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Texas football commits in action, Aug. 29-31

The Texas high school football season begins this weekend, and 21 Longhorn commits will play their first game of 2019.

2021 QB Jalen Milroe pictured with Texas head coach Tom Herman during a June 2019 visit to UT.

Football is back, folks! The Texas high school football season begins this week, and the teams of all but two of the Texas Longhorns’ commits will be playing their season-opener. Utah defensive end Van Fillinger and Florida cornerback Ethan Pouncey both began their seasons within the past two weeks.

With 25 current commits between the 2020 and 2021 classes, this is a very large group of recruits to follow, so prepare for some long posts. For comparison to past years, in the first week of the 2015 high school season, the first year for which I did these weekly posts, the Longhorns had just six commits total!

The program had seven commits at the time of my week one preview in 2016, three of whom would either de-commit or not qualify. Things got better in Tom Herman’s first season; when I previewed Week One in 2017, there were 19 total commits mentioned. And a year ago at this time, the #fUTure19 class boasted 15 commits, while Hudson Card was the lone member of the #cloUT2020 class.

A pair of commits have recently suffered injuries that will cause them to miss all or part of the 2019 season, and I’ll be sure to note those and will probably refrain from posting detailed recaps for games those recruits weren’t able to play. Since this is the first week of games for almost all of the commits, what follows will be a bit of an introduction to the players and their team’s expectations for the season, often putting current fortunes in their context with a copious amount of references to Texas high school football history.

Some fans will have an opportunity to watch a Longhorn commit on TV Friday night, as Van Fillinger’s team will play against Utah’s top-ranked team in a game that will be broadcast on the Stadium platform/app.

If you would like to see some future Longhorns on the field this fall, you’ll have at least four chances to see two for the price of one, and it’s quite possible some pairs of commits will face each other in the playoffs in November or December. Here are upcoming regular season games that will feature UT commits on opposite sidelines.

September 6 - Mansfield Timberview (ATH Jaden Hullaby) at Lake Travis (QB Hudson Card)
October 4 - Dallas Skyline (WR Quaydarius Davis) at Duncanville (QB Ja’Quinden Jackson)
October 25 - Katy Tompkins (QB Jalen Milroe) at Katy Taylor (OL Hayden Connor)
November 8 - Mansfield Timberview (ATH Jaden Hullaby) at Highland Park (LB Prince Dorbah)


Note: All game start times are for that location’s time zone.

2020 QB Hudson Card (Lake Travis)
2021 TE Lake McRee (Lake Travis)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, vs. Arlington Martin
Notes: In his first season as the starting quarterback for noted QB factory Lake Travis, Hudson Card passed for over 3,400 yards and 49 touchdowns, and added some 600 yards and 8 TDs on the ground. Lake Travis’s games in 2018 were characterized by a lot of points and little to no drama; the Cavaliers’ two losses were both blowouts, and in their 12 wins they outscored opponents by an average margin of nearly 32 points.

Card helped his team reach the state semifinal round of the playoffs for the tenth time in the span of twelve seasons, but once there they were soundly beaten 51-10 by eventual 6A Division I state champion Galena Park North Shore. Lake Travis graduated highly-regarded wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the program’s all-time leading receiver, but returns senior Kyle Eaves, who compiled 962 yards and 12 TDs receiving in 2018. Junior tight end and fellow Longhorn commit Lake McRee was expected to be a key target for Card this fall, but he suffered a knee injury in practice earlier this month and is expected to miss the season.

Lake Travis will open its season by hosting Arlington Martin on Friday night. The Cavaliers struggled in the first half against Martin when the teams played last season, but dominated the second half en route to a 35-14 win, and the game’s outcome wasn’t in doubt at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Martin has been Arlington’s most consistently strong team in the past decade. In the program’s first 23 years of existence (1983-2005), the Warriors won just two playoff games and never had more than eight wins in a season, but they have reached the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons since Bob Wager was hired as head coach in 2006, and they’ve won or shared their district title five times and reached the third round of the playoffs seven times in that span. With a playoff berth in 2019, Martin would set a new Arlington ISD record for consecutive postseason appearances.

Martin lost its first four games in 2018 before winning five of its final six regular season contests. The Warriors may not have the overall talent level of their most successful teams of recent vintage, but they’re always a very physical team.

2020 QB Ja’Quinden Jackson (Duncanville)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, at Lancaster
Notes: The 2018 Duncanville Panthers ran roughshod over almost every team they faced, reaching the 6A Division I state championship and coming within a last-second “Hail Mary” touchdown pass of beating Galena Park North Shore. Duncanville is loaded in 2019 and figures to produce a lot of lopsided scores once again.

We’re a long way from 2019’s state championship week, but North Shore and Duncanville were ranked 2nd and 8th in the USA Today’s national preseason rankings, and a state championship re-match between the schools would be the most hyped high school game this state has seen in a long time.

