scored again to get to within 21-14 in the final minute of the 3rd quarter. After St. Francis scored once more to cut Westlake’s lead to 28-21, Westlake senior cornerback Kamren Fabiculanan (a Washington commit) recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt and returned it 65 yards for the game’s final score. Fabiculanan was also responsible for the blocked punt that was returned for a TD late in the 2nd quarter.

Westlake improved to 4-0 for the season and is currently the fourth-ranked Division 2 team in the CIF’s Southern Section. On Friday night the Warriors will face 3-0 Moorpark, the #2 team in Division 3 of the CIF’s Southern Section. In 2017 Moorpark reached the championship game of the CIF Southern Section’s Division 5 playoffs before losing 49-28 to Paraclete. (At some point I will attempt to make sense of the CIF’s different divisions and how its schools are classified, but not in this post.)

LB Marcus Tillman (Jones - Orlando, Florida)

Last week: Team defeated Orlando Colonial 40-7.
This week: Thursday, September 13 at 7:00, vs. Orlando Evans (at Camping World Stadium)
Notes: According to the Orlando Sentinel’s recap of last week’s Jones-Colonial game, Jones’s defense forced two turnovers and kept Colonial off the scoreboard until the 4th quarter, by which point the Fighting Tigers led 40-0.

Jones is 2-1 for the season and is ranked tenth among Florida’s Class 5A. Tillman and his Jones teammates will face their fourth straight Class 8A opponent this week when they take on Orlando Evans at Camping World Stadium on Thursday night. As of this writing, Orlando is predicted to have a 35-45% chance of rain in the hours leading up to the game’s scheduled kickoff.

Evans is 1-2 on the year and is coming off a 42-7 loss to Orlando Oak Ridge, a team Jones had beaten 40-13 the previous week. According to the Sentinel, this will be the 46th meeting between Jones and Evans, and Jones has won the last three of those games by a combined score of 102-14 after having never won consecutive games against Evans prior to its current streak.

DB Chris Adimora (Mayfair - Lakewood, California)

Last week: Made 9 total tackles in a 55-7 loss to Santa Margarita.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:00, at Downey (California) Warren
Notes: Chris Adimora’s Mayfair squad went into last week’s game against Division 1 foe Santa Margarita undefeated and ranked #2 among Division 6 schools in the CIF Southern Section. The Monsoons trailed Santa Margarita 14-7 after the 1st quarter, but never scored again and Santa Margarita whipped them to the tune of a 41-0 margin over the final three quarters and gained 513 total yards for the game, more than doubling Mayfair’s 244 offensive yards.

Mayfair dropped from #2 to #5 in this week’s CIF Southern Section poll for Division 6 teams. The 3-1 Monsoons will travel to nearby Downey to face the Warren Bears, who are 2-1 and ranked 8th among the Southern Section’s Division 7 teams.

DB Marques Caldwell (Alvin)

Last week: Team lost to Fort Bend Kempner 39-35.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:30, vs. Katy Tompkins
Notes: Marques Caldwell wasn’t challenged last week by Kempner’s passing game. Kempner completed just one of three pass attempts but its flexbone offense gained 427 yards on the ground, 211 of them on the legs of senior running back Jordan Shelton. Shelton scored four TDs in the game, including the game-winning points with 5:13 left in the 4th quarter after Alvin had briefly taken its only lead of the game.

Alvin senior running back James Smith scored all five of the Yellowjackets’ TDs in the game and accounted for 208 of Alvin’s 245 total yards. Kempner took a 14-0 lead halfway through the 1st quarter and led by as much as 22-7 early in the 2nd, but two James Smith TD runs got Alvin to within one point. Kempner led 25-21 at halftime. Alvin eventually took a 35-32 lead after Smith’s fifth TD of the night with 7:28 left in regulation. Alvin’s defense got a 3rd down stop on Kempner’s ensuing possession, but a personal foul penalty on the play extended Kempner’s drive, and Shelton gave his team the lead for good with his fourth TD of the night with 5:13 left in the 4th quarter.

The loss dropped Alvin to 0-2, and the Yellowjackets will host Katy Tompkins on Friday. Tompkins is in just its fifth season of varsity football. Coming into this season, the program had an all-time record of 5-34 and had never won more than 3 games in a season. Tompkins is now 2-0 and one win away from tying its best single-season win total, though its two wins came against Fort Bend Austin (who went 1-8 last season) and first-year varsity program Klein Cain.

DB Kenyatta Watson (Grayson - Loganville, Georgia)

Last week: Made 8 tackles in a 38-31 win over Marietta.
This week: Friday, September 14 at 7:30, at Atlanta Westlake
Notes: Watson was injured in the final minute of Grayson’s close win over Marietta last week and had to be carried off the field. I have not seen any official reports on the nature or extent of his injury, though local outlet Gwinnett Prep Sports described the injury as “severe”.

In the late hours after the game, Kenyatta Watson himself sought to calm fans’ fears on Twitter:

The Grayson-Marietta game pitted Georgia’s 5th and 7th-ranked teams in 7A against each other on a cloudy and humid Friday night. It appeared early on that Grayson would make the game a laugher. The Rams at one point blocked two consecutive Marietta Blue Devil punts, which both led to quick scores. Grayson led 29-0 at halftime, and a two-yard TD run by Auburn linebacker commit Owen Pappoe made the score 35-0 with 9:24 left in the 3rd quarter. But Marietta scored its first TD on its ensuing drive, then recovered consecutive onside kicks to begin drives that likewise ended in TDs, cutting Grayson’s lead to 35-18 with 2:53 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Another Marietta TD made the score 35-25 with 7:44 left in regulation. Grayson chewed up nearly five minutes of clock time on its next drive and got some insurance points with a 47-yard field goal to make the score 38-25 with 2:46 left in the game. Watson’s injury occurred during Marietta’s next drive, and after he was carried off the field on a stretcher, Marietta QB Harrison Bailey tossed his fifth TD pass of the night with just 39 seconds left on the clock to make the score 38-31. Marietta attempted and recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Bailey was intercepted to end the threat.

For the game Bailey, a junior who reportedly holds offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and ten SEC programs, completed 23 of 47 pass attempts for 273 yards for 5 TDs against just the game-ending interception. Three of his TD passes went to Tennessee wide receiver commit Ramel Keyton. Bailey’s highlights from the game can be seen here, but due to the camera angle and the lighting on the jersey numbers it’s not clear how many of those plays (if any) Kenyatta Watson was picked on.

In addition to overcoming Bailey’s passing heroics and Marietta’s recovering of three onside kicks, Grayson also won despite being penalized 20 times, resulting in an incredible loss of - depending on the source - 237 or 300 yards!

Grayson moved up two spots to #22 in this week’s USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings and the Rams are #2 in this week’s Georgia Sports Writers Association ranking for Class 7A. They will travel this week (possibly without Watson suited up) to face 2-1 Westlake of Atlanta, which is coming off a 41-16 loss to Florida Class 8A program Deerfield Beach.