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Longhorn football commits in action, Sept. 8-10

Four UT commits will be on the same field in DeSoto on Friday night.

2023 RB commit Cedric Baxter (Edgewater - Orlando, FL) probably had another 30-yard run in the time it took you to read this caption.

High schools in the state of Texas kicked off their football season two weeks ago, and last week their Louisiana brethren played their first official games of 2022. Every Texas Longhorn commit has now played at least one game aside from Derion Gullette, who will miss his senior season due to injury.

Last week, Cedric Baxter had another huge week, Arch Manning got his senior year off to a winning start, Jaydon Chatman’s team beat a state-ranked opponent, and Sydir Mitchell’s team beat a nationally-ranked foe. The Longhorn program also added a commit to its 2024 recruiting class when wide receiver prospect Hunter Moddon announced his commitment last Friday.

In less positive news, DeSoto and its duo of future Longhorns received a humbling at the hands of a nationally-ranked out-of-state opponent, and South Oak Cliff and its two UT commits fell to 0-2 for the season. Those two teams will play each other on Friday night in what will be one of just two games left on the regular season schedule that will see future Longhorns on opposing sidelines.

We’re into the second weekend of September and 11 of UT’s 24 current commits who have played a game in 2022 have yet to lose one. There’s a good chance that at least one or two will not taste defeat at all this fall, but that remains to be seen, and is one more reason to keep up with this column.

Below you’ll find brief recaps of last week’s games, and this week’s schedule of games involving Texas Longhorn commits. As usual the start times for the listed games are presented according to their local time zone.

You can get your weekly UT football history lesson at the end of the column with the Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week, which profiles a UT lineman from the late 1920s and early 1930s who was the very first Longhorn to win All-Pro honors in the NFL.

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

Last week: Manning completed 8 of 14 passes for 142 yards and 3 TDs (one to Randle) in a 35-14 win over Hahnville
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Reserve (Louisiana) Riverside Academy

Arch Manning had a very efficient — though not statistically eye-popping — debut for his senior season. He didn’t need to sling the ball around the field too much, as his team won by a comfortable three-touchdown margin. Don’t be surprised if Manning’s senior year stats don’t jump off the screen. During his sophomore and junior seasons he averaged just 22-23 pass attempts per game.

Readers of this column in 2021 may remember how Maalik Murphy rarely had games where he racked up high totals of pass attempts or yards; in his entire senior season he had just two games with as many as 30 pass attempts.

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

Last week: Had 26 carries for 272 yards and 2 TDs in a 34-10 win over Ramsey (New Jersey) Don Bosco Prep.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, at Winter Garden (Florida) West Orange

It was another week, and another 200-yard performance for Cedric Baxter, this time against a Don Bosco Prep team that MaxPreps had rated as the top team in New Jersey. This week, his Edgewater team will play 2-0 West Orange.

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

Last week: Tre Wisner had 6 carries for 24 yards and had an 87-yard kickoff return, and Johntay Cook had 2 catches for 17 yards and one TD in a 47-7 loss to Baltimore (Maryland) St. Frances Academy
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:30, vs. South Oak Cliff

DeSoto was thoroughly dominated last week by a Baltimore St. Frances team that MaxPreps had ranked as the third-best team in the nation. The Eagles were outgained 565-184 and committed four turnovers without forcing one on defense.

The game began promisingly enough for DeSoto, with Tre Wisner returning the opening kickoff 87 yards to set up the Eagles with a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line, and two plays later a Johntay Cook touchdown catch gave the team a 7-0 lead. But the Eagles were outscored 47-0 the rest of the way. They had at least one snap in St. Frances territory on all six of their first half possessions, but after their opening TD their next five drives ended with a punt, a lost fumble at the St. Frances 36-yard line, an interception in the end zone, a turnover on downs just outside the red zone, and a punt on 4th-and-19 from the DeSoto 46-yard line.

DeSoto trailed 22-7 at halftime, and then the wheels came off in the 3rd quarter, as the Eagles committed two more turnovers while St. Frances scored on three straight possessions. After the loss, DeSoto fell from 7th to 15th in the rankings for Class 6A. The Eagles will look to bounce back this week when they take on fellow south Dallas power South Oak Cliff.

Fans who attend this week’s South Oak Cliff vs. DeSoto matchup will be able to see four Longhorn commits for the price of one! At present there is only one other game on the upcoming high school schedule that will feature Longhorn commits on opposing sidelines: the Spring Dekaney-Aldine Eisenhower matchup on September 22, which will have dueling Longhorn receiver commits Jonah Wilson and Ryan Niblett.

2024 WR Hunter Moddon — Houston Clear Lake

Last Week: Made two tackles and intercepted a pass in a 17-7 loss to Angleton.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, at South Houston

Hunter Moddon announced his commitment to Texas last Friday, only hours before his team’s game against Angleton. He made a pair of tackles and intercepted an Angleton pass, but did not affect the box score on the offensive side, and his Clear Lake team lost 17-7 to even its season record as 1-1. The Falcons will play fellow 1-1 team South Houston on Friday.

The Longhorns have had five football lettermen from Clear Lake High School, most recently walk-on running back Gaston Davis in 2015. The last scholarship player UT has had from that school was offensive lineman Beau Baker, who played in 31 games and made one start with the Longhorns between 1999 and 2002.

2023 WR Ryan Niblett — Aldine Eisenhower

Last week: Team lost to Conroe 56-7.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, at Tomball Memorial

A blowout loss to Conroe last week left the Eisenhower Eagles 0-2 for the season. On Friday they will face a Tomball Memorial team that scored 54 points a week ago but lost to Cypress Creek in a 56-54 shootout.

Ryan Niblett may find himself upstaged by Memorial’s senior receiver Cory O’Bryant, who has 405 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns in his team’s first two games of 2022.

2023 WR Jonah Wilson — Spring Dekaney

Last week: Caught 4 passes for 84 yards and one TD in a 41-38 win over Houston Strake Jesuit.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Humble

As good as his stat line looks, Jonah Wilson was actually Dekaney’s third-leading receiver in last week’s 41-38 win over Strake Jesuit. The Wildcats had 353 yards through the air in the win, and another 183 on the ground.

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

Last week: Team beat Corona (California) Centennial 43-20.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. La Mirada

Mater Dei, the second-ranked team in the country according to MaxPreps, scored its second straight win over a top-ten opponent last week, beating seventh-ranked Corona Centennial 43-20. The Monarchs improved to 3-0, and for a third straight week Spencer Shannon recorded no offensive stats.

Mater Dei should get a relative breather this week with a game against La Mirada, a team it has beaten five times in the past seven seasons by a combined score of 239-14.

2023 OL Jaydon Chatman — Killeen Harker Heights

Last week: Team beat Smithson Valley 27-13.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:30, vs. Round Rock Cedar Ridge

Harker Heights improved to 2-0 last week after a 27-13 win over Smithson Valley, which went into Week Two as seventh-ranked team in Class 5A Division I. The Knights will hope to move to 3-0 on the season this Friday when they play a Cedar Ridge team coming off a 34-13 loss to Austin Bowie.

2023 OL Andre Cojoe — Mansfield Timberview

Last week: Team beat Arlington Sam Houston 69-14.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Dallas W.T. White

Timberview scored touchdowns on six of its seven possessions in the first half against Sam Houston last week to go into halftime leading 42-7, and the game got no closer after that.

The Wolves are 2-0 and are ranked fourth in Class 5A Division I. They will begin district play on Friday when they host W.T. White, who lost 45-27 last week to a Waco team that had lost 17 consecutive games.

2023 OL Trevor Goosby — Melissa

Last week: Team lost to China Spring 42-41.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:30, at Royse City

Melissa is still looking for its first win as a Class 5A program. Last week the Cardinals took a 20-0 lead in the 1st quarter against China Spring, the defending Class 4A Division II state champion, but couldn’t hold that lead over the game’s last three quarters. A China Spring touchdown with 51 seconds left in regulation gave the Cougars a 42-41 lead that held up.

Having opened their season with losses to the teams now ranked first in Class 5A Division II (Argyle) and second in Class 4A Division I (China Spring), Melissa will next have to play Royse City, a Class 6A team that has averaged a little over 700 yards of offense and outscored its opponents 105-20 in a 2-0 start.

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

Last week: Team lost to Orlando Timber Creek 24-22.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, at Apopka

Dr. Phillips is now 0-2, and has lost its first two games by a combined margin of eight points.

2023 OL Connor Stroh — Frisco Wakeland

Last week: Team beat White Settlement Brewer 28-6.
This week: Thursday, September 8 at 7:00, vs. Frisco Heritage

Frisco Wakeland evened up its season record at 1-1 with its win over Brewer last week. The Wolverines will open district play tonight against Frisco Heritage.

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

Last week: Made 5 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in a 28-7 win over Scottsdale (Arizona) Saguaro.
This week: Saturday, September 10 at 1:00, at Morristown (New Jersey) Delbarton

Bergen Catholic scored a convincing win last week over Scottsdale Saguaro, Arizona’s defending Open Division state champion and a team that MaxPreps had ranked 14th in the nation. Bergen Catholic is now 2-0 and moved up from 19th to 14th in MaxPreps’s national rankings.

After wins against opponents from North Carolina and Arizona, Bergen Catholic will travel 35 miles to play its first in-state opponent on Saturday afternoon, 0-1 Delbarton.

2023 DL Dylan Spencer — Houston C.E. King

Last week: Credited with 4 total tackles in a 49-14 loss to Allen.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Pearland

C.E. King followed up a 56-point season-opening win over Crosby by being on the wrong side of a 49-14 game against Allen. Apparently the Eagles weren’t happy with falling out of the Class 6A rankings for the first time in several years, as they led King 35-0 at halftime and ensured there would be no drama in the second half.

The Panthers have one more non-district game this week against Pearland, then after a bye they will begin district play on September 23.

2023 EDGE Derion Gullette — Teague

Injured - out for 2022 season

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

Last week: Walton made five tackles and Muhammad made four tackles in a 21-3 loss to Lancaster.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:30, at DeSoto

For a second straight week the South Oak Cliff offense couldn’t get anything going, and the Golden Bears gained just 143 total yards in a 21-3 loss to Lancaster. They got the ball into Lancaster territory several times, but either punted or turned the ball over on downs nearly every time.

The defending Class 5A Division II state champions are now 0-2 for the season and have fallen from the #1 to #8 spot in their classification’s rankings, while Lancaster was buoyed into the Class 5A Division I rankings at #8 with their win over SOC.

The path to SOC’s first win of 2022 doesn’t get any easier this week, with its next opponent being Class 6A’s 15th-ranked team, Desoto. As noted above, this game will feature four total Longhorn commits between the two teams, and since the pairs of commits from SOC and DeSoto play on opposite sides of the ball, there should be plenty of opportunities for Billy Walton and Malik Muhammad to collide with their future teammates Tre Wisner and Johntay Cook.

A loss would drop SOC to 0-3 for the first time since 2017, and with a date the following week against the state’s top-ranked private school, Dallas Parish Episcopal.

2023 LB S’Maje Burrell — North Crowley

Last week: Team beat Arlington 17-14.
This week: Thursday, September 8 at 7:30, vs Lovejoy

North Crowley improved to 2-0 last week with a 17-14 non-district win over former longtime district foe Arlington, a team the Panthers had never previously beaten. North Crowley doubled Arlington in total offensive yards, 375 to 181, but committed three turnovers and was penalized 15 times for 133 yards (compared to Arlington’s six penalties for 61 yards). One of Arlington’s two touchdowns was scored after a North Crowley special teams miscue that resulted in Arlington recovering the ball in the end zone after an errant snap on a NC punt attempt. The game was tied 14-14 for most of the second half, until a 41-yard North Crowley field goal with 7:24 left in the 4th quarter gave the Panthers the lead for good.

Tonight, S’Maje Burrell and company will host a Lovejoy team that is ranked third in Class 5A Division II, and which is coming off a 56-49 loss to 5A Division II’s current top-ranked team, Argyle.

2023 LB Liona Lefau — Kahuku (Hawaii)

Last week: Team defeated Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou 27-20.
This week: Saturday, September 10 at 6:30, at Ewa Beach (Hawaii) Campbell

Kahuku remained undefeated with a 27-20 win last week. The game presented a weird mascot matchup between the Kahuku Red Raiders and Punahou Buff n’ Blue.

The Red Raiders are Hawaii’s top-ranked team according to MaxPreps, and will next play the 3-1 Campbell Sabers, which the same outlet ranks fifth in that state.

2024 CB Jaden Allen — Aledo

Last week: Made five tackles in a 44-14 loss to Denton Guyer.
This week: Thursday, September 8 at 7:00, at Justin Northwest

Aledo suffered an exceedingly rare blowout loss last week at the hands of Class 6A’s sixth-ranked team, Denton Guyer, falling 44-14. As a result of the loss, Aledo dropped to 0-2 and fell out of the state rankings for what is probably the first time in well over a decade. The last time the Bearcats lost two regular season games was back in 2007. They share a district with Denton Ryan, the seventh-ranked team in Class 5A Division I, so there’s a very real possibility that they will lose more than two regular season games for the first time since 2005.

But they’re still over a month away from that matchup with Denton Ryan, and tonight they will begin district play by traveling to face the Northwest Texans. The two teams’ current seniors were in 7th grade the last time these schools played each other, a 2017 district game that Aledo won 48-0.

2024 CB Aeryn Hampton — Daingerfield

Last week: Team beat Tatum 48-35.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Timpson

Daingerfield improved to 2-0 for the season with its 48-35 win over Tatum last week, and the Tigers moved up from fourth to second in the Class 3A Division II rankings. On Friday they will conclude their non-district slate with a big-time matchup at home against undefeated Timpson, the top-ranked team in Class 2A Division I.

Timpson is a small town in east Texas, roughly 30 miles northeast of Nacogdoches and 24 miles west of the Louisiana border. Since the start of the 2020 football season, Timpson High School has compiled a record of 28-2, with its only two losses coming in the playoffs against back-to-back 2A Division I state champion Shiner.

2023 S Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin

Last week: Team lost to Red Oak 35-25.
This week: Thursday, September 8 at 7:00, vs. Aubrey (at Arlington’s Choctaw Stadium)

Seguin fell to 0-2 for the season after last week’s loss to Red Oak. Seguin is in Class 5A Division II, and before beginning district play next week they have a non-district tilt tonight against 4A Division II program Aubrey.

2023 S Derek Williams — New Iberia (Louisiana) Westgate

Last week: Team beat New Iberia 47-0.
This week: Friday, September 9 at 7:00, vs. Lake Charles (Louisiana) College Prep

The Westgate Tigers began the defense of their 2021 Class 4A state title in fine fashion last week, soundly beating cross-town opponent New Iberia. This week they will play Lake Charles College Prep, a team the Tigers beat 28-12 a season ago.

Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week: Gover “Ox” Emerson

Gover “Ox” Emerson’s individual photo in the football team’s section of the 1931 Cactus yearbook.

Gover Emerson, one of the earliest Longhorn standouts from the Golden Triangle area of southeast Texas, was the first UT product to become a legitimate star in pro football, and then was a teacher and coach for several decades after the end of his playing career.

Gover Connor Emerson was a native east Texan, born in Douglass (a small town just west of Nacogdoches) on December 18, 1907. Contemporary news articles commonly misspelled his first name as the more familiar “Grover”. He and his twin brother Sloan (who died of influenza at age nine) were the youngest of the six children in their family.

Gover attended and played football at Orange High School in Orange, Texas, the hometown of longtime UT Board of Regents member Lutcher Stark. Stark, a very successful businessman and philanthropist, had been the Longhorn football team’s business manager in 1910 while he was a UT student, and he was for many years a prominent supporter of UT athletics. Orange High School was renamed Lutcher Stark High School in 1944.

In an era before the official advent of athletics scholarships, Stark was known to help pay for the college education of many UT students, some of whom, unsurprisingly, happened to be athletes. Grady “Rats” Watson, a star athlete from Orange who played for the Longhorn football teams of 1920 and 1921, said in a 1959 interview, “Mr. Stark probably gave more football boys an education than any man in the Southwest.”

Emerson was known by the nickname “Ox” at least as early as his freshman year at UT, and was one of at least four Longhorns who had that nickname during the 1920s and 1930s. In spite of that nickname, he was not a big man for a lineman of his era; he stood 5’11” with a playing weight that likely never exceeded the 190s during his college career, or the low 200s in his NFL years. But it was evident from his first year in Austin that he would be a future star on the gridiron, and his fellow freshmen voted him a co-captain of that year’s Longhorn freshman team.

A new rule had taken effect at the beginning of the 1920s that disallowed freshmen from playing on college varsity teams and strictly limited players to three seasons of varsity eligibility, and that rule remained in place (aside from a brief relaxation during the World War II years) until 1972.

Accounts differ on whether Emerson saw the field in 1928 during his first season on the Longhorn varsity (more on that in a bit). In 1929, he was the starter at right tackle for much of the season, then was moved to left guard in November with only a few games left on the schedule.

He remained at left guard in the 1930 season, and was a key member of a Longhorn team that compiled a record of 8-1-1 and won the Southwest Conference championship. For his work that fall he was named to the All-Southwest Conference first teams picked by the conference’s coaches, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Newspaper Editors Association (NEA). In contemporary articles he was described as a very dependable offensive lineman, and as one of the conference’s best defensive linemen, if not the best.

As was the custom at the time, the UT Athletic Council awarded letters for the 1930 football season a week after the team’s final game, and the Longhorn lettermen with remaining eligibility met to elect the team captain for 1931. Ox Emerson was their choice.

But two months later in February of 1931, Jinx Tucker, noted sportswriter of the Waco News-Tribune, reported that Emerson had appeared in UT’s game against Baylor in the 1928 season, and thus had used his three seasons of varsity eligibility after having started in the 1929 and 1930 seasons. The News-Tribune’s published account of the 1928 game in question noted Emerson as having substituted in for right tackle Jack Cowley during the 2nd quarter, and the Southwest Conference’s records for the 1928 season also showed that Emerson had played in that game.

This was, of course, several decades before the implementation of the four-game redshirt rule. Appearing in a varsity game for even one play was enough for a player to have used a year of eligibility, and the eligibility rules were ruthlessly enforced.

In response to Tucker’s report, UT’s football team manager for the 1928 season said his records did not show Emerson playing in that year, and Emerson publicly denied that he had played in any games before the 1929 season. He and others on the team claimed that UT’s starters had exchanged jerseys with some of the reserve players before the 1928 Baylor game for some reason, and this led to another player being misidentified as Emerson during the game. Whether that happened is unclear, but it seems a slightly more likely explanation than Emerson and the entire Longhorn coaching staff having collective amnesia about him playing in that season.

Since the conference’s records showed him as having been a participant in the 1928 season, Emerson was ruled ineligible for any further varsity seasons. He eventually gave up his fight to have his eligibility for 1931 restored, and he resigned as UT’s team captain in early April. Remarkably, this was not the last time in that decade that UT would have a team captain-elect ruled ineligible in such a manner. Six years later, Homer Tippen, a standout end on UT’s teams of 1935 and 1936, was elected team captain for 1937, but was later ruled ineligible to play in that season because he had played in the final minute of the Oklahoma game in 1934.

The 1931 Longhorn team would finish with a record of 6-4, with three losses by a combined margin of ten points against Rice, SMU, and Texas A&M, and a 35-7 road loss to Harvard in the only game UT has ever played against an Ivy League school.

With his collegiate athletic career at an end, Emerson decided to try his hand at professional football. In June of 1931, Emerson and his former Longhorn teammates Dexter Shelley and Lester Peterson signed with the Portsmouth Spartans, a pro football franchise based in Portsmouth, Ohio that had joined the NFL in 1930.

In Emerson’s rookie year, the Spartans finished with the second-best record out of the NFL’s ten teams at 11-3 overall, but the league did not yet have a postseason playoff structure, and the Green Bay Packers (who did not play the Spartans that season) were declared the league’s champion by virtue of their 12-2 record.

Emerson was the Spartans’ starting right guard for three seasons, and in his second year with the team (1932), he became the first Texas Longhorn alum to be named a first team All-Pro. The United Press International (UPI) voted him to its All-Pro first team in five consecutive seasons (1932-36).

He remained with the Spartans franchise after it relocated to Detroit in 1934 and was renamed the Lions. He was a starter for the Detroit Lions for four seasons, and was a member of their 1935 NFL Championship team. He played his final pro football season in 1938 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, an NFL franchise that was renamed the Tigers in 1944, and folded after that season.

In November of 1939, Bronko Nagurski, the legendary former fullback of the Chicago Bears and later a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, named his personal picks for the “all-time all-pro football team”. That no less a figure than Nagurski considered Ox Emerson one of the two best guards he had played with or against should tell us something.

In 1955, another legend of college and pro football, Red Grange, was asked who he would pick for an 11-man football lineup for one game if his life depended on getting a win. Grange, whose Chicago Bears had played against Ox Emerson’s Spartans/Lions teams nine times in the four years that their NFL careers overlapped, picked Emerson as one of the two guards for his mythical team.

After retiring as a player, Emerson returned to Detroit and worked at the Ford Motor Company plant for a few years while also pursuing a master’s degree in history. During World War II he served in the Navy, and by the end of his service he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He spent the rest of his long working life as a teacher and coach.

At different points in that career he coached football at the high school, junior college, and college level. He was the head coach at Alice High School in south Texas for three seasons from 1947 to 1949, and his teams compiled a record of 25-6-1. After a year at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, he returned to UT in 1951 and spent six seasons on the Longhorn coaching staff working under head coach Ed Price, who’d been one of his teammates on the 1930 Longhorn team.

He coached the first varsity football team at Austin’s Johnston High School in 1960, and then was the first head football coach at Sidney Lanier High School (now Juan Navarro High School), where he coached from 1961 to 1969. In his last job, he was a U.S. history teacher at St. Louis Catholic School in Austin, and he was 76 years old when he retired in 1984.

Gover “Ox” Emerson was inducted into the UT Athletics Hall of Honor in 1966. He was named to the Detroit Lions All-Time Team in 1961, and again in 2019. In 1969, the Pro Football Hall of Fame named him to its 1930s All-Decade Team. Of the 25 players named to that team, Emerson is one of ten who have not been elected to the Hall of Fame.

He died on Thanksgiving Day in 1998, a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

Ox Emerson, he’s a Longhorn legend.

Previous Historic Longhorn Notables of the Week

Week One: Thomas Milik
Week Two: Raymond Clayborn