In 2018, Duncanville began its run to the state championship game with a 34-0 win over Lancaster to open the season. That 34-point win would represent the Panthers’ smallest margin of victory among their ten regular season games, and it handed a solid Lancaster program its worst loss in 13 years. That Lancaster team went on to finish 2nd in District 6-5A Division I, with their sole district loss a 39-14 defeat at the hands of eventual 5A Division I state champion Highland Park, and their season ended in the second round of the playoffs. Lancaster is among the 15 largest schools in Class 5A, but Duncanville is one of the ten largest in the state and has over twice as many students.

Ja’Quinden Jackson only attempted 17 passes in last year’s win over Lancaster, and his running and passing accounted for 213 of Duncanville’s 389 total yards, while the Panther defense forced three turnovers and limited Lancaster to 171 total yards. When Jackson throws this week he’ll be challenged by a Lancaster secondary that includes 2020 LSU commit Lorando Johnson and 2020 Baylor commit Theron Stroops.

2021 QB Jalen Milroe (Katy Tompkins)

This week: Saturday, August 31 at 6:00, at Fort Bend Austin
Notes: Milroe didn’t light the world on fire statistically in his first season as Tompkins’s starter at QB, accounting for just over 2,000 total yards and 20 TDs in 13 games while completing 56% of his passes. Milroe didn’t need to beat teams with his arm very often with junior running back R.J. Smith gaining nearly 2,600 yards from scrimmage and scoring 33 TDs.

Milroe and Smith helped lead Tompkins to one of the state’s best breakout seasons of 2018, winning ten games after the team had gone winless in 2017. Tompkins played its first varsity season in 2014 and had a record of 5-34 in its first four seasons, then the 2018 Tompkins Falcons not only recorded twice as many victories as the program had had in its first four seasons combined, but they advanced three rounds into the playoffs, where their season ended with a 49-45 loss to eventual 6A Division II state runner-up Beaumont West Brook.

Milroe will have Smith to hand off to once again in 2019, as well as senior running back George Benyeogor, an athletic 5’10” 217-pound specimen who was Tompkins’s leading rusher in 2017 but missed the 2018 season after tearing an ACL during that year’s spring practice. Between those three, Tompkins should have a pretty fearsome running game. When Milroe looks to throw one of his top targets could be 6’5” 230-pound senior tight end Conner Kinslow, who made only one catch as a junior but impressed in the spring and summer and has picked up several FCS level offers.

Another name that will likely get dropped at least a few times this season within Milroe’s section of these posts is that of fellow 2021 recruit Tunmise Adeleye, a five-star defensive end recruit who is currently rated as the state’s #5 overall prospect in the 2021 class, according to the 247Sports Composite ratings.

The Falcons’ landmark 2018 season began with a 38-21 win over Fort Bend Austin. Tompkins should be the heavy favorite in this week’s re-match. Multiple future FBS athletes will be on the field that night, the most notable of whom on the Austin side will be four-star senior wide receiver Troy Omeire, a Texas A&M commit.

2020 RB Bijan Robinson (Salpointe Catholic - Tucson, Arizona)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. Mesa Dobson
Notes: Robinson is the highest-rated prospect out of the 18 committed members of the #cloUT2020 class, and the second-highest rated recruit in the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon State was also the home of two highly-touted members of UT’s #fUTure19 class, wide receiver Jake Smith and tight end Brayden Liebrock, and in recent years it has increasingly become a source of coveted football talent. Part of that is due to the fact that Arizona’s population has doubled since 1990 and increased by 40% since 2000, making it one of the fastest-growing states in the current century. Much of that growth has been driven by the booming population of the greater Phoenix area, and Maricopa County is now the fourth most-populous county in the nation.

Bijan Robinson’s school, Salpointe Catholic in Tucson (Arizona’s second-largest city), has had one of the state’s top football programs since the turn of the century, compiling a record of 174 wins and 43 losses during head coach Dennis Bene’s 18 years at the helm, including the school’s lone state championship in 2013. The Lancers went 25-3 over their past two seasons, but two of those losses came in last two Conference 4A state championship games at the hands of Saguaro, which has won six consecutive state titles and will go into the 2019 season with one of its most loaded teams ever. (Historical note: Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Tim Beck was Saguaro’s head coach in 1995 when it won the first of its eight state championships.)

Salpointe Catholic faces a tall task in overcoming Saguaro, but their path could potentially be cleared by a change in Arizona’s playoff format, the fourth major change the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has made to its classifications or playoff setup since the 2004 season. Starting this year Arizona is adding an Open Division playoff bracket to go along with those for its various conferences. If I understand the reporting on this correctly, a formula will determine the state’s top eight overall teams from Conferences 6A through 4A, and those eight teams will play for an overall Open Division state championship, while all playoff teams that do not qualify for the Open Division will play in their own conference playoffs. In a scenario where Saguaro qualifies for the Open Division playoffs while Salpointe Catholic does not, the latter would presumably be the favorite in a Saguaro-less 4A championship bracket.

