Midway (11-0) vs. Trophy Club Byron Nelson (5-6)
Round: Class 6A Div. II area
Time/site: 8 p.m., AT&T Stadium
Players to watch: Midway: Tanner Mordecai, James Fullbright; Byron Nelson: Jordan Joiner, Nick Santini
Breakdown: Jeff Hulme knows Trophy Club Byron Nelson is better than its 5-6 record. If anyone else doubts the Midway head coach, take a look at the film from the Bobcats’ bi-district game a week ago. Byron Nelson trailed 14-0 late in the second quarter but never gave up. The Bobcats scored with 2:48 left in the game and, after a penalty negated a Denton Guyer touchdown, Byron Nelson won.
“They’re good,” Hulme said. “They play really hard. Their quarterback is really good. Their offensive and defensive lines are hardnosed. We’ve got to play a good game.”
Midway has done well all year behind its offensive attack led by Tanner Mordecai. The Panther defense, however, has been the key to Midway’s season so far. The defensive line is solid, led by Jaxon Player, and the secondary is quick. But this Midway linebacking corps is loaded.
“I think we’ve got a good rotation of linebackers led by Matthew Barnhill and Grant Graves,” Hulme said. “Those two have been consistent for us all year. They all play hard.”
After opening the playoffs at home, Midway now prepares to take on Byron Nelson at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think it will be a tremendous experience for our kids,” Hulme said. “They will have some great memories from this game. Obviously if we win they’ll have better memories. It’s Thanksgiving week. They play on Friday. This is a tremendous achievement for our kids.”
La Vega (11-0) vs. Kingsville King (7-4)
Round: Class 4A Div. I area
Time/site: 2 p.m., Heroes Stadium, San Antonio
Players to watch: La Vega: John Richards, Donta Stuart; Kingsville King: Omar Navejar, Quincy Arkadie
Breakdown: Nearly 75 percent of Kingsville King’s offense happens through the air. Quarterback Omar Navejar has completed 143 of 283 passes for 2,203 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also has 13 interceptions.
Navejar will have to watch out for La Vega’s Donta Stuart who already has at least seven on the season. But this La Vega defense is more than just Stuart. It’s guys like Jared Rogers, Jaelyn Maladdie, Braylon Watkins and Kemoche Hobbs.
Speaking of Hobbs, the King defense will have its hands full trying to shut down the three-heading monster of Hobbs, John Richards and Cameron Henry. The trio has rushed for well over 2,000 yards as each one has had his own breakout game this season, despite the balance with which they attack.
Most recently it was Richards. He ran for 290 yards and three touchdowns on only eight carries as the Pirates topped Fredericksburg, 47-23, in the bi-district round of the playoffs a week ago.
Somerset (9-2) vs. China Spring (8-3)
Round: Class 4A Division I area
Time/site: 7 p.m. Friday at Buda Hays
Players to watch: China Spring RB Erik Hart; China Spring QB Cayden Johnson; China Spring LB Brayden Mathis; Somerset QB Zadock Dinkelmann; Somerset WR Martin Ramos
Breakdown: If you want to make a deep run in the UIL state playoffs, you need strong quarterback play.
That’s not a problem for either China Spring or Somerset.
The Bulldogs are coached by legendary Texas high school coach Sonny Detmer, and feature Sonny’s grandson at quarterback, BYU commit Zadock Dinkelmann.
“They’ve got an established quarterback, he’s 6-4, 6-5 with a strong arm and some good players around him,” China Spring coach Mark Bell said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”
It’s difficult to say too much about the way Cayden Johnson has performed in his first year as China Spring’s starting QB. Johnson has racked up 2,411 yards and 24 touchdown passes while throwing just one interception in 252 pass attempts.
Asked about Johnson’s run of interception-free passes, Bell sounded a bit like a baseball player trying not to jinx a pitcher throwing a no-hitter. “We try not to talk about that,” Bell said. “We think (Johnson) has improved throughout the year, but the most important thing is that we’re starting to come together as a football team at the right time.”
Defensively, China Spring pitched a shutout in a 47-0 bi-district win over Taylor. “That’s hard to do nowadays,” Bell acknowledged.
A critical element of the Cougars’ defense against Somerset will be establishing a hearty pass rush and trying to keep Dinkelmann as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket.
“We’ve got to get pressure on their quarterback. He’s got a big arm, and we need to slow them down offensively and then just figure out a way to put points on the board ourselves,” Bell said.
Lorena (5-6) vs. Madisonville (10-1)
Round: Class 4A Div. II area
Time/site: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bryan
Players to watch: Lorena RB A.J. Bell; Lorena RB Thor Hoffman; Madisonville RB Cornelius Merchant; Madisonville NG Chris Scott
Breakdown: One of the ways that injuries rob a team of its effectiveness is by eliminating continuity. Lorena’s Ray Biles said that has been one of the storylines of his team’s season, but he’s hoping that guys are getting more comfortable with one another at the right time.
“We’ve had to play a lot of different lineups, and we’ve been looking for that continuity,” Biles said. “But now we’ve had the same quarterback for several games, and it’s been great having Thor (Hoffman) back in the backfield, because he’s kind of the glue that holds us together.”
Hoffman ran for 100 yards on 13 carries in the Leopards’ 42-25 win over Caldwell in the bi-district playoffs. He benefited from a path-clearing parade from a Lorena line that played one of its better games of the year.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Biles said. “We want to get better and better, because we know that in the playoffs you’re just going to see better teams each and every week.”
Biles’ point rings even truer when one considers this week’s foe. Madisonville is in its second season under Rusty Nail, the former state-winning coach at Mart. The Mustangs feature a dynamic running game behind tailback Cornelius Merchant (1,207 yards, 23 TDs). They’re also beefy and physical defensively, and are prone to pushing teams around in the trenches, with 31 sacks in 11 games.
The Mustangs and Leopards met in non-district play, with Madisonville squeaking out a 39-36 win. They also faced off last year, when Lorena rolled to a 56-13 triumph.
“It takes the unknown equation out of it,” Biles said. “Our kids know hard these guys play, how tough they are on defense, how physical they are. They have a good idea of what to expect.”
Mexia (6-5) vs. No. 2 West Orange-Stark (9-0)
Round: Class 4A Div. II area
Time/site: 7:30 p.m., Conroe
Players to watch: Mexia: Travion Carter, Jadrain Smith; West Orange-Stark: Chaka Watson, Damien Teate, Paul Ivory
Breakdown: This hasn’t happened since 1999. For the first time in 18 years, a new coach and coaching staff have taken a Mexia team with two or fewer wins the previous season and taken them to the playoffs.
In 1999 it was Craig Harris. This season it’s Frank Sandoval.
Mexia won two games last season and missed the playoffs for the second time since 2005. This year, Sandoval and the Blackcats finished second in the district behind wins over Lorena, Fairfield and Robinson.
Now, Mexia turns its attention to two-time defending state champion West Orange-Stark. The Mustangs own the state’s longest win streak with 36-straight wins. They’ve also won 13 consecutive playoff games.
West Orange-Stark enters Friday’s contest off a 54-0 win over Brookshire Royal in the first round of the playoffs. The Mustangs held the Falcons to 38 total yards.
West (9-2) vs. Hitchcock (7-3)
Round: Class 3A Div. I area
Time/site: 7:30 p.m., Brenham
Players to watch: West: Nathan Gerik, Romeo Hernandez; Hitchcock: Pacey Jones, Tygar Turner
Breakdown: West coach David Woodard has said all season that the Trojans’ offensive and defensive lines are the heart and soul of the football team. A week ago at Waco ISD stadium, the dominant play by West in the trenches led the Trojans to victory.
That kind of play will be needed Friday night as West plays Hitchcock. In the trenches is where this game will be won.
“We’ve challenged our offensive and defensive lines this week to handle the task, understand there will be some adversity and how to respond to it,” Woodard said. “We understand they’ll have to play tough. We’ve leaned on them all year long. Hopefully they’ll be the key to our success.”
Woodard went on to say that Hitchcock runs the ball often. This Bulldog team will be as aggressive a team as West has seen all season. Besides the play in the trenches, consistency is key for the Trojans.
Crawford (9-2) vs. Valley View (10-1)
Round: Class 2A Division I area
Time/site: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Burleson
Players to watch: Crawford: RB Garrett Dutschmann, LB Mason Browning, LB Koby Smith; Valley View: QB Brady Jackson, RB Clint Epperson, WR Zack Mitchell
Key matchup: Crawford RB Garrett Dutschmann vs. Valley View defensive line
Breakdown: The Pirates got a major boost last weekend when Garrett Dutschmann returned from an injury and rushed for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff opening 50-21 blowout of Riesel. Crawford has won six straight games since a 38-18 loss to DeLeon on Sept. 29.
Crawford will need all the weapons it can find to knock off a Valley View team that opened the playoffs with a 69-19 thrashing of Chico. Valley View’s offense is well balanced with talented quarterback Brady Jackson, running back Clint Epperson and wide receiver Zack Mitchell.
“They’re the best team we’ve played since DeLeon,” said Crawford coach Delbert Kelm. “I thought we played inconsistent last week (against Riesel). But we got a morale boost from Dutschmann coming back. He’s got great vision and the ability to find holes.”
The Pirates have been getting strong defensive play all season behind the play of linebackers Koby Smith and Mason Browning and safety Trey Lacina.
No. 5 Mart (10-1) vs. Windthorst (6-5)
Round: Class 2A Div. I area
Time/site: 2 p.m. Friday at Pennington Field, Bedford
Key players: Mart WR Zamar Kirven, RB Tyrek Horne, QB Jace Terry; Windthorst QB Hunter Wolf
Breakdown: What else can be said about the Panthers?
After last week’s 65-3 thrashing of Goldthwaite in the first round of the playoffs, Mart continues to dominate any opponent that steps between the chalk to challenge them. The three points given up last week make 17 total points the Panther defense has allowed in their last six games, with four of those games being shutouts.
It’s not just guys like Terry, Kirven and Horne that have been dominating opponents. The defense is legitimately good.
Widthorst did drop 46 points last week against then 8-2 Bells and has won four if its last five games. The Trojans can score, but a lot of teams Mart has steamrolled have boasted the exact same thing.
Bosqueville (6-5) vs. Collinsville (7-4)
Round: Class 2A Div. I area
Time/site: 7 p.m. Friday at Springtown
Key players: Bosqueville QB Tyler Webb, RB Marcell Estell
Breakdown: The Bulldogs might have their hands full with Collinsville. The Pirates knocked off district champs and nine-win Seymour last week, so the Bulldogs can’t take Collinsville lightly.
Bosqueville, on the other hand, is playing its best football of the season. The Bulldogs are winners of five of their last six after downing Hico by five in week one of the playoffs. Webb and Estell have led the Bulldog offense to an average of 40 points during that stretch, including outbursts of 58 and 60 points during district play.
Reicher (9-2) vs. Boerne Geneva Prep (10-1)
Round: TAPPS Division III quarterfinals
Time/site: 7:30 p.m., Friday at Burnet
Players to watch: Reicher: QB Ben Brittain, RB Bradley Bass, FS John Aynesworth; Geneva Prep: Will Langenbahn, RB Devon Ahrens, WR Joel Calderon
Key matchup: Geneva Prep RB Devon Ahrens vs. Reicher defensive line
Breakdown: Reicher comes into the second round of the playoffs riding a six-game winning streak that includes last week’s 48-5 pounding of Rosehill Christian.
The Cougars have produced big offensive numbers behind quarterback Ben Brittain and running back Bradley Bass while the defense has received strong performances from safety John Aynesworth and defensive ends Bryce Thornton and Eli Ferris.
Reicher’s defense will be tested by Geneva Prep quarterback Will Langenbahn who has passed for 1,838 yards and 28 touchdowns while running back Devon Ahrens has rushed for 1,330 yards and 14 scores.
“Their running back is hard to bring down and their quarterback makes good decisions,” said Reicher coach John Ryan. “He’s a dual-threat quarterback and they’ve got a good mix of receivers who can exploit matchups. But I feel like we’re playing real well right now. We’ve been executing well offensively the last five or six games. Defensively we’ve been forcing turnovers and playing good assignment football.”