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Longhorn football commits in action, Nov. 4-5

Nearly every in-state UT commit will still be playing when the Texas high school football playoffs begin next week.

2022 UT commit Austin Jordan will lead 5A Div. I’s top-ranked Denton Ryan against 5th-ranked Lone Star in a district championship matchup on Friday night.

This weekend will see the end of the 2021 Texas high school football regular season. In a lot of years, that would mean a decent chunk of Texas Longhorn commits were mere days away from turning in their equipment because their teams had been eliminated from playoff contention. In 2021, however, the current crop of UT commits has only one player whose team has been eliminated from postseason contention, and only one other commit whose team needs a win tonight to make the playoffs. The teams for every other commit have either punched their ticket to the postseason or seem certain to do so in the next week.

Last week, out-of-state commit Anthony Jones of Nevada played in his team’s first playoff game, and they will have a regional semifinal game on Friday. Another out-of-stater, Alabama defensive lineman Justice Finkley, will play in his team’s first playoff game Friday night.

Also last week, the teams of Kristopher Ross, J’Mond Tapp, Derrick Brown, Bryan Allen, and Will Stone all won games that clinched district championships, while Armani Winfield’s team suffered its first loss of the season in a game that would have clinched a district title.

This week, Connor Robertson and Austin Jordan will both play in highly-anticipated games against state-ranked foes, matchups that will decide the champion of their districts.

There’s a new commit included in this post: Arlington Seguin junior safety Jamel Johnson, who committed to Texas earlier this morning. Alas, you won’t be reading much more about him for the time being, as his team will play its last game of the season tomorrow.

There’s a lot of info covered in this post, and likely will be next week as well, but these posts should start to get smaller the further we go in November as teams start to be eliminated from the playoffs and I’m left with a lot less games to preview.

By this time next week we’ll have playoff games to preview and the games mentioned will have specific locations listed, which I mostly haven’t done during the regular season. All start times listed below are according to Central Time.

2022 QB Maalik Murphy — Gardena (California) Junipero Serra

Friday, November 5 at 9:00, vs. West Hills (California) Chaminade in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs

Note: Maalik Murphy completed 14 of 16 passes for 249 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and also had a one-yard rushing TD in Junipero Serra’s 41-40 overtime loss last week to Bishop Amat.

Serra trailed 27-21 midway through the 4th quarter, then a Maalik Murphy touchdown pass from 18 yards out helped put the Cavaliers ahead 28-27. A Serra defender intercepted Bishop Amat’s backup QB on the next possession to give Serra the ball deep in enemy territory, and a one-yard rushing TD by Murphy extended the lead to 34-27 with 2:34 left in regulation, but the ensuing PAT was missed to keep it a seven-point game.

Bishop Amat drove 80 yards on its next possession to score and tie the game with just 21 seconds remaining, a drive aided by a pass interference penalty on a 4th-and-10 play. The teams went into overtime tied at 34. Bishop Amat got the ball first, and a TD plus the PAT gave it a 41-34 lead. On Serra’s first play, Murphy connected with senior receiver Matthew Coleman for a 25-yard TD. Serra’s coach elected to try for the winning two-point conversion, but Murphy’s pass was broken up and the Serra Cavaliers lost by one point.

Serra finished the regular season with a 5-4 overall record and were 3-1 in Mission League play. In previous years, the California Interscholastic Federation would have schools from different divisions competing in the same league, and I believe teams that reached the playoffs for their division within their specific section would qualify based on some kind of formula. This year, teams were not placed in divisions until the conclusion of the regular season. When the playoff schedules were announced, Serra was in Division III.

On Friday, the Cavaliers will play their first game in the the Division III bracket for the CIF’s Southern Section. Their first round opponent will be Chaminade, a team that they beat 16-12 just four weeks ago. Chaminade finished the regular season with a 5-4 overall record. The two schools are quite familiar with each other and have had at least one matchup in 12 consecutive seasons.

2022 RB Jamarion Miller — Tyler Legacy

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, vs. Mesquite

Note: Jamarion Miller gained 193 yards from scrimmage and scored two TDs on 25 touches last week against the state’s sixth-ranked team, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Tyler Legacy lost convincingly to Rockwall-Heath, 49-27.

Rockwall-Heath led 35-14 at halftime and won comfortably despite its senior QB, Indiana commit Josh Hoover, completing just 11 of 23 passes for 137 yards. Legacy was unable to stop Rocwall-Heath’s running game, as the Hawks piled up 349 rushing yards on 49 attempts, with Minnesota commit Zach Evans running for 184 yards and two TDs.

Miller’s two touchdowns were scored on receptions of 14 and 31 yards, but both came in the final seven minutes of regulation with Legacy already trailing by 28 points.

Tyler Legacy is 5-4 overall and 3-2 in district play going in to the final week of the regular season. The four playoff teams have already been decided in District 10-6A, and Legacy will have the district’s runner-up seed in the Class 6A Division II bracket. The Raiders will close out the regular season on Friday night against Mesquite (which will have the district’s runner-up seed in the Division I bracket) in a game that will merely decide the district’s third place team but will have no effect on either’s playoff seeding.

2022 WR Brenen Thompson — Spearman

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, vs. Tulia

Note: Spearman went into the last two weeks of the regular season needing a win in one of their final two games to qualify for the playoffs. That goal was not met last week, as the Spearman Lynx lost 35-0 to Friona. The loss dropped Spearman to 5-4 for the season and 2-3 in district play, and set up Friday night’s game between Spearman and Tulia (6-3 overall, 3-2 in district) as a win-or-go-home contest for the final playoff spot in District 3-3A Division II.

Tulia is coming off a 54-35 upset win over Canadian, which was the ninth-ranked team in 3A Division II going into last week. Spearman, even without the injured Brenen Thompson, lost to Canadian 38-37 back on October 1.

A loss on Friday would end Spearman’s current school-record streak of 11 consecutive playoff seasons. Brenen Thompson has been out with an injury since early September, and I have seen no recent local reports indicating that he will play again before the end of the season. If he doesn’t suit up on Friday then there’s a good chance he’s played his last high school game alreayd.

2022 WR Armani Winfield — Lewisville

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, vs. Hebron

Note: Lewisville suffered its first loss of 2021 last week when it was defeated 40-27 by archrival Flower Mound Marcus. Armani Winfield was the game’s leading receiver with 6 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. It was the fourth time in seven games played this season in which he finished with 100+ receiving yards.

The loss left Lewisville with an overall record of 8-1, and a 5-1 district record. Marcus, Lewisville, and Hebron have clinched three of District 6-6A’s four playoff spots, while the fourth will go to the winner of Friday’s game between Coppell and Flower Mound.

The Lewisville Farmers will close out the regular season against Hebron on Friday. Hebron is also 5-1 in district play, and the game could effect each team’s playoff seeding. Unlike in all of the UIL’s other classifications, the 6A schools aren’t split into Division I and Division II until the conclusion of the regular season, and at that point the two largest schools among a district’s four playoff qualifiers will be in the Division I bracket, while the two playoff entrants with the smallest enrollment will go to Division II.

Lewisville (the seventh-largest school in the state) will be in the 6A Division I bracket regardless of the outcome of its season finale, and if it beats Hebron on Friday it will get District 6-6A’s top seed in that bracket. If Hebron beats Lewisville, then the seeding for both teams will be affected by the outcome of the Coppell-Flower Mound matchup. A win by Coppell (the second-largest school in the district) will get it into the playoffs as the district’s runner-up seed in Division I. A win by Flower Mound (which has about 100 fewer students than Hebron) would make Lewisville and Hebron the district’s two Division I playoff teams, and the winner of Friday’s game would get the higher seed.

Hebron began its season with three straight losses, with the first two coming against Denton Guyer and Arlington Martin, the current tenth and fourteenth-ranked teams in Class 6A. After that start, the Hawks have gone 5-1, with their only district loss a 28-14 defeat to Flower Mound Marcus two weeks ago. Lewisville won last year’s matchup with Hebron 66-18.

2022 OL Cole Hutson — Frisco

Thursday, November 4 at 7:00, at Frisco Memorial

Note: After suffering its first loss of the season in Week 9, Frisco needed overtime to avoid a second straight defeat last week, but it ultimately prevailed 35-28 over Prosper Rock Hill. The teams were tied at 28 at the end of regulation. Frisco got the first possession in overtime and needed two plays to score a touchdown, and led 35-28 after the PAT. On Rock Hill’s possession, it got as close as the 6-yard line, but fumbled the ball on a 3rd-and-goal play from the 8-yard line, and Frisco recovered to end the game.

Frisco is 8-1 for the season and has now won at least eight games in four consecutive seasons, a first in program history. At 6-1 in district, the Raccoons are tied with Frisco Liberty for 2nd place in District 7-5A Division II. Frisco has a head-to-head win over Liberty and will get the district’s runner-up seed in the playoffs unless it loses to 4-5 Memorial tonight and Liberty upsets second-ranked Lovejoy. Frisco has won its two previous meetings with Memorial by a combined score of 101-7.

2022 OL Connor Robertson — Austin Westlake

Friday, November 5 at 7:30, vs. Lake Travis

Note: As expected, Westlake did whatever it wanted to last week against a bad Austin High team, winning 77-3 and gaining 656 offensive yards on just 46 plays (18 pass attempts and 28 rushes), while limiting Austin to 104 total yards.

On Friday, Westlake will play archrival and fellow unbeaten team Lake Travis. Westlake is the state’s top-ranked team, while Lake Travis is #8 in this week’s Class 6A rankings. Westlake is currently on a 33-game winning streak, and its most recent loss was a 26-25 defeat at the hands of a Hudson Card-led Lake Travis team on October 11, 2019. That 2019 Westlake Chaparral team went on to win its final ten games and claim the Class 6A Division II state championship.

In 2020, Westlake was in the 6A Division I bracket because its district’s second-largest school, Austin Bowie, had an uncharacteristically bad season and missed the playoffs, and Westlake went undefeated and won the 6A Division I state title. This year, Lake Travis and Bowie (District 26-6A’s two largest schools) have both qualified for the playoffs, so Westlake will be in 6A Division II when the postseason begins next week. So the Westlake-Lake Travis game will have no bearing on either team’s playoff seeding but will decide the champion of District 26-6A.

2022 DL Aaron Bryant — Southaven (Mississippi)

Thursday, November 4 at 7:00, vs. Horn Lake (Mississippi)

Note: Southaven won its third consecutive game last week, knocking off DeSoto Central 41-7. The win sewed up a playoff spot for the Southaven Chargers, who are 7-3 on the season and 5-1 against their 6A Region 1 opponents. The Chargers’ three losses have come by a combined margin of 16 points, and their defense has been lights-out this season, with no opponent scoring more than 20 points against them. Southaven has allowed just 9.5 points per game thus far.

Though they’ve already played ten games, the Chargers have one more regular season game tonight against Horn Lake. Southaven is tied for 1st place in its region with South Panola (who it has a head-to-head loss to), so the game could affect its playoff seeding, while Horn Lake (which is 4-2 in region play) needs a win to control its playoff destiny; a loss to Southaven plus a win by 3-3 Hernando would keep Horn Lake out of the postseason. Southaven has lost five straight games against Horn Lake, including a 27-20 defeat last season.

2022 DL Justice Finkley — Trussville (Alabama) Hewitt-Trussville

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, vs. Madison (Alabama) Bob Jones in the 1st round of the AHSAA Class 7A playoffs

Note: Hewitt-Trussville has a week off last week after concluding its regular season schedule, and the Huskies begin their playoff run on Friday night against 5-5 Bob Jones, the runner-up of Class 7A Region 4. The two teams had no mutual opponents during the regular season.

Hewitt-Trussville goes into the playoffs with an 8-2 record and as the 8th-ranked team in Class 7A. Its only two losses came against the state’s 1st and 2nd-ranked teams, Hoover and Thompson. In 10 regular season games, Justice Finkley was credited with 78 total tackles (42 solo), 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.

The Class 7A playoffs have 16 teams, and if Hewitt-Trussville wins its first round matchup it will potentially face top-ranked Hoover (who they lost to 34-10 five weeks ago) in the quarterfinals. Should the Huskies upset Hoover they would likely face either #2 Thompson (the two-time defending state champions) or #5 James Clemens in the semifinals.

2022 DL Kristopher Ross — Galena Park North Shore

No game this week

Note: The North Shore Mustangs beat the Humble Atascocita Eagles 31-21 last week in a battle for the championship of District 21-6A. North Shore and Atascocita went into the game as Class 6A’s 8th and 5th-ranked teams, respectively. North Shore moved up one spot to #7 in this week’s rankings, and the Mustangs will get a bye in the final week of the regular season before beginning their run in the Class 6A Division I playoffs next week.

Based on the current standings in District 22-6A, I believe North Shore’s first round opponent will be Pasadena Dobie, which is 7-2 going into the final week of the regular season.

2022 DL Zac Swanson — Phoenix (Arizona) Brophy Prep

Friday, November 5 at 9:00, at Peoria (Arizona) Liberty

Note: Zac Swanson made his presence felt in Brophy Prep’s 33-21 win over Peoria Centennial last week, recording 3 tackles, a sack, and a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown.

The win improved the Brophy Prep Broncos to 6-2 overall and 3-0 against their Desert Valley section foes. They will play their final sectional game on Friday against Liberty, the only other unbeaten team in the Desert Valley. The winner of the game should be the sectional champion, but seeding in the playoffs will be decided by a power ranking formula.

In this week’s ratings update, Brophy Prep moved up to the #6 spot in Conference 6A and #9 in the Open Division rankings. If the playoffs began today, Brophy Prep would just miss out on the Open Division playoff but would be the top seed in the 6A playoffs. On Friday, Brophy Prep will face Peoria Liberty, which is rated #4 in Conference 6A and #7 in the Open Division. A win in that game and next week against Williams Field (currently #11 in 6A) could vault the Broncos into the Open Division playoff.

Liberty is 6-2 this season, with its only losses coming against Chandler and Queen Creek, the current #1 and #5 teams in 6A. Liberty has the second-highest average opponent rating out of the current twelve highest-rated teams in 6A.

2022 DE J’Mond Tapp — Donaldsonville (Louisiana) Ascension Catholic

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, at Plaquemine (Louisiana) St John

Note: Ascension Catholic won a battle of the “Ascension”s last week, beating Gonzales Ascension Christian 44-19. Ascention Catholic’s MaxPreps page lists the team’s record as 7-1 overall, but it appears that its first game, a 14-0 win over Baton Rouge Episcopal on August 26, was not an official game, and that their October 1 forfeit win over Baton Rouge Thrive Academy isn’t part of their record either. Ascension Catholic is the fourth-ranked team in Class 1A, and their listed record is 5-1 rather than 7-1.

Ascension Catholic is 3-0 in district play and will have its final regular season game on Friday against 3-6 St. John, and even with a loss the Bulldogs would be district champions, as they have a head-to-head win over 3-1 White Castle, which has completed its schedule. District champions get automatic playoff bids, but seeding is based on a power ranking formula. If the playoffs began today, Ascension Catholic would be the 10th seed in the 16-team Division IV playoff bracket.

2022 DE/LB Derrick Brown — Texarkana Texas

Friday, November 5 at 7:30, at Whitehouse

Note: The Texas Tigers beat Nacogdoches 37-20 last week to clinch the championship of District 9-5A Division II. The Tigers are 8-0 in 2021 and are one win away from finishing the regular season undefeated for a second straight year, which would be a first in school history.

The Tigers are ranked 7th in Class 5A Division II and will play their final district game on Friday at Whitehouse, which has won two straight games after losing its first seven to start the season. Texas beat Whitehouse 51-21 when the teams played a year ago.

Texas High should breeze through the first round of the playoffs, but could potentially face a pretty good 8-1 Texas City team in the second round, and either 8th-ranked Montgomery or 7-2 Galena Park (which hasn’t won a playoff game since 1969) could await them in the third round.

2022 LB Eoghan Kerry — Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei

No game this week

Note: Mater Dei finished its regular season schedule last week with a 56-14 win over San Juan Capistrano JSerra Catholic. Eoghan Kerry was credited with one tackle on the night.

The Monarchs are off this week and will play their first round game in the Division I playoffs for the CIF Southern Section next week.

2022 DB Bryan Allen — Aledo

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, vs. Cleburne

Note: Aledo beat Arlington Seguin 55-21 last week, and Bryan Allen recorded 3 tackles and an interception in the win. Aledo improved to 9-0 for the season, and with their 6-0 record in district the Bearcats clinched their fourteenth (14th!) consecutive district championship. To put that in perspective, Aledo’s current seniors were 3 or 4 years old at the end of the last season in which it didn’t win its district. The last time Aledo lost to a district opponent? October 10, 2007, when it fell 35-28 to an Everman team that would finish 14-1 and lose in that season’s 4A Division II state semifinals.

That district winning streak will end one day, but that day will not be Friday, when Aledo closes out its regular season schedule against a 4-5 Cleburne team that has lost three games by 41 points or more against teams that Aledo has beaten. The Bearcats will go into the playoffs as the top-ranked team in Class 5A Division II. There are three other ranked teams in their region, and the Bearcats will likely have to beat two of them to reach the state semifinals.

2023 DB Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, at Waco University

Note: Jamel Johnson committed to Texas this morning, less than a week after his team was eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Aledo and his future Longhorn teammate Bryan Allen. Seguin is 3-5 overall this season and 2-4 in district play, with losses to all four teams in District 5-5A Division II that have clinched playoff berths. Even with a win on Friday against winless Waco University the Seguin Cougars would finish no better than fifth in the district. As such, Johnson is not only the newest commit to the Texas Longhorn football program, but also the only UT pledge whose team has already been eliminated from the postseason going into Week 11.

Johnson is currently rated as a four-star safety and is the Longhorns’ only class of 2023 commit at this time. By my count, UT has had no fewer than 19 football lettermen who were from Arlington (including one on the very first Longhorn team in 1893), but Johnson will potentially be the first to come from Seguin High School, which opened in 2002 and is the only non-6A high school in Arlington ISD.

2022 DB Austin Jordan — Denton Ryan

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, at Frisco Lone Star

Note: Denton Ryan rolled to an easy 41-7 win last week over Frisco Independence last week. The Raiders’ defense limited Independence to 101 total yards on 51 offensive snaps. Austin Jordan was credited with one tackle and caught a pass for a four-yard gain.

Ryan is 8-1 on the season and ranked atop Class 5A Division I. On Friday night the Raiders will travel to Frisco to face fifth-ranked Lone Star in a game that will decide the champion of District 5-5A Division I. A Ryan win will give the school its seventh consecutive district title.

That will not be the only game this week between ranked 5A Division I teams, as #2 College Station and #10 Magnolia West — both of whom are 9-0 — will play on Friday night for the championship of District 8-5A Division I. Because of how the playoff bracket is structured, the loser of that game will likely run into the winner of the Denton Ryan-Frisco Lone Star game in the second round of the playoffs, and vice versa.

Ryan beat Lone Star 35-21 when the teams played in 2020.

2022 DB Ronald Lewis — New Orleans (Louisiana) Warren Easton

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, at New Orleans (Louisiana) Kennedy

Note: Warren Easton did not have a game last week. A week ago the team’s MaxPreps page showed a game scheduled for last Saturday against Lusher, a New Orleans charter school, and I noted that game in last week’s post. It turns out that Lusher had opted out of playing a district football schedule some weeks ago, but Warren Easton hadn’t removed the Lusher game from its MaxPreps page.

The Easton Eagles are ranked third in Class 4A and will play their regular season finale on Friday against Kennedy. The Eagles are 4-2 overall and 2-0 against their district foes, while Kennedy is 3-4 overall and 2-1 in district play. The standings of District 11-4A look very weird since at least one team opted out of playing much of its season and every other team had multiple games canceled in September due to hurricanes, flooding, and/or power outages. A win on Friday would ensure the Eagles a district championship and a playoff spot. If the playoffs began today, Easton would have the sixth seed in the Class 4A playoffs, based on the power ranking formula that decides each playoff participant’s seeding.

Even with a loss on Friday, Warren Easton is probably in no danger of missing the postseason.

2022 ATH Anthony Jones — Henderson (Nevada) Liberty

Friday, November 5 at 8:00, vs. Las Vegas (Nevada) Arbor View in the region semifinals of the NIAA 5A Southern Region playoffs

Note: Liberty won its first playoff game last week in dominating fashion, beating North Las Vegas Legacy 57-6. Liberty had previously beaten Legacy 48-7 during the regular season. Anthony Jones caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and was credited with two tackles and a sack in last week’s game.

In this week’s region semifinal round, the Liberty Patriots will face another team they’ve already beaten soundly this year: Arbor View, who they defeated 42-14 in their season opener back on August 20.

Arbor View, which is 8-2 overall, advanced by edging Desert Pines 17-16 in last week’s first round. Liberty had beaten that same Desert Pines team 49-7 the week before. Liberty is 9-1 this season, with its only loss coming on September 10 against national top-ranked team Mater Dei by a 49-7 score. The Patriots have outscored all opponents not named Mater Dei by a combined total of 405-53.

If Liberty beats Arbor View on Friday it will very likely face Bishop Gorman in next week’s regional final. Bishop Gorman is 9-1 and ranked 18th in this week’s USA Today Super 25 national rankings. Bishop Gorman warmed up this season with games against four solid out-of-state teams and suffered its only loss by one point against national #16 team Chandler (Arizona) Hamilton, and since then it has outscored its six Nevada opponents by a combined 324-0.

2022 K Will Stone — Austin Regents School

Friday, November 5 at 7:00, at Austin Brentwood Christian

Note: Regents beat Corpus Christi John Paul II 45-6 last week to wrap up the championship of TAPPS Division II District 3. The Knights have now won 20 consecutive games and will play their final regular season game on Friday against a Brentwood Christian team that is also playoff-bound and sports a current record of 6-3 overall and 4-2 in district.

2022 LS Lance St. Louis — Gilbert (Arizona) Williams Field

Friday, November 5 at 9:00, at Mesa (Arizona) Red Mountain

Note: Williams Field beat Desert Ridge 37-35 last week. Williams Field is 6-2 overall and 2-1 against Fiesta section opponents. The Black Hawks are currently #11 in Conference 6A, comfortably in playoff contention and safely outside of the Open Division standings. Their final two games will be against the #6 and #8 teams in 6A. It’s hard to predict what losses in both of those games would do to their playoff chances, but I suspect they wouldn’t fall too far since their average opponent rating will be vastly improved (only one of the top 16 teams in 6A has a lower rating in that category). If the top five teams in 6A all qualify for the Open Division playoff, Williams Field will merely need to be rated no lower than #21 in the conference at the end of the regular season to get into the 6A playoffs.

Williams Field’s opponent this week is 8-1 Red Mountain, which is currently #8 in the 6A rankings. Its only loss came against #4 Peoria Liberty. Lance St. Louis will face future Longhorn teammate Zac Swanson next week when Williams Field plays its last regular season game against non-section opponent Brophy Prep.

Other commits not playing this week

2022 RB Jaydon Blue (Klein Cain)

Jaydon Blue opted out of playing in the 2021 season. In his absence, Klein Cain went 8-2 in the regular season and finished as the runner-up in District 15-6A. Cain’s senior running backs Ramir McCray and Drew Stokes have combined to rush for 1,845 yards and 26 touchdowns on 233 carries. Earlier this week Texas offered Blue’s former teammate, 2022 wide receiver Matthew Golden, a former TCU commit.

2022 DL Jaray Bledsoe (Marlin)

After previously attending Bremond High School, Bledsoe transferred in the summer of 2021 to Marlin High School, which is 17 miles away. He was subsequently ruled ineligible for the 2021 football season, and in late August the U.I.L. denied his eligibility appeal. In Bledsoe’s absence, Marlin has a 6-3 record and has wrapped up the runner-up spot in District 8-2A Division I.

2022 LB Trevell Johnson (Arlington Martin)

After dealing with a hip issue for several months, Johnson attempted to play in Week One, but afterwards elected to have a surgery that will cause him to miss his senior season. In his absence, Arlington Martin has compiled an overall record of 7-2, clinched its third consecutive district championship, and reached the playoffs for an Arlington ISD record 16th straight year.