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Longhorn football commits in the playoffs, Dec. 3-4

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UT’s season has ended, but seven future Longhorns are still competing for state championships.

2022 defensive line commit Justice Finkley getting an in-home visit with UT head coach Steve Sarkisian and assistants Bo Davis and Pete Kwiatkowski.
Dr. April Finkley

Going into the Thanksgiving weekend, eleven Texas Longhorn commits were still alive in their state’s playoffs. Two UT commits saw their seasons come to an end before the Black Friday deals did, and two others removed themselves from the #22EFFECT class entirely by de-committing. As of this writing there are seven UT commits whose seasons are still alive, and they are competing in the postseason tournaments of three different states.

Maalik Murphy led his school to a sectional championship last week and is in contention to be a California state champion. Connor Robertson (Austin Westlake) and Austin Jordan (Denton Ryan) both saw their teams move one step closer to defending their state titles from 2020, while two-time state champion Bryan Allen saw his Aledo team fall heartbreakingly short of advancing to the fourth round, ending its streak of state crowns.

Elsewhere in the state, Derrick Brown’s Texarkana Texas team will get a re-match with the team it lost to in the playoffs a year ago, and Kristopher Ross’s Galena Park North Shore team will face a team it beat in the regular season just five weeks ago.

Meanwhile, 2022 wide receiver Armani Winfield (Lewisville), who had been committed to UT since mid-January, announced his de-commitment on social media during the Longhorns’ season-ending win over Kansas State on November 26, one day before his team was soundly beaten 52-0 in the Class 6A Division I playoffs by Southlake Carroll. On November 27, the day after Winfield’s de-commitment, and the day after his Mater Dei team won the CIF Southern Section Division I championship, California linebacker prospect Eoghan Kerry (Mater Dei - Santa Ana, California) announced his own de-commitment from the Longhorns. He has since committed to Colorado.

In Louisiana, Ronald “Champ” Lewis (New Orleans Warren Easton) has helped his team reach the Class 4A state semifinals, putting them two wins away from their first state championship since World War II. But standing in their way is a team that has beaten them in the playoffs three times in the past decade.

Of the seven future Longhorns who will be in action this weekend, four will be playing against teams they either faced in last season’s playoffs or previously beat during the current season. Barring any additional commitments from prospects on state contenders in the next two weeks, no pair of UT commits will be meeting on the field this postseason, as all four of the in-state commits whose teams remain are in different playoff brackets.

It should be a great weekend of high school football, and there will likely be some Longhorn coaches on hand for some of the games listed below. The start times listed are, as always, according to Central Time.


2022 QB Maalik Murphy — Gardena (California) Junipero Serra

Saturday, December 4 at 8:00, vs. Long Beach (California) Poly in the regional finals of the CIF Division 1-A playoffs

Note: Maalik Murphy led his team to a 31-3 win over Apple Valley last week in the Division 3 championship game for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section. Murphy threw for just one touchdown, but it came early in the 4th quarter and gave his team a 31-3 lead that it held for the rest of the game.

Serra led 6-3 late in the 2nd quarter, but a series of Apple Valley miscues helped the Cavaliers seize control of the contest going into halftime. A blocked Apple Valley punt resulted in a safety, and then Serra returned the free kick inside the 7-yard line to set up a TD run that put the Cavaliers on top 15-3 with around two minutes remaining in the quarter. Later, Apple Valley had the ball deep in their territory and a bad snap was recovered in its own end zone for another safety that gave Serra a 17-3 lead going into the 3rd quarter, and the game got no closer after that.


After the CIF sections award their championships for each division, the heads of each of the 10 sections meet and select the four teams that will compete in the various state championship brackets, with each bracket being split between teams from northern and southern California. Junipero Serra was selected as one of the two southern California teams that will compete for the Division 1-A state championship, and the Cavaliers will face Long Beach Poly in that division’s semifinal round on Saturday.

If you’re wondering how Serra began the postseason competing for its section’s Division 3 title, and having won that crown it is now one win away from playing for a Division 1-A state championship, please know that this writer is wondering the same thing. In this space I’ve previously described California’s system of sections, leagues, and divisions as “byzantine”, and even now with some changes having been made to simplify the process for determining the state’s playoff brackets I still feel like I could more surely explain the plot of Tenet than the CIF’s playoff divisions.

Maalik Murphy and his Serra teammates will play Long Beach Poly on Saturday with a slot in the Division 1-A state championship on the line. Serra defeated Poly 28-27 on August 27, and Murphy accounted for all four Serra touchdowns in that game. He completed 21 out of a career-high 37 pass attempts for 341 yards and 3 TDs, and also rushed for a score. Serra and Poly both lost three of their first four games this season, but both went on to win their respective playoff sections. After closing out the regular season with a six-game winning streak, Poly won its four playoff games by an average margin of 35 points to win the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship.

The winner between Serra and Poly on Saturday night will play either Pittsburg or Bakersfield Liberty on December 11 at Saddleback College for the Division 1-A state championship. If Maalik Murphy leads his team to a state championship he’ll be the first Texas Longhorn quarterback commit to win a state title since Jerrod Heard led Denton Guyer to back-to-back Texas Class 4A Division I championships in 2012 and 2013.


2022 OL Connor Robertson — Austin Westlake

Saturday, December 4 at 2:00, vs. Austin Vandegrift (at Austin’s DKR Memorial Stadium) in the Region IV final of the Class 6A Division II playoffs

Note: Westlake, which was ranked atop Class 6A for the entirety of the regular season, has been nothing short of dominant in the playoffs as the Chaparrals seek a third straight state title. Last week they knocked off Pharr-San Juan-Alamo North by a 56-0 score to advance to the regional final (aka, the state quarterfinal) round. In three playoff games in 2021, Westlake has outscored its foes 180-16.

To continue their playoff journey the Chaparrals will have to overcome a 12-1 Austin Vandegrift team. For that game, Connor Robertson will get to play on his future home field on the UT campus. Vandegrift has beaten its three postseason opponents by an average margin of 33 points, with its most impressive win being a shockingly lopsided 38-0 victory in the area round over previously unbeaten Cibolo Steele, which went into the playoffs as the 15th-ranked team in Class 6A. The lone blemish on Vandegrift’s record is a 38-20 loss in its regular season finale against district rival Round Rock.

Vandegrift’s junior QB Brayden Buchanan has thrown for 42 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions this season, and has also added 7 rushing touchdowns. He has been committed to Baylor for baseball since September of his sophomore year. Junior left tackle Ian Reed has reported four FBS offers.

Of the eight teams remaining in the Class 6A Division II playoffs, three were ranked at the end of the regular season: #1 Westlake, #2 Katy, and #9 Denton Guyer. The winner between Westlake and Vandegrift will advance to the semifinals and play either Katy or Humble Summer Creek.


2022 DL Kristopher Ross — Galena Park North Shore

Friday, December 3 at 7:00, vs. Humble Atascocita (at Pasadena’s Veterans Memorial Stadium) in the Region III final of the Class 6A Division I playoffs

Note: North Shore won its tenth straight game last week, beating 24th-ranked Katy Tompkins 26-20. The Mustangs led 20-0 at halftime, but had to hold off a second half charge from the upset-minded Falcons, and after Tompkins pulled to within six points and had the ball late in the 4th quarter, North Shore’s defense came up big to narrowly force a turnover on downs and preserve their lead.

The win advanced North Shore to the fourth round of the playoffs for a seventh straight season, and for the eighth time in the span of ten seasons. There they will face district rival Humble Atascocita, who they beat 31-21 in their regular season finale five weeks ago. The last time these teams played twice in a season was in 2016, when North Shore won a regular season matchup 31-21, then was eliminated in the fourth round of the playoffs by Atascocita in a 33-27 loss. Kristopher Ross and company will try to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself tonight.

The eight teams remaining in the 6A Division I playoff bracket were all ranked at the close of the regular season: #3 Southlake Carroll, #4 Duncanville, #7 Galena Park North Shore, #10 Humble Atascocita, #11 San Antonio Brennan, #17 Allen, #19 Lake Travis, and #21 DeSoto. Six of those schools have won state titles, and seven of them have reached a state championship game at least once in the past eight years (Atascocita being the lone exception).

The winner between North Shore and Atascocita will move on to the semifinals and play either Brennan or Lake Travis.


2022 DE/LB Derrick Brown — Texarkana Texas

Friday, December 3 at 7:30, vs. Crosby (at Lufkin’s Martin Stadium) in the Region III final of the Class 5A Division II playoffs

Note: The Texas Tigers beat Port Neches-Groves 44-21 last week to advance to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Port Neches-Groves had upset unbeaten Montgomery in the area round, but it couldn’t hang with the Tigers, who built a 27-0 lead mid-way through the 2nd quarter and were never seriously threatened after that.


In this week’s regional final round, the Tigers will have a playoff rematch with the Crosby Cougars, who they lost to 62-42 in the second round of the 2020 playoffs. That Crosby team went on to reach the 5A Division II state championship game before losing to Aledo by a 56-21 score.

Crosby opened the 2021 season with a 27-24 loss to defending 4A Division II state champion Carthage, then lost 35-21 the following week to a Manvel team that advanced three rounds into this year’s 5A Division I playoffs. But since those two losses the Cougars have reeled off 11 straight wins and reached the fourth round of the playoffs for the fourth time in school history, and for the third time in eight seasons.

Texas and Crosby had three mutual opponents this season, and these were the results of those games:

vs. Marshall — Texas won 27-12 on October 8, and Crosby won 52-14 in the area round of the playoffs on November 20.

vs. Texas City — Crosby won 57-28 on October 15, and Texas won 31-0 in the area round of the playoffs on November 19.

vs. Port Neches-Groves — Crosby won 69-28 on October 22, and Texas won 44-21 in the regional semifinal round of the playoffs on November 26.

At the close of the regular season, the state rankings for Class 5A Division II had Texas 6th and Crosby 10th. The other six teams remaining in the 5A Division II playoffs include 4th-ranked Lubbock-Cooper, 5th-ranked South Oak Cliff, 8th-ranked San Antonio Alamo Heights, and 9th-ranked Lovejoy.

Derrick Brown and the Tigers defense will have to slow down a Crosby offense led by junior QB Cyrin Myles, who has accounted for over 3,300 total yards and 50 touchdowns (31 passing, 19 rushing) in his first season as the team’s signal-caller. Senior running back Quincy Jones has 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 18 total TDs, and senior Kameron Kirkwood has been an all-around playmaker, catching 54 passes for 1,035 yards and 17 TDs, and recording 55 tackles and 7 interceptions while on defense.

The winner between Texas and Crosby will advance to the 5A Division II state semifinals and play either Liberty Hill or San Antonio Alamo Heights.


2022 DB Austin Jordan — Denton Ryan

Friday, December 3 at 7:00, vs. College Station (at Waco’s McLane Stadium) in the regional final round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs

Note: Back on August 28, the defending 5A Division I state champions from Denton Ryan opened their 2021 season with a 40-7 win over Longview. Three months later those teams met again in the third round of the playoffs, and though the margin was much closer the second time, the Raiders prevailed 37-33.

Ryan led Longview 17-7 at halftime, and expanded that lead to 20-7 with a field goal on its opening drive of the second half. Longview’s first six possessions of the game resulted in three punts, an interception, a lost fumble, and a TD run. Longview got some life midway through the 3rd quarter when a Ryan fumble gave the Lobos the ball at the Ryan 31-yard line, and four plays later a 9-yard TD catch by Longview’s five-star junior receiver Jalen Hale made the score 20-14.

But Ryan answered with a 50-yard TD pass to Austin Jordan to go ahead 27-14. Then after a Longview punt, Ryan got another quick score with a 37-yard TD pass to Jordan, which put the Raiders up 34-14 with 1:42 left in the 3rd quarter.

Ryan would go into the 4th quarter leading 34-21, and a field goal with 8:53 left in the 4th quarter made the score 37-21. But Longview scored TDs on its two ensuing possessions, while Ryan’s offense had consecutive three-and-outs. Leading 37-33 with 1:43 left in regulation, Ryan punted on 4th-and-16 from midfield, giving Longview the ball at its own 25-yard line with a chance to take the lead with 1:37 left. But Ryan’s defense ended the game shortly afterward with a sack on a 4th-and-7 play, and one kneel down ran out the clock.

Austin Jordan finished the game with 4 catches for 108 yards and a pair of big 3rd quarter touchdowns, and he was also credited with four tackles.

Tonight, Denton Ryan will face College Station in a battle of Class 5A Division I’s top two ranked teams. The two teams met in the second round of the 2020 playoffs, with Ryan besting College Station 52-21. The College Station Cougars have not lost a game since then, and will go into the playoff re-match with Denton Ryan with a 13-0 record and a scoring average of nearly 53 points per game.

Two weeks ago, College Station dominated 5th-ranked Frisco Lone Star in a 55-21 win. College Station’s senior QB Jett Huff has completed 77% of his passes this season and thrown for over 2,600 yards and 41 TDs, with just 4 INTs. Junior running back Marquise Collins has rushed for 676 yards and 11 TDs in the team’s three playoff games, and for the season he has nearly 2,400 yards from scrimmage and 34 total TDs.

Of the eight teams remaining in the 5A Division I field, four were ranked at the end of the regular season: #1 Denton Ryan, #2 College Station, #4 Colleyville Heritage, and #8 Katy Paetow. The winner between Denton Ryan and College Station will play either Colleyville Heritage or Mansfield Summit in next week’s state semifinal round.


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

Friday, December 3 at 7:00, at Monroe (Louisiana) Neville in the semifinal round of the LHSAA Class 4A playoffs

Note: The Warren Easton Eagles began their playoff run as the 3rd seed out of the 32 teams in the Class 4A bracket. In the first three rounds they dispatched the 30th, 19th, and 11th seeds by a combined score of 189-19, with the most recent of those wins being last week’s 63-7 demolition of 11th seed Belle Chasse.

Tonight, the Eagles will try to get one step closer to their first state championship since 1942 when they face 2nd seed Neville. Neville is 11-1 on the season, with its only loss a 35-28 defeat on September 24 to a St. Thomas More team that eventually lost in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs. Since that one loss, the Neville Tigers have won eight straight games and outscored their foes 301-29. In the playoffs, Neville has had two lopsided wins sandwiched around a 19-15 win in the second round over 18th seed Carencro, the defending 4A state champion.

Neville’s top recruit is junior defensive lineman Zalance Heard, a composite four-star prospect who was offered by Texas back in May, and who holds at least seven other FBS offers.

The last three games between Warren Easton and Neville were all late in the playoffs, and all resulted in wins for Neville. In 2014, Neville beat Easton 28-27 in the Class 4A state championship game. The following year, Neville topped Easton 44-36 in the state semifinals before repeating as state champions the next week. Then in 2016, Neville again eliminated Easton in the state semifinals, this time by a 26-13 score, but Neville lost to Edna Karr in the state championship and was denied a third straight title.

The winner between 2nd seed Neville and 3rd seed Warren Easton will play for the Class 4A state championship at the Superdome in New Orleans on December 10, and will face either top seed Edna Karr or 5th seed New Iberia Westgate.


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

Friday, December 3 at 8:00, vs. Scottsdale (Arizona) Chaparral in the semifinal round of the AIA Conference 6A playoffs

Note: Williams Field is the 3rd seed in Arizona’s Conference 6A playoff bracket, and in last week’s quarterfinal round the Black Hawks got a decisive 52-17 win over 11th seed Glendale Mountain Ridge.

Tonight, they will face 2nd seed Chaparral, and the winner of that game will play for the 6A state championship against either top seed Gilbert Highland or 4th seed Mesa Red Mountain.


Commits whose season has ended

2022 WR Brenen Thompson — Spearman

Spearman lost 44-11 to Lubbock Roosevelt in the first round of the playoffs and finished the season with a 6-5 overall record.