Whether or not Bijan Robinson graduates as a state champion, he will almost assuredly hold all of his school’s major rushing records. He already holds Salpointe’s career, single-season, and single-game records for rushing yardage, as well as its single-game and single-season touchdown records. His 72 career touchdowns are seven shy of tying the career mark of Cameron Denson, a four-star athlete who later played defensive back and wide receiver at Arizona.

Salpointe opens its 2019 season against Dobson, a 6A school that finished 2-8 last season and is 12 years removed from the last season in which it won more than 5 games. When the two teams played early in the 2018 season, Salpointe won 56-7, as Robinson ran for 301 yards and 4 TDs on just 12 carries, finishing two yards shy of his own single-game school record.

2021 WR Quaydarius Davis (Dallas Skyline)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, at South Oak Cliff
Notes: Davis became the very first member of the Longhorns’ 2021 recruiting class when he committed on June 9. He attends Dallas Skyline, which previously sent wide receivers Montrell Flowers and Mike Davis to the 40 Acres. Davis caught 29 passes for 702 yards and 8 TDs as a sophomore in 2018 and is the top returning receiver for a Skyline team that will feature a new QB.

Skyline will open the 2019 season against South Oak Cliff, one of several south Dallas schools that have been major producers of football talent in recent years. The two teams played in their 2018 season-opener in an offensively-challenged game that South Oak Cliff won 10-7. That game featured seven punts, three turnovers, five turnovers on downs, and less than 400 combined yards of offense, and Skyline scored its only points on a kickoff return for a touchdown to open the 3rd quarter.

Davis will battle a South Oak Cliff secondary that includes Texas Tech safety commit Jonathan Davis, Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback commit Courtline Flowers, and three-star junior cornerback Jimmy Wyrick, who has a dozen reported FBS offers.

2020 WR Quentin Johnston (Temple)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, at Round Rock Cedar Ridge
Notes: When Johnston committed to Texas on August 17, he became the fourth Temple Wildcat in the span of five classes to commit to the Longhorns. He began his junior season as a 6’4” wide receiver who had won a bronze medal in the high jump at the 5A state track meet as a sophomore but had not made much noise on the football field and had yet to receive his first scholarship offer.

In Temple’s first game of the 2018 season, facing off against a Round Rock Cedar Ridge team that had advanced the the semifinals of the 6A Division I playoffs the previous year, Johnston went wild, catching five passes for 223 yards and 4 TDs. Less than three weeks later he received his first offer from Duke, and many more programs eventually came calling.

He’ll be catching passes from a new QB this fall, as Temple’s starting QB from 2018, Jared Wiley, now wears #18 for the Texas Longhorns. Temple once again opens their season against Cedar Ridge, whose offense will be led by Kansas State running back commit Deuce Vaughn, who gained over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 TDs as a junior, and whose father is former Longhorn defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.

2021 TE Juan Davis (Everman)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, vs. Crowley
Notes: Davis played mostly at wide receiver as a sophomore and is expected to play either tight end or H-receiver once he joins the Texas program, but he will be Everman’s starting quarterback this season. Everman is coming off a 2018 season in which it averaged less than 20 points per game and scored its lowest point total in 20 years. Longtime head coach Dale Keeling retired after the 2017 season, ending a 19-season tenure in which the Bulldogs missed the playoffs just once, won two state championships, and had only one losing record.

Davis and the rest of the Bulldogs will hope to get off to a much better start in 2019 than they did a season ago in their first year under new head coach Dale Matlock. They lost five of their first six games while scoring a total of just 43 points. They closed out district play on a 4-1 run and reached the playoffs, but lost badly in the first round and finished with a record of 5-6. On Friday they host Crowley, which dealt them a 14-7 defeat in last year’s matchup.

2021 OL Hayden Connor (Katy Taylor)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 6:30, vs. Humble Atascocita
Notes: Conner plays on an offensive line that also includes four-star junior guard prospect Bryce Foster. A year ago, Taylor had a stingy defense but didn’t put many points on the board when they had the ball, scoring 222 points over 12 games. As befitting an offense that had multiple four-star recruits on its offensive line, Taylor leaned on its running game, and a trio of sophomore running backs all had at least 115 carries.

The most highly-touted of those three 2021 running backs, Brandon Campbell (who has a Texas offer), has since transferred to Pearland, but Taylor returns juniors Casey Shorter and Julius Loughridge, who combined to gain 1,576 yards from scrimmage and score 12 touchdowns on 288 offensive touches.

The Mustangs will hope to improve on their 6-6 overall record from 2018, as well as reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Taylor played its first varsity season in 1980 and is the second-oldest out of the eight high schools in Katy ISD, and it has never had a football playoff streak of longer than three years. Katy High, the 800-lb. gorilla of District 19-6A, hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1990. Taylor will face Katy in their regular season finale on November 7.

Taylor begins its season by hosting Humble Atascocita, a team that defeated them 16-0 in week one of the 2018 season. Atascocita went on to run the table on its District 22-6A opponents, reach the third round of the playoffs, and finish with a 11-2 record, with its two losses coming by a combined six points. Most of Atascocita’s key offensive skill position players are back in 2019. Among its defensive standouts that Hayden Connor and company will try to block will be senior defensive end Asyrus Simon (a UTSA commit) and senior linebacker Avery Morris (who has a half-dozen reported FBS offers).

2020 OL Jaylen Garth (Port Neches-Groves)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, at Silsbee
Notes: Garth was a high school teammate of Longhorn freshman quarterback (and temporary fill-in at RB?) Roschon Johnson, and he became the program’s fourth member of the 2020 class when he committed on February 17.

Garth suffered a torn meniscus in Port Neches-Groves’s seventh game of the 2018 season and missed the rest of that season. The Indians went on to reach the regional semifinals of the 5A Division II playoffs before losing 53-14 to eventual state runner-up Fort Bend Marshall, and finished with a record of 9-4.

Garth reportedly worked hard on his rehab and spent a lot of time in the weight room in the months following his October 2018 injury, preparing to get back on the field for his senior season and help his team compete in the post-Roschon Johnson era. But it appears he has already played his last high school game. Multiple outlets, including Inside Texas, Horns247, and Orangebloods, have reported that Garth suffered a knee injury last week and that he will miss the 2019 season.

With that in mind, the Port Neches-Groves recaps will be very short in these posts, probably no more than a terse listing of the previous week’s score and upcoming game times, since Garth won’t be playing in any of them.

2020 OL Andrej Karic (Southlake Carroll)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. South Grand Prairie
Notes: Karic is the latest recruit to pledge to the Longhorns from longtime Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll, which also produced former Longhorn starters Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Tre Newton, and Adam Ulatoski.

The school’s second-year head coach, Riley Dodge, was a star QB at Carroll and was for a time committed to the Longhorns in the class of 2008, but he eventually de-committed so he could play at North Texas under his father, then-UNT coach Todd Dodge, himself a former Longhorn QB who later became one of the state’s most successful high school coaches while at Southlake Carroll in the early 2000s. The elder Dodge also coached current Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger at Austin Westlake.

Carroll has not missed the playoffs since 1999, and in the 20 years since then the Dragons have won five state championships, most recently in 2011. In their first season under Riley Dodge last fall, they won their first 13 games before falling 51-7 in the regional final of the 6A Division I playoffs to eventual state runner-up Duncanville.

Karic will block for an offense that is breaking in a new starting QB and running back, but returns its top two receivers from 2018 and got an impact transfer at the position in 2021 prospect Brady Boyd, a 6’1” speedster who earned first team all-district honors as a sophomore at nearby Richland and holds a handful of Division I offers. Joining Karic on the offensive line is Boston College commit Addison Penn, and Texas A&M commit Blake Smith lines up at tight end.

Carroll opens its season against South Grand Prairie, a team they beat 25-8 in Week One of 2018. South Grand Prairie has produced a lot of D1 athletes of late and has reached the playoffs in five straight seasons, though they haven’t been able to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs in 20 years.

2020 OL Jake Majors (Prosper)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. Rowlett
Notes: Majors plays for Class 6A program Prosper. The end of that sentence would probably short-circuit anyone who moved far away from Collin County 15 years or more ago and hasn’t kept up with the area since. Prosper is north of Dallas and straddles the border between Collin and Denton counties, two of the nation’s fastest-growing counties. Prosper had a population of just over 2,400 at the time of the 2000 census. In the near future it will have ten times as many residents, and the enrollment of Prosper High listed in the UIL’s most recent rank order list was 2,975. This at a school that competed in Class 3A (since renamed 4A) as recently as the 2011-12 school year.

Prosper is in District 9-6A, which is home to the state’s four largest high schools: Allen and the three Plano ISD senior high schools. In 2018, the Prosper Eagles finished 3rd in district play and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they lost 63-17 to eventual 6A Division II state champion Longview.

Prosper plays its season-opener on Friday night against Rowlett, a team they did not play against last season and have likely never faced previously. Prosper beat Garland Naaman Forest 48-14 in Week One of the 2018 season, but instead of a re-match Naaman Forest will play McKinney Boyd, the team that played Rowlett in its first game a year ago. Rowlett went 7-2 in the regular season last year and was bounced by Allen in the first round of the 6A Division I playoffs by a score of 56-21. The Rowlett Eagles have reached the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons, while the Prosper Eagles have qualified for the postseason in four straight years and in 15 of the last 17 seasons.

2020 OL Logan Parr (San Antonio O’Connor)

This week: Saturday, August 31 at 7:00, vs. Cibolo Steele
Notes: Parr’s O’Connor team has been one of the San Antonio area’s best teams in the past decade plus, reaching the playoffs in 16 straight seasons and finishing with double-digit win totals five times. The Panthers have a record of 32-4 over their past three seasons, have won 27 consecutive regular season games, and have not lost to a district opponent since 2015.

In 2018 the Panthers completed an undefeated regular season but were soundly beaten 30-7 by San Antonio Reagan in the first round of the 6A Division I playoffs. In 2017 they won their first 13 games before losing in the regional final to eventual state runner-up Lake Travis.

On Saturday night O’Connor kicks off its 2019 season with a matchup against one of San Antonio’s other longtime powerhouses, Cibolo Steele, the alma mater of current and former Longhorns Caden Sterns, Malcolm Brown, and Erik Huhn. Since going 3-7 in its first varsity season in 2006, Steele has reached the playoffs every year, played for state championships three times and won a title in 2010, and had a streak of seven seasons (2010-2016) with two or fewer losses. But after appearing in the 6A Division II state championship game in 2016, the Knights posted records of 9-5 and 8-4 in their first two seasons under head coach David Saenz.

The 2018 Steele Knights scored just under 27 points per game and posted the school’s lowest-scoring season since 2007. O’Connor didn’t light up the scoreboard to a great extent either, though the Panthers allowed a mere 15 points per game and set a program record for fewest points allowed in a season.

Steele was responsible for O’Connor’s last regular season defeat, a 45-24 loss the Knights dealt the Panthers on September 10, 2016. Since then O’Connor has recorded its first two wins against Steele, including a 21-14 win to open the 2018 season.

Among the Steele defensive players Parr and the O’Connor offense will contend with are five-star safety Jaylon Jones (a Texas A&M commit), and senior defensive end Damion Hart (an Abilene Christian commit).

2020 DT Vernon Broughton (Cypress Ridge)

This week: Thursday, August 29 at 6:30, vs. Cypress Woods (at Pridgeon Stadium)
Notes: I’m classifying Broughton as a defensive tackle for purposes of these posts, though he may end up lining up in a variety of positions along UT’s defensive line. He is unquestionably one of the most important commits of the 2020 class, and his current 247Sports Composite rating of 0.9613 is higher than any Longhorn defensive line recruit since 2014 defensive end signee Derick Roberson (who later transferred and spent the last three seasons of his college career at Sam Houston State and signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent this year).

One of Broughton’s goals this fall is no doubt for his Cypress Ridge Rams to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since his freshman year, and for only the third time in the span of nine seasons. The 2016 Cypress Ridge Rams advanced all the way to the Region 3 final of the 6A Division II playoffs, but that was followed by a 1-8 season in 2017, and an improved but disappointing 2018 season in which they missed the playoffs despite a 7-3 regular season record (their 5-3 district record tied them with Cypress Falls for fourth place in District 17-6A, but due to their 37-7 loss to Cypress Creek they did not get the district’s final playoff spot).

Cypress Ridge begins its season tonight against Cypress Woods, a team they beat 47-21 a season ago. Expect a good to very good amount of scoring in this game. In the 11 previous times these two schools have played the winning team has scored 43 or more points eight times, and they’ve combined for no less than 54 points in any of them.

2020 DE Van Fillinger (Corner Canyon - Draper, Utah)

Last week: Credited with 7 solo tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in a 31-0 win over Herriman.
This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. South Jordan Bingham
Notes: If the defensive stats Fillinger was credited with on Maxpreps from last week’s game against Herriman seem outlandish, just take a look at his highlights from that week! Not included in the stats were QB hurries that forced off-target throws, and in at least one case forced an interception. He’s somehow still rated as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite, but 247 itself grades him as a four-star. So far he’s proving to be a very nice evaluation by the staff.

Fillinger and the Corner Canyon defense limited Herriman to 220 total yards (including just six yards rushing) and kept them off the scoreboard. Corner Canyon improved to 2-0 and has not allowed any points in almost seven full quarters of play.

The Deseret News ranks Corner Canyon #3 in its current statewide rankings of Utah teams from all classifications. The remainder of Corner Canyon’s regular season schedule includes the teams ranked 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 21st, and the Chargers beat current #12 team Orem in their season-opener two weeks ago. Their opponent this week is top-ranked Bingham, which has won the state championship in Utah’s highest classification seven times in the past 13 seasons. Corner Canyon played its first varsity season in 2013 and won Utah’s 5A state championship in 2018, and though its campus and Bingham’s are less than 7 miles apart they have not previously faced each other.

The Bingham-Corner Canyon game will be broadcast on the Stadium platform.

2020 DE Princely Umanmielen (Manor)

This week: Saturday, August 31 at 1:00, at Weslaco East (at Corpus Christi’s Buccaneer Stadium)
Notes: In the current era of four schools from each district qualifying for the playoffs, old school types would probably shake their heads at Manor. The Mustangs have reached the playoffs in 10 of the past 12 seasons, but finished with a record better than .500 just four times in that stretch.

Umanmielen and company will aim for more consistency in 2019 than they had a season ago, when they advanced to the second round of the playoffs but finished with a 5-7 record. That team was quite streaky, with two different three-game losing streaks sandwiched around a three-game win streak in the middle of the regular season.

The Mustangs of Class 5A Division I will begin their season with a neutral site game in Corpus Christi against 6A program Weslaco East, which finished 3rd in District 31-6A in 2018. When the teams played in Week One a year ago, Manor dominated for most of the game, holding a 26-7 lead until the last five minutes of the 4th quarter, when two late Weslaco East TDs resulted in a closer-than-it-looked final score of 26-21.

Umanmielen likely won’t get to show off his pass-rushing skills much, if Weslaco East’s 2018 stats are any indication. According to the team’s Maxpreps page, in ten games the Wildcats attempted 420 runs and just 45 passes, and had only one pass attempt in their game against Manor.

2020 LB Prince Dorbah (Highland Park)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, at Rockwall
Notes: Dorbah, the other half of the #cloUT2020 class’s “Prince”ly duo is used to winning football games, and hopefully will do a lot more of that after he arrives in Austin. His high school, Highland Park, is the all-time winningest high school program in Texas and has won five state championships and shared another one. Among FBS teams, only Michigan and Ohio State have won more games in their history than Dorbah’s future college team.

Highland Park is coming off a season in which it won its third consecutive 5A Division I state title, and this fall the Scots will attempt to become the first program to win four straight championships since Lake Travis won five straight from 2007 to 2011. Highland Park has finished with fewer than ten wins only twice in the past 23 seasons, and the last time the Scots missed the playoffs Ronald Reagan was president.

Highland Park will begin its 2019 season by facing a quality 6A opponent in Rockwall, a team that finished 8-3 in 2018 with two of its three losses coming against state championship teams. Highland Park defeated Rockwall 49-42 in Week One, and Rockwall suffered its only district loss four weeks later to eventual 6A Division II state champion Longview by a score of 42-35. In the 6A Division I playoffs, they fell in the second round to longtime DFW power Allen, 52-40.

Fans who catch the Highland Park-Rockwall game will get to see Prince Dorbah and the Highland Park defense battle against a Rockwall offense that features four-star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who committed to Ohio State nearly ten months ago and is rated as the #8 prospect in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

2021 LB Derrick Harris (New Caney)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, at Crosby
Notes: Harris is a star linebacker for New Caney, a school whose football program is experiencing its best stretch ever, though it would have been described as mediocre until just a few years ago, and was the definition of moribund a generation or two before that.

New Caney played its first varsity season in 1955, and through its first 36 seasons you could count on one hand the times the Eagles won more than half of their games. They were cover-your-eyes bad for much of the 80s, winning just five games total from 1982 to 1990. After reaching the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in school history from 1994 to 1997, they made just one postseason appearance in the next 17 years.

But this year New Caney begins a new season having reached the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, a period during which the Eagles twice broke the school record for points scored in a season, won their first outright district title in 21 years (2018), won a playoff game in three straight seasons (2016-2018) after never previously advancing beyond the first round, and finished with a double-digit win total for the first time ever (2018).

In 2018, the Eagles began their season with a 28-14 loss to Crosby, but they did not lose again until a 35-32 defeat at the hands of Georgetown in the second round of the 5A Division I playoffs. The first step toward New Caney improving on its historic 2018 season will be beating Crosby on Friday night. Crosby has been one of the stronger 5A teams in the north Houston area in recent years, but after starting the 2018 season with five straight wins, they lost four of their last five games on the field (one of those losses later became a forfeit win). New Caney has beaten Crosby only once in their last nine matchups dating back to 2006.

2020 DB Xavion Alford (Alvin Shadow Creek)

This week: Saturday, August 31 at 7:00, at Humble Summer Creek
Notes: Alford’s school is sometimes referred to as “Pearland Shadow Creek”, after the city in which it is located, but I will refer to it as an Alvin rather than Pearland school, because it is part of Alvin ISD.

Shadow Creek played its very first varsity football game on August 31 of last year and got its first program win that night by a score of 43-7 over Summer Creek. The Sharks did not experience their program’s first loss until December 22 in the 5A Division I state championship game! On that day, the Sharks came up short against Highland Park, which the previous season had won the state championship over another Alvin ISD school: Manvel.

Shadow Creek once again begins its season against Summer Creek on Saturday. After losing 43-7 to Shadow Creek a year ago, Summer Creek went on to win nine games and reach the third round of the 6A Division II playoffs before ending its season with a 43-14 loss to Cypress Creek. Will Xavion Alford and his teammates once again come out on top in a battle of “Creek” schools?

2021 DB Billy Bowman (Denton Ryan)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. Mesquite Poteet
Notes: Bowman may be the highest-rated recruit from Denton Ryan ever to commit to Texas. Previous Ryan Raiders to play for Texas include defensive tackle Derek Lokey and defensive back Ishie Oduegwu.

Bowman played both ways as a sophomore, leading his team in receptions (53) and receiving touchdowns (8), as well as interceptions (5). He was named co-MVP of District 4-5A Division I, along with teammate Drew Sanders, a 2020 athlete currently committed to Alabama.

Though not quite as certain as death or taxes, the Ryan Raiders are usually a good bet to still be playing football into December. After longtime head coach Joey Florence departed from the sidelines to become Denton ISD’s Athletic Director after the 2013 season, Ryan went just 5-5 in its first season under new coach Dave Henigan and missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. But in their four subsequent seasons they have not lost a regular season game, and in each of the past three seasons they advanced as far as the 5A Division I state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Highland Park.

In its preseason rankings, Texas Football magazine ranked Highland Park and Denton Ryan 1-2 in Class 5A Division I, and it would surprise nobody if the two teams met in the postseason for a fourth straight year.

2020 DB Kitan Crawford (Tyler John Tyler)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. Mesquite Horn
Notes: Crawford is the latest in a distinguished line of John Tyler Lions that have committed to play for Texas, a group that includes Earl Campbell, Aaron Ross, Tim Crowder, and Ashton Dorsey, among others. He will aim to lead the Lions on another long playoff run in his senior season.

After finishing 5-5 in 2017 and missing the playoffs for the first time in ten years, the John Tyler Lions dropped from Class 6A down to Class 5A in 2018. After a pair of lopsided early season losses to 6A powerhouses Cedar Hill and Longview, the Lions went undefeated against their District 7-5A Division I opponents and won three playoff games before losing 42-35 in the regional final round to eventual state champion Highland Park.

Rather than a re-match with Cedar Hill to open this season, the Lions have swapped Week One opponents with Allen, who will face Cedar Hill while John Tyler plays Mesquite Horn.

Horn and John Tyler are over 80 miles apart but their teams are quite familiar with each other. There are very few 6A-sized schools in northeast Texas, so when John Tyler has been aligned with the state’s highest classification it usually finds itself in a district with schools from Mesquite or other parts on the east side of Dallas. Friday night’s game will be the eleventh meeting between John Tyler and Horn in the span of 16 seasons. Horn won the most recent game between the schools in 2017 by a score of 35-13.

Horn had one of the state’s more remarkable seasons in 2018; the Jaguars lost their first seven games before winning the final three and sneaking into the 6A Division II playoffs, then upset Temple and beat Wylie in the first two rounds, before losing to Spring Westfield 35-16 in the regional semifinals. Horn finished the 2018 season with a 5-8 overall record, but among their opponents were two eventual state champions (Highland Park and Longview), an astounding four(!) teams that went undefeated in the regular season, and two other teams that lost just one game in the regular season. I bet very few teams have had such a ridiculous strength of schedule as Horn had last year.

Horn should present a good first week test for the Lions, who in the three weeks following that game will play cross-town rival Tyler Lee, the aforementioned Longview, and longtime DFW power Euless Trinity.

2020 DB Joshua Eaton (Aldine MacArthur)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:00, vs. Klein Forest
Notes: Eaton, UT’s most recent commit, begins his senior season on Friday and will hope to lead the once-proud Aldine MacArthur program back into the postseason for the first time in 12 years.

Aldine ISD, which serves students in an area just north of Houston and south of Spring ISD, once was a talent hotbed and experienced a district-wide level of football success for a number of years. Between 1989 and 1999, three of the four Aldine schools played in at least one state championship game, and Aldine High won the 5A Division II state title in 1990. MacArthur product Anthony Curl was a four year UT letterman at linebacker from 1989 to 1992 and was officially the program’s third all-time leader in tackles when he graduated (he is now fourth on that list, having been passed by Derrick Johnson). [Note: tackles and most other individual defensive statistics aside from interceptions were not counted by the Longhorn program as official stats before 1975.]

MacArthur reached its football pinnacle in 1993 when the Generals advanced to the 5A Division II state championship game but fell to Lewisville, 43-37. Joshua Eaton and his brother Taylor Eaton, who is also a senior, are second-generation MacArthur Generals. Their father Joseph Eaton is an alum and was a junior when the school reached the state championship game in 1993 on the legs and arm of budding star QB Odell James, then a sophomore and a future Houston high school legend who went on to play at Baylor.

Since that 1993 season, MacArthur has reached the postseason only four times and has not won another playoff game. Only once in the lifetime of its current seniors has MacArthur won more than five games in a season, and the team’s record over the past five seasons is 9-39. Prognosticators do not expect their fortunes to change much, as Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine picked MacArthur to finish 7th out of the 8 teams in District 16-6A.

