No. 9 Midway (3-0) vs. Waco High (3-0)
Players to watch: Midway: Tanner Mordecai, Matthew Barnhill, Hakeem White, Matthew Barnhill, Marcus Johnson; Waco High: Terrance Hamilton, Jaley Harris, Nakeveyon Vincent
Key matchup: Waco High run game vs. Midway front seven
A smile spread across Terrance Hamilton’s face. Friday night, the Waco High Lions will trave…
Breakdown: Marty Herbst knows his defense will have its hands full against a loaded Midway offense. As the Waco High coach put it, the Panthers just have everything on that side of the ball.
“They’ve got a big, aggressive line and a quarterback going Division I, a running back that we’ve known about for a couple of years and another they threw in as a surprise last week unexpectedly and they’re solid at the receiver position. They’ll create quite a challenge for our defense.”
Midway’s Marcus Johnson, who plays linebacker, stepped in at running back last week as starter James Fullbright, and the next two backs on the depth chart went out due to injury. Johnson finished with 14 carries for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns to go with five tackles.
When the Midway Panthers watched film of their upcoming opponent, Waco High, one thing stood out in particular — they had to stop the run game. And in order to do that, they have to find some way to contain Terrance Hamilton.
Jaxon Player thinks Midway’s defense is better than the offense. The Panthers are led offensively by Oklahoma-commit Tanner Mordecai at quarterback, a Division-I laden offensive line and one of the best running backs in the area.
University (0-3) at Killeen Ellison (1-2)
Players to watch: University: QB Jordan Perkins, DL Josh Walker, WR C.J. Crain; Ellison: RB Tye Hill, QB Breezion Spiller
Key matchup: Ellison running back Tye Hill vs. University defensive line.
Breakdown: The Trojans will try to stop their losing streak from reaching 40 games with a road game against Ellison.
The Trojans are coming off a 49-20 loss to Gatesville but they showed some offensive firepower as Jeremiah Stroute broke away for an 85-yard touchdown run and Justin Williams made a 54-yard touchdown catch.
But University’s defense must show considerable improvement against an Ellison squad that’s averaging 34.3 points in its 1-2 start. Quarterback Breezion Spiller has thrown for 215 yards and three touchdowns while Tye Hill leads the ground game with 152 yards on just 13 carries.
“Ellison looks like a good football team that has a lot of speed and quickness,” said University coach Rodney Smith. “I’ve seen improvement in our team but not a lot of consistency. We have to get better at everything in all situations.”
Mexia (1-2) at No. 5 La Vega (3-0)
Players to watch: La Vega QB Jamal Williams, RB Kemoche Hobbs, DB Donta Stuart; Mexia: RB Jadrian Smith, QB Travion Carter, DB Jaquay Martin
Key matchup: La Vega running backs Kemoche Hobbs, John Richards and Cameron Henry vs. Mexia defensive line
Breakdown: The powerful Pirates rolled to their third straight win with a 42-12 blowout of Fort Worth Young Men’s Leadership Academy last week.
La Vega’s defense played up to its usual standard as defensive back Donta Stuart intercepted a pair of passes, including a 45-yard interception return.
Quarterback Jamal Williams threw a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes and the running game racked up 276 yards.
The Pirates will face a Mexia squad that broke through with a 36-8 win over Groesbeck last week for its first win of the season. Jadrian Smith exploded for four touchdowns while Mexia’s defense delivered a tremendous performance.
Franklin (2-1) at Connally (0-3)
Players to watch: Connally QB Gaylon Glenn, RB Javion Dawkins, LB Devin Pullin; Franklin RB Clayton Rostrim
Key matchup: Connally front seven vs. Franklin RB Clayton Rostrim
Breakdown: The Cadets are winless thus far in 2017, but there is a bright side.
Featuring only a handful of seniors in the starting 11, Connally is counting on young players to make an impact. Though the wins aren’t showing up yet this year, head coach Shane Anderson like the direction his team is headed.
“We are better than we were four weeks ago,” Anderson said. “We have played a tough non-district schedule and if we can play good tomorrow and next week, we should be ready to go when district comes around.”
The Cadets failed to score a touchdown last week against Royse City, but the defense showed signs of promise, recording a safety early in the game.
Athens (1-2) at Robinson (1-2)
Players to watch: Athens QB Xavius Fulton; Athens WR Rhe’jhi Sherfield; Robinson RB Isaiah Houston; Robinson QB Mason Cooper
Key matchup: Robinson ball security vs. Athens defense
Breakdown: For two weeks, closing time turned out to be a bummer for the Rockets. But last week against Troy, it was a party.
After dropping its first two games to Taylor and Lampasas by a combined six points, Robinson came out on the right end of a close game, surviving an overtime battle with Troy, 34-28.
“We’ve had opportunities in all three ball games, so it was nice to pull one out,” Robinson coach Tommy Allison said. “Part of it is that we’re learning how to close games. We’ve made some mistakes that have cost us in previous ball games, especially turning the ball over.”
Allison said that keeping a firm grasp on the pigskin will be key against Athens, which opened the year with a shutout of Mexia before dropping close games to Fairfield and Red Oak.
When the Rockets have secured the ball away, they’ve shown an ability to carve up the field. Isaiah Houston ranks second in Central Texas in rushing, with 608 yards through three games. Mason Cooper continues to grow and develop in his first year as Robinson’s starting quarterback, and Noah Richard and Jordan Rogers are emerging as reliable targets.
Lampasas (1-2) at Lorena (0-3)
Players to watch: Lampasas QB Ace Whitehead; Lampasas RB Sean Williams; Lorena WR Ben Craig; Lorena LB Riley Mitchell
Key matchup: Lorena third-down defense vs. Lampasas offense
Breakdown: Nobody ever wants to be 0-3. But Lorena coach Ray Biles knows exactly how his team landed in that position.
Let’s face it – losses to China Spring and La Vega, along with a one-point defeat to Franklin, are nothing to be ashamed about.
“It’s not a surprise, we’re playing good ball clubs,” Biles said. “We just need kids to respond well to the challenge. Last week (against Franklin) we’re up 12 in the fourth quarter, and we can’t hold on to the lead. There’s a learning curve, and we’re still working to overcome that.”
Lorena’s defense will need to be locked in against the Badgers, who put up 67 points two weeks ago in a win over Robinson. Lampasas QB Ace Whitehead is a legitimate ace, with 672 yards passing and seven touchdown tosses through the Badgers’ first three games. Four different receivers have tallied more than 100 yards on the year, and Lampasas also features a potent rushing game behind tailback Sean Williams, who is averaging 181 yards per outing.
Lorena welcomed its own standout running back, Thