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Longhorn football commits in the playoffs, Nov. 25-26

Two out-of-state commits will play for state championships today, and 16 others will try to extend their season for another week.

2023 defensive tackle commit Sydir Mitchell poses in a Longhorn uniform during his official visit to UT in June 2022.

Going into the second round of the Texas high school football playoffs last week, 19 Texas Longhorn commits had yet to complete their season. In one of the most remarkable playoff weekends in recent memory, 18 of those 19 commits won their games to keep their season going through Thanksgiving week. I started writing this column during the 2015 high school season, and in the seven seasons (this columnist “opted out” of covering the 2020 season) that I’ve kept up with the weekly goings-on of UT commits, there has never been anywhere near this many future Longhorns who were playing Thanksgiving week football.

A year ago at this time, 11 commits were still playing. The same number were alive in the 2019 and 2018 playoffs come Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day in 2017 saw ten Longhorn commits still active in the postseason, though in that year the Texas playoffs were entering their second round, not third. It would be fun if all 18 commits were still playing football next week, but that number will be winnowed down sooner or later, as there are commits playing for multiple teams in the 6A and 5A playoffs, and they can’t all finish as state champions.

Outside of Texas, a pair of commits from opposite ends of the country will play for state championships this week, as both 2023 linebacker Liona Lefau of Kahuku High School in Hawaii, and 2023 defensive tackle Sydir Mitchell of Bergen Catholic in Oradell, New Jersey will be aiming to lead their respective teams to a second straight championship. And Spencer Shannon’s Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei team will be playing for a sectional championship, and with a win will get a chance to play for California’s Open Division state title for a second consecutive year.

Highlights of last week’s playoff action included Arch Manning having a typical Arch Manning night in leading his team to a lopsided win to start the final playoff run of his high school career, Cedric Baxter returning to action to score the winning touchdown in a playoff match with a tough opponent, Trevor Goosby’s team overcoming multiple double-digit deficits en route to a victory, S’Maje Burrell’s team holding off an upset-minded El Paso power to set a new school record for wins in a season, and Aeryn Hampton’s team coming back from a halftime deficit and keeping their opponent off the scoreboard in the second half.

Seven current Longhorn commits play for teams that won state championships in 2021. Will that number be matched or exceeded this year? You’ll have to follow along with BON and this column over the next few weeks to find out. This writer hopes everyone reading this had a happy and nourishing Thanksgiving Day holiday. If you’re able to get out to one of the games mentioned below after the Longhorns are done playing the Baylor Bears, you should get to see some good playoff action. Ten of the commits will be playing against team that are highly-ranked in their specific states and classifications.

Commits with games this week will be listed first, and those shose seasons have ended will be at the bottom of the post. All start times listed will be according to the game’s local time zone.

Texas Longhorn commits in the playoffs

2023 QB Arch Manning — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman

Last week: Completed 8 of 10 passes for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 57-19 win over New Orleans (Louisiana) Sophie B. Wright in the regional round of the Select Division III playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:00, vs. Baton Rouge (Louisiana) University Lab in the quarterfinal round of the Select Division III playoffs.

Arch Manning began the final playoff run of his high school career in nearly flawless fashion, throwing only two incomplete passes and connecting with his receivers for a pair of touchdowns in a 57-19 blowout win over New Orleans charter school Sophie B. Wright. Manning still has yet to throw an interception during his senior season.

His Isidore Newman Greenies team has the top overall seed in Louisiana’s Select Division III playoff bracket, and tonight they will play 8th seed University Lab, which won its regional round game last week by a 43-0 score over Metairie Park Country Day, a team Newman beat 31-14 in a district matchup five weeks ago. While Newman is seeking its first state championship, University Lab is aiming for its ninth overall, and its sixth championship in the span of ten seasons. University Lab won the Division II state title in 2021, lost in the state semifinals in 2020 and 2019, and won back-to-back Division II crowns in 2017 and 2018. So though the Greenies are the higher seed, they’re facing a program that has a wealth of playoff experience and knows what it takes to win a championship.

The winner between Isidore Newman and University Lab will advance to the Select Division III semifinals and play either 4th seed Baton Rouge Dunham or 5th seed Shreveport Calvary Baptist Academy.

2023 RB Cedric Baxter Jr. — Orlando (Florida) Edgewater

Last week: Had a 47-yard touchdown run in a 28-24 win over Tampa Bay (Florida) Tech in the regional semifinal round of the FHSAA Class 3M playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:30, vs. Orlando (Florida) Jones in the regional final round of the FHSAA Class 3M playoffs

After playing limited snaps of his team’s 57-6 win in the first round of the playoffs, Cedric Baxter took a bigger role in Edgewater’s 28-24 win in last week’s regional semifinal round over a tough Tampa Bay Tech team. Baxter’s 47-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter ended up providing Edgewater with the winning points, and he had a would-be touchdown run in the first half that was nullified by a penalty. Edgewater’s defense sealed the win with an interception in the game’s final minute, and it forced turnovers on three of Tampa Bay Tech’s last four possessions of the game.

Edgewater remains unbeaten for the season with a 12-0 record, and following the close win over Tampa Bay Tech the Eagles will play in the Region 1 final of Florida’s 3M playoffs tonight against Orlando Jones, a team they beat 14-13 back on September 16. Jones is 10-2 for the season, and aside from the loss to Edgewater the only other blemish on its record is a 74-21 loss to Texas power Duncanville in early September.

At the close of the regular season, Edgewater and Jones were ranked 1st and 3rd in Class 3M, and they have the top two seeds among the playoff teams in Region 1. Jones advanced to the regional final with a 29-12 win over 7th seed Apopka Wekiva in the first round, and then a 49-21 win last week over 3rd seed Oviedo. The Region 1 champion will move on to next week’s 3M state semifinals.

When Florida’s playoff tournaments reach the final four, the teams are re-seeded according to their end-of-season FHSAA power rankings. Edgewater would have the top seed if it were to beat Jones and reach the state semifinals, and the Eagles’ 4th-seeded opponent would be the winner of the Region 2 final. The Region 2 finalists, Tampa Bay Jesuit (last year’s 6A state champion) and Largo, were ranked 15th and 18th, respectively, in the final FHSAA power rankings for 3M, and they are by far the two lowest-ranked of the eight regional finalists.

2023 RB Tre Wisner — DeSoto
2023 WR Johntay Cook II — DeSoto

Last week: Tre Wisner had 1 carry for 4 yards, and 3 catches for 27 yards; and Johntay Cook had 5 catches for 43 yards in a 52-7 win over Rockwall-Heath in the area round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 4:00, vs. Tomball (at Pflugerville’s The Pfield) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.

Neither Tre Wisner nor Johntay Cook put up gaudy stats in DeSoto’s second round win last week, but the Eagles thoroughly dominated Rockwall-Heath, outgaining the Hawks 506 yards to 205 and finishing with a 30-7 advantage in first down conversions. DeSoto returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the 1st quarter, and got points on six of its first seven offensive possessions to lead 45-0 late in the 3rd quarter. Rockwall-Heath’s only score came with just under four minutes left in regulation.

Having reached the third round of the playoffs for a third consecutive year, DeSoto will play an 8-4 Tomball team that last week got a 16-15 win over previously unbeaten New Caney. Tomball missed the playoffs in 2020 despite a 7-3 record, then advanced all the way to the 6A Division II state semifinals last season before losing to Denton Guyer. This is Tomball’s first time to reach the postseason in consecutive years since its run of eight straight playoff appearances from 1983 to 1990, which included a pair of state championship losses.

The winner between DeSoto and Tomball will advance to next week’s Region II final of the 6A Division II playoffs and face either Spring Dekaney or Longhorn commit Jaydon Chatman’s Killeen Harker Heights team.

2023 TE Spencer Shannon — Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei

Last week: Team beat Los Alamitos 52-0 in the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division I Playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:30, vs. Bellflower (California) St. John Bosco (at the Rose Bowl) in the championship of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs

Mater Dei, the consensus top-ranked high school team in the country, put a 52-0 beating last week on a Los Alamitos team that just one week before had upset Long Beach Poly, then the 15th-ranked team in the country according to USA Today. The win was Mater Dei’s 29th straight victory, and allowed the Monarchs to advance to the Southern Section Division I final for a sixth consecutive season.

The win by Mater Dei over Los Alamitos had very little drama but a lot of emotion, as it was the final game at Mater Dei’s home stadium for Bruce Rollinson, the Monarchs’ head coach since 1989. The 73-year-old Rollinson announced before the team’s first playoff game earlier this month that he would not be returning in 2023.

On Friday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Mater Dei will have a re-match with rival St. John Bosco for the Division I championship of the CIF’s Southern Section. California has a system of leagues, sections and divisions that I’ve referred to as “byzantine” in past years where the Longhorns have had commits from the Golden State, but all readers need know is that if Mater Dei wins its 30th straight game tonight it will play a team from northern California in two weeks for the CIF Open Division state championship.

Mater Dei’s most recent loss was a 39-34 defeat at the hands of St. John Bosco in the 2019 CIF Southern Section Division I final. Mater Dei, on the other hand, accounts for fully two-thirds of St. John Bosco’s losses in the span of eight seasons. Since the start of the 2015 season St. John Bosco is 4-8 against Mater Dei, and 85-4 against all other teams.

2023 OL Jaydon Chatman — Killeen Harker Heights

Last week: Team beat Royse City 38-17 in the area round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 6:00, vs. Spring Dekaney (at Waco’s McLane Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.

Harker Heights once again got big production from its senior running back Re’Shaun Sanford in winning its second playoff game of 2022. Sanford, a Houston commit, scored four touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 receiving) and totaled just over 300 yards from scrimmage in the win, which allowed the Harker Heights Knights to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and gave them their 11th win of the season, which ties a program record.

Harker Heights led 21-3 at halftime, and Royse City did not score its first touchdown until 4:05 remained in the 3rd quarter. That cut the deficit to 21-10, but the ensuing Harker Heights possession ended with a passing touchdown to make the score 28-10. Royse City’s next drive ended with an interception deep in Harker Heights territory, and the Knights then went on a 96-yard drive that resulted in a 44-yard scoring pass to Sanford to push their lead to 35-10 with 6:20 left in regulation.

Today in the regional semifinal round the Knights will face a 9-3 Spring Dekaney team that finished 2nd in District 14-6A behind 7th-ranked Spring Westfield. Dekaney played its first varsity football season in 2008 and won the 5A Division II state championship in 2011. This season’s Dekaney team already has more wins than any aside from its state championship team (which went 14-2), and is the first Wildcats team in 11 years to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Harker Heights has advanced to the third round on two previous occasions, in 2000 and 2002, but has never gone further than that. The winner between Harker Heights and Dekaney will play for the Region 2 final of the 6A Division II bracket against either 13th-ranked DeSoto or Tomball.

2023 OL Andre Cojoe — Mansfield Timberview

Last week: Team beat Mont Belvieu Barbers Hill 35-17 in the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 3:00, vs. Frisco Reedy (at Bedford’s Pennington Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.

Mansfield Timberview tied a program record by winning its 12th game of the season in knocking off Barbers Hill in last week’s area round playoff, 35-17. Timberview, which was ranked 2nd in Class 5A Division I at the close of the regular season, got off to a slow start, and trailed 7-0 at the end of the 1st quarter. The Wolves came back to take a 14-10 halftime lead, but Barbers Hill reclaimed the lead in the 3rd quarter with a touchdown run that put it ahead 17-14. But Timberview scored three unanswered touchdowns in the 4th quarter to pull away and win 35-17.

Timberview moved into the third round for a third straight season with the win, and to take another step toward getting out of a stacked Region 2 group in the 5A Division I playoffs they’ll have to beat 7th-ranked Frisco Reedy this afternoon. Reedy won its area round game in overtime by a 30-27 score over 4th-ranked Lancaster. Reedy is unbeaten at 12-0, but has won four games that were decided by six points or less. Timberview began its season with a 34-30 win over eventual 6A playoff team South Grand Prairie, and has won every other contest by 18 or more points.

The winner between Timberview and Reedy will play either top-ranked Longview or 11-1 Port Arthur Memorial in next week’s Region 2 final.

2023 OL Trevor Goosby — Melissa

Last week: Team beat Ennis 42-38 in the area round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:00, vs. Terrell (at Frisco’s Ford Center) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.

Despite a 6-5 record going into last week’s area round playoff, Ennis proved to be a tough out for a Melissa Cardinals team that had won nine straight games, won a district championship in its first season at the 5A level, and was ranked 8th in Class 5A Division II going into the playoffs. Melissa has proven to be nothing if not resilient in the rare instances that it has faced adversity late in the season, and the Cardinals overcame a pair of double-digit deficits to ultimately prevail over upset-minded Ennis.

Ennis led 10-0 after one quarter on the strength of two scoring drives sandwiched around a Melissa turnover on downs. Melissa then scored touchdowns on its next four possessions to take a 28-10 lead with 9:48 left in the 3rd quarter. That 3rd quarter got very wild afterward, as Ennis scored a pair of touchdowns to cut the deficit to 28-24 with 4:11 left, and then on consecutive possessions (actually, consecutive offensive plays) Melissa receivers fumbled the ball away to Ennis defenders who returned the fumbles for defensive touchdowns. The second of those two scoop-and-scores gave Ennis a 38-28 lead with 2:35 left in the 3rd quarter after the Lions had gone into halftime trailing 21-10.

But Melissa settled down and scored touchdowns on its next two drives to re-take the lead at 42-38 with 8:32 left in regulation, and the Cardinal defense forced a punt and two turnovers on downs on Ennis’s final three possessions.

The win over Ennis allowed Melissa to advance to the third round of the playoffs for a fourth straight season, and for the fifth time in six seasons. A year ago, Melissa made it to the fourth round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs before losing 24-21 to eventual state champion Stephenville. Tonight, Melissa will play a Terrell team that went 5-5 in the regular season but beat a good Texarkana Texas team 28-21 in the first round, then blasted a nine-win Everman team last week 49-16. Terrell began the season 1-4 but has gone 6-1 since then and is clearly peaking at the right time.

One of Terrell’s early season losses was, in fact, a 56-21 home loss to Melissa, who led 49-7 at halftime of that September 23 game. Melissa should be the favorite going into this week’s re-match, but many years of high school football history should tell us that how well a team performs in September is not always a reliable indicator of how competitive it will be in November.

Of the teams that were ranked in the top ten of Class 5A Division II at the end of the regular season, eight (including Melissa) are still alive as the playoffs enter their third week. The winner between Melissa and Terrell will play in the Region 2 final against either 6th-ranked Midlothian Heritage or 8th-ranked South Oak Cliff, the defending state champion.

2023 DL Sydir Mitchell — Oradell (New Jersey) Bergen Catholic

Last week: Had 3 tackles and 0.5 sacks in a 28-7 win over Delbarton in the semifinal round of the Non-Public A playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 6:00, vs. Ramsey (New Jersey) Don Bosco Prep (at MetLife Stadium) in the championship of the NJSIAA Non-Public A playoffs.

Sydir Mitchell and his Bergen Catholic teammates moved one step closer to repeating as Non-Public A state champions by knocking off Delbarton 28-7 in last week’s state semifinals.

The Crusaders will play for their division’s state title tonight at MetLife Stadium versus top-ranked Don Bosco Prep. Neither school figures into USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings, but MaxPreps ranks Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic 42nd and 48th in the nation, respectively.

Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic met during the regular season, with Don Bosco dealing the Crusaders their only loss of the year so far by a 31-7 score on September 24. This will also be a rematch of last year’s Non-Public A championship game, which Bergen Catholic won 28-7.

Until 1993, New Jersey awarded championships to “Non-Public” teams at only two levels, A and B, and recognized both a north and south champion in both levels. Starting in 1993, the NJSIAA awarded Non-Public state titles to teams from Divisions IV through I, and in the 29 years since then Bergen Catholic has won nine Non-Public state championships. Don Bosco Prep has also won nine Non-Public state titles, though its nine all came between 2002 and 2015, including one stretch in which the Ironmen won the Non-Public IV championship in six straight seasons (2006-2011).

If Sydir Mitchell were to help lead his team to a state championship tonight, he would become the first future Longhorn from a high school outside of Texas to play for multiple championship teams since Brayden Liebrock, who was part of Chandler, Arizona teams that won three straight AIA Conference 6A titles from 2016 to 2018.

2023 DL Dylan Spencer — Houston C.E. King

Last week: Made 3 tackles (1 for loss) in a 30-7 win over League City Clear Falls in the area round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 1:00, vs. Fort Bend Hightower (at Cypress’s Pridgeon Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs

After two rounds of the 2022 6A Division II playoffs, the King Panthers have outscored their postseason foes 100-21. Last week, the Panther defense allowed just seven points and limited a nine-win Clear Falls team to just 33 net rushing yards on 24 carries, according to MaxPreps. With their area round win the Panthers have advanced into the third round of the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. They have never gotten as far as the fourth round, and to do so this season they will have to top a Fort Bend Hightower team that beat Houston Heights 42-27 last week.

Hightower is 10-2 for the season, with its losses coming against 7th-ranked Spring Westfield and the champion of its district, Fort Bend Ridge Point. The winner between King and Hightower will play either 5th-ranked Katy or Humble Summer Creek in the Region 3 final of the 6A Division II playoffs.

2023 EDGE Colton Vasek — Austin Westlake

Last week: Made 5 tackles, 1 sack, and forced a fumble in a 45-14 win over New Braunfels in the area round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 2:00, vs. San Benito (at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs

Class 6A’s top-ranked Westlake Chaparrals won their 52nd straight game overall, and 20th consecutive playoff game in last week’s area round meeting with New Braunfels. Their 31-point margin of victory was actually their fourth-smallest out of their 12 games played during the 2022 season.

The Chaparrals’ next obstacle to a fourth straight state title is San Benito, which has an 11-1 record this season and is in the third round of the playoffs for the fourth time in the span of eight seasons. San Benito’s only loss this season came against District 32-6A champion Harlingen, which is 12-0 and will be playing in this week’s 6A Division II regional semifinals. San Benito has never advanced further than three rounds in the postseason, and will definitely not be favored to do so on Friday in San Antonio.

The winner of this afternoon’s game between Westlake and San Benito will advance to the Region 4 final in the 6A Division I bracket against either Lake Travis or 14th-ranked San Antonio Brennan.

2023 EDGE Billy Walton — Dallas South Oak Cliff
2023 CB Malik Muhammad — Dallas South Oak Cliff

Last week: Billy Walton had 7 tackles (4 for loss) and 1 sack; and Malik Muhammad had 5 tackles in a 42-37 win over Lovejoy in the area round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 3:00, vs. Midlothian Heritage (at Mansfield’s Newsom Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs

One week after gaining just 126 offensive yards and a single-digit number of first downs in a closely-fought 12-7 win over Mansfield Summit, South Oak Cliff exploded for 42 points against a quality Lovejoy team. The Golden Bears led Lovejoy 28-10 at halftime, and held a seemingly comfortable 42-10 lead going into the 4th quarter. But a wild final frame saw Lovejoy reach the end zone four times, the last three of which were scored in the span of just over a minute of game time and were aided by two onside kick recoveries. The last of those touchdowns made it a one-possession game with just 28 seconds left. But SOC managed to prevent a third consecutive onside kick recovery by the Leopards, and its suddenly uncomfortable 42-37 lead was preserved. Lovejoy’s senior receiver Kyle Parker, an LSU commit, finished the game with 12 catches for 255 yards and a pair of long touchdown receptions.

That area round victory has SOC four wins away from a repeat of their 5A Division II state title. Its third round opponent is a 11-1 Midlothian Heritage team that was ranked 6th in Class 5A Division II at the close of the regular season. Heritage is playing in its seventh varsity football season and its first as a 5A program. Heritage has yet to miss the playoffs in football, or to lose in the first round, and its Jaguars have reached the third round on four previous occasions.

Heritage’s only loss this season was a 49-42 defeat in its season-opener against defending 4A Division I state champion Stephenville. The Jaguars have won eleven consecutive games since that opening week loss, and in last week’s area round they beat a nine-win Crandall team 45-37. Billy Walton, Malik Muhammad, and the rest of the South Oak Cliff defense will contend with a Midlothian Heritage offense led by senior quarterback Kaden Brown, a South Dakota State commit who has completed 71% of his passes and thrown for 39 touchdowns against 5 interceptions while rushing for six additional scores this year.

The winner between South Oak Cliff and Midlothian Heritage will play next week in the Region 2 final of the 5A Division II bracket against either Terrell or Longhorn commit Trevor Goosby’s 8th-ranked Melissa team.

2023 LB S’Maje Burrell — North Crowley

Last week: Made 9 tackles (3 for loss) in a 49-42 win over El Paso Pebble Hills in the area round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
This week: Saturday, November 26 at 3:00, vs. Prosper (at Arlington’s Choctaw Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.

The North Cowley Panthers won their program-record 12th game of the season last week in their area round game against El Paso Pebble Hills. With that win they advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 run to the 4A Division I state title. They went 11-4 in that championship season, and before 2022 they had never won more than nine games in any other season.

To get one game closer to their second state title, the 19th-ranked Panthers will have to overcome 10th-ranked Prosper on Saturday afternoon. Prosper is 11-1 this season, and the only blemish on its record is a 23-6 loss on September 16 to 6th-ranked Denton Guyer. Prosper and North Crowley had one mutual opponent in the regular season. Prosper beat Euless Trinity 17-13 in its season-opener, and four weeks later North Crowley beat Trinity 42-20 in a district contest.

The winner between North Crowley and Prosper will play for the Region 1 championship of the 6A Division I playoffs against either Keller or 25th-ranked Lewisville.

2023 LB Liona Lefau — Kahuku (Hawaii)

Last week: Beat Ewa Beach (Hawaii) Campbell 32-7 in the semifinal round of the Division I-Open playoffs
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:00, vs. Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou in the championship of the Division I-Open playoffs.

After a three-week break between games, Kahuku got a comfortable win over Campbell in last week’s Division I-Open state semifinals. The Kahuku Red Raiders are the defending state champions and have been consistently rated as Hawaii’s top team this season. They can prove it one last time late tonight when they face Punahou in the state championship. Kahuku beat Punahou 27-20 back on September 3, and Punahou has not lost a game since and has very rarely been tested. Punahou beat Mililani 52-24 in the other Division I-Open semifinal game.

2024 CB Jaden Allen — Aledo

Last week: Team beat Lubbock-Cooper 45-21 in the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 6:00, vs. Midlothian (at Midlothian ISD Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs

Only slightly less predictable than the lunar phases is Aledo going deep into the football playoffs. Since 1996 the Bearcats have failed to reach the third round only four times, and they punched their ticket to the regional semifinals with last week’s 45-21 win over Lubbock-Cooper. Aledo led 28-0 at halftime, and junior quarterback Hauss Hejny (who missed most of the team’s last two games) returned to rush for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just ten carries. After an uncharacteristic 0-2 start this season, Aledo has won ten straight games and reached double-digits in the win column for a 17th straight year.

Aledo’s road to the fourth round literally goes through Midlothian, as the 3rd-ranked Bearcats will play on the road tonight at the home stadium of their third round opponent, the 5th-ranked Midlothian Panthers. Midlothian has already tied a program record for wins in a season with its 12-0 start, topped its previous record for points scored in a season by over 100 points, and it has reached the third round of the playoffs for just the third time in school history.

Statistical records will show that the Midlothian Panthers suffered no losses on the field and were scarcely challenged in their first 12 games of 2022, only two of which were decided by less than 14 points. But the school suffered a tremendous loss off the field in mid-October when assistant coach Clif White died after a five-month battle with a rare form of bladder cancer. Coach White, who had turned 37 mere hours before his death, had coached Midlothian’s freshmen football team for a decade and was also a varsity assistant in football and softball. He was married to the former Meagan Denny — who pitched for the Texas Longhorn women’s softball team for four years (2005-08) and was the staff ace in her junior and senior seasons after the graduation of Cat Osterman — and they were the parents of two young children.

“Fight like Coach White” has since become a rallying cry for the team and community, and a sticker bearing that message is displayed on Midlothian’s football helmets. If the Panthers manage to prevail over perennial powerhouse Aledo on Friday, this will be Midlothian’s longest postseason run ever, and it would be only the sixth time in the span of 27 seasons that an Aledo playoff run was stopped short of the fourth round.

The winner between Aledo and Midlothian will play in the Region 1 final of the 5A Division I bracket next week against either Abilene or Burleson Centennial.

2024 CB Aeryn Hampton — Daingerfield

Last week: Team beat De Kalb 29-22 in the area round of the Class 3A Division II playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 6:00, vs. Newton (at Nacogdoches’ Bryce Stadium) in the regional semifinal round of the Class 3A Division II playoffs.

Daingerfield went into halftime of its area round playoff game against De Kalb trailing 22-21 after a back-and-forth first half of play. On the first offensive play of the second half, Daingerfield took the lead on a 48-yard touchdown pass, and after a successful two-point conversion the score was 29-22. The rest of the second half was scoreless, as Daingerfield preserved its lead to win by that 29-22 score.

The Daingerfield Tigers advanced to the third round and later tonight will face 3rd-ranked Newton, a perennial state contender. Newton has made the playoffs in 29 consecutive seasons, and playing football during the week of Thanksgiving is more or less a way of life in that southeast Texas town. Within the lifetime of their current seniors (2004 to 2022), the Newton Eagles have failed to reach the third round only four times, and not since 1992 have they qualified for the playoffs and lost in the first round.

Daingerfield and Newton own a combined 11 state championship trophies, and the two schools have met in the playoffs five previous times. In four of those instances the winner went on to win a state title. Newton beat Daingerfield 21-0 in the 1998 Class 3A Division II championship game, and more recently beat the Tigers in the fourth round of their eventual 2018 3A Division II state championship run. In both 2008 and 2009, Daingerfield beat Newton in the fourth round of the playoffs during their back-to-back 2A Division II state championship seasons. Their only previous playoff matchup that didn’t come in a season where one or the other later won a state title was in 2019, when Daingerfield avenged its 67-point loss to Newton in the previous year’s playoffs by winning 30-26 in the third round, then lost the following week to eventual 3A Division II state runner-up Omaha Paul Pewitt.

The winner of the Daingerfield-Newton playoff game (2022 edition) will play in the Region 3 final of the 3A Division II playoffs against either 6th-ranked West Rusk or Big Sandy Harmony.

2023 S Derek Williams — New Iberia (Louisiana) Westgate

Last week: Team beat Slidell 28-7 in the regional round of the Non-Select Division I playoffs.
This week: Friday, November 25 at 7:00, vs. Monroe (Louisiana) Neville in the quarterfinal round of the Non-Select Division I playoffs.

As noted in previous posts in this column, Derek Williams’s Westgate team won last year’s Class 4A state championship and seemed poised for a repeat title early on in the 2022 season. The Westgate Tigers were ranked as high as 2nd in the power ratings for Non-Select Division I before a late season swoon that saw them drop three of their four October games, albeit against a set of teams that are all still alive in their respective playoff brackets. Westgate entered the playoffs as the 10th seed and beat 23rd seed Belle Chasse by 21 points two weeks ago in the first round. Last week they scored another 21-point victory, this time against 7th seed Slidell.

In this week’s quarterfinal round they will face 2nd seed Neville, whose mascot is also the Tiger. Neville went 7-2 in the regular season (one of its losses was to Ruston, the top seed in the Non-Select Division I playoffs), and after a first round bye the Neville Tigers beat 15th seed East Ascension in last week’s regional round 31-9.

Neville has one of Louisiana’s most decorated high school football programs, and its 12 state championships are the fourth-most of any school. Its two most recent titles came in 2014 and 2015, but they’ve come close several times in the years since. In every season from 2018 to 2021, Neville reached the 4A state semifinals before being eliminated.

Westgate will be aiming to deny Neville a full baker’s dozen compliment of state championship trophies for yet another year. Though Neville is the higher seed of the two, Westgate will actually be the host for this game. The winner will advance to the Non-Select Division I semifinals and play either 3rd seed Destrehan or 11th seed East St. John.

Texas Longhorn commits whose 2022 season is over

2024 WR Hunter Moddon — Houston Clear Lake

Clear Lake finished with a 5-5 record and did not qualify for the Class 6A playoffs.

2023 WR Ryan Niblett — Aldine Eisenhower

Eisenhower lost to New Caney 28-6 in the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs and finished the season with a 5-6 overall record.

2023 TE Will Randle — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman

Tore ACL during a game on Sept. 16 and will miss the rest of the season.

2023 OL Payton Kirkland — Orlando (Florida) Dr. Phillips

Dr. Phillips finished with a 4-6 record and did not qualify for the 4M playoffs.

2023 OL Connor Stroh — Frisco Wakeland

Last week: Team lost to Port Arthur Memorial 52-50 in four overtimes in the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.

Frisco Wakeland held a late 4th quarter lead last week in its area round matchup with a 10-1 Port Arthur Memorial team, but a touchdown pass by Memorial with 18 seconds left in regulation tied the game and sent it into overtime. The game was not resolved until the fourth overtime, when Memorial was successful on the two-point conversion try to win 52-50. Wakeland finished the 2022 season with a 7-5 record.

2023 EDGE Derion Gullette — Teague

Injured - out for 2022 season

Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week: on hiatus

During the current season I’ve enjoyed bringing BON readers the stories of some lesser-known (at least to members of Generation Z) or outright forgotten Longhorn football notables of the past. I’ll almost certainly have more to write in the future about particular events and players from UT football’s nearly 130-year-old history, but this section of the column will be put on pause for now and may return in the week leading up to the state championships.

Listed below are the former Longhorns who have been featured in that section of this column’s previous posts this season.

Week one: Thomas Milik (1944)
Week two: Raymond Clayborn (1973-76)
Week three: Ox Emerson (1929-30)
Week four: Winston McMahon (1906)
Week five: James Ross “J.R.” Callahan (1943)
Week six: A.J. “Jam” Jones (1978-81)
Week seven: Marshall Morgan “Mark” McMahon (1898-1901)
Week eight: John Robert “J.R.” Swenson (1902)
Week nine: Lawrence Sampleton (1978-81)
Week ten: none (this feature took a bye week)
Week eleven: Howard Fest (1967)