2022 OL Cole Hutson — Frisco

Frisco lost to South Oak Cliff in the second round of the 5A Division II playoffs and finished with a 10-2 record.

2022 DL Aaron Bryant — Southaven (Mississippi)

Southaven finished 9-4 and lost in the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A playoffs.

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

Hewitt-Trussville finished 9-3 and lost in overtime in the quarterfinal round of Alabama’s 7A playoffs to top-ranked Hoover, who lost the following week to eventual state champion Thompson. In his senior season, Justice Finkley was credited with 96 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 24 QB hurries, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

2022 DL Zac Swanson — Phoenix (Arizona) Brophy Prep

Zac Swanson’s Brophy Prep team, the 5th seed in Arizona’s Conference 6A playoffs, lost a tight 14-13 quarterfinal round game last week to 4th seed Red Mountain. Brophy led 13-0 before a Red Mountain touchdown on the final play of the first half cut its lead to 13-7. The Brophy Broncos were unable to add any points to their ledger in the second half, and Red Mountain scored the winning points late in the 3rd quarter on an end around to a wide receiver who then passed to their wide open quarterback.

Swanson was not credited with any stats in the season-ending loss to Red Mountain. In 11 games played he was credited with 42 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt that he returned for a TD.

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

Ascension Catholic lost 42-0 in the quarterfinal round of Louisiana’s Division IV playoffs to top seed Monroe Ouachita Christian on November 19.

2022 DB Bryan Allen — Aledo

Aledo, the top-ranked team in Class 5A Division II for the entire regular season, was thwarted last week in its attempt to win a fourth straight state championship, losing 33-28 to 5th-ranked South Oak Cliff. The loss wasn’t for a lack of effort from Bryan Allen, who lined up at his normal safety spot and also played a significant number of snaps on offense due to senior RB Ryan Williams (the team’s leading rusher) missing the game with an elbow injury. Allen had 14 carries for 51 yards and a TD, and also caught a 19-yard TD reception. Fellow senior Sammy Steffe had a season-high 32 carries and ran for 197 yards.


Aledo scored first to take a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter, but SOC scored TDs on its first three possessions and added another score on a pick-six, and the Golden Bears led Aledo 27-14 at halftime. Aledo chewed up eight minutes of clock time on its first possession of the 3rd quarter, which ended with Bryan Allen catching a 19-yard TD pass on a 4th-and-6 play. That got the Bearcats within 27-21. After SOC went three and out, Aledo got the ball back at midfield, and seven plays later Allen scored on a 6-yard run. After the PAT, Aledo led 28-27 with 9:52 left in the 4th quarter.

SOC responded with an 11-play drive that included a conversion on a 4th-and-6 situation from its own 42-yard line, and a 13-yard pass play on a 3rd-and-12 from the Aledo 31-yard line. That latter conversion set up the game-winning points, which came one play later on an 18-yard TD pass with 4:14 left in regulation and gave SOC back the lead at 33-28. Aledo got as close as the SOC 14-yard line on its ensuing drive, but that possession ended after a fumbled snap on a 4th-and-1 play was recovered by SOC with just over 40 seconds left on the clock.

Aledo finished the season 12-1, and Bryan Allen was credited with 32 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble in his senior year.

2022 DB Jaylon Guilbeau — Port Arthur Memorial

Port Arthur Memorial lost to Fort Bend Hightower on November 12 in the first round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.

2023 DB Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin

Arlington Seguin went 4-5 in the 2021 season and did not qualify for the 5A Division II playoffs.

2022 K Will Stone — Austin Regents School

Austin Regents lost in the quarterfinals of the TAPPS Division II playoffs.

2022 ATH Anthony Jones — Henderson (Nevada) Liberty

Anthony Jones’s Liberty team lost to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in Nevada’s 5A state semifinals. Bishop Gorman went on to win the state title the following week.


Other commits not playing this week

2022 RB Jaydon Blue (Klein Cain)

Blue opted out of playing in the 2021 season.

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 his absence, Marlin reached the postseason and got its first playoff win in six years, then advanced to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

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 caused him to miss his senior season.