MacArthur went 1-9 a year ago, so even two wins would be an improvement. Joshua Eaton and his fellow seniors begin their season Friday night against another struggling north Houston team in Klein Forest, against whom they lost 58-44 in Week One last year. That was the only win Forest posted in 2018, and its Eagles finished 1-9. Forest has won just 11 games in its past seven seasons and hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2009. DCTF picked Forest to finish dead last in District 15-6A this year. MacArthur and Forest haven’t had much to celebrate in football in the past decade, but on Friday night one of them will get a win!

2020 DB Ethan Pouncey (Winter Park, Florida)

Last week: Team lost to Wekiva 35-21.
This week: Friday, August 30 at 5:00, vs. Pickerington (Ohio) Central (at Milton High School in Alpharetta, Georgia)
Notes: Ethan Pouncey’s Winter Park team lost to Florida’s 8th-ranked Class 7A team Wekiva in their season opener last week. Winter Park led 14-0 at the end of the 1st quarter, but Wekiva scored the game’s next 35 points and didn’t allow Winter Park to score again until the final minutes of the 4th quarter.

Winter Park’s defense allowed just over 200 total yards, but the Wildcats were done in by some very costly turnovers, including two fumbles returned for Wekiva touchdowns.

They will try to get into the win column when they travel to Georgia to take part in the weekend-long Freedom Bowl, and they will face Ohio power Pickerington Central on Friday afternoon. Pickerington Central won Ohio’s Division I state championship in 2017, and this year’s squad includes three-star dual-threat QB Demeatric Crenshaw, three-star Ohio State defensive end commit Ty Hamilton, and four-star 2021 wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr.

2020 DB Jerrin Thompson (Lufkin)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, vs Longview
Notes: Thompson will have a starring role in what should be one of the state’s best matchups of Week One, as defending 6A Division II state champion Longview faces Thompson and the Lufkin Panthers, who finished 10-2 in 2018.

Longview and Lufkin are 93 miles apart but play each other frequently, and in three of the past five seasons they have played in both the regular season and the playoffs. That won’t happen this year with the two being in different classifications, but with Longview coming off its first state championship win in 81 years and winning last year’s matchup 35-28, this will be a highly-anticipated game.

Though the two schools have won just three state championships between them, they are among the most successful programs in the state’s history, with both being among the top 13 schools in Texas in terms of all-time wins. Longview has reached the playoffs in 18 straight seasons, while Lufkin has a 21-year postseason streak. Longview has owned the matchup with Lufkin in recent years, winning nine of the past eleven games between the east Texas rivals, including playoff games in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Lufkin’s last win over Longview came in the first week of the 2016 season, when Jerrin Thompson was a freshman. He and everyone else in Lufkin have no doubt had this game circled on their calendar for over a year.

2020 ATH Jaden Hullaby (Mansfield Timberview)

This week: Friday, August 30 at 7:30, vs. Bixby, Oklahoma (at Mansfield’s R.L. Anderson Stadium)
Notes: Jaden Hullaby attended private school Dallas Bishop Dunne during his junior year, where he compiled nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns at running back to help the Bishop Dunne Falcons win the TAPPS Division I state championship. In late July, he announced that he would be transferring back to Mansfield Timberview, the school he attended for his freshman and sophomore years.

Hullaby was an effective rusher for Bishop Dunne in 2018 and is expected to play an H-back type role for Texas, but what role he’ll play and how much of a load he will carry in Timberview’s offense remains to be seen, as he is joining a team that brings back two 1,000-yard rushers from its 2018 squad: 2020 Colorado commit Stacy Sneed, and three-star 2021 all-purpose back Montaye Dawson. That duo combined to produce 3,275 yards from scrimmage and 34 offensive TDs last fall.

Hullaby and his new (and old?) teammates will take on Oklahoma program Bixby on Friday night. It will be a repeat of Week One from 2018, in which five Mansfield ISD schools traveled north of the Red River and played against teams from the greater Tulsa area in what was billed as the Border Brawl.

Timberview lost 36-33 to Bixby a year ago, and Bixby went on to win Oklahoma’s Class 6A Division II state championship for a fourth time in five seasons. Timberview went 5-5 in the regular season but advanced to the third round of the 5A Division I playoffs and finished with a record of 7-6. They’re one of the very few teams that can say they suffered three losses to state championship teams in 2018, one to Oklahoma’s Bixby in Week One, and two to 5A Division I state champion Highland Park, who beat Timberview 42-7 in the teams’ regular season finale and then again three weeks later in the playoffs by a score of 52-0.

This year’s Border Brawl will be played in Mansfield from Thursday to Saturday, and the five Oklahoma schools that will take part - Bixby, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Sand Springs, and Tulsa Union - have won a combined 31 football state championships in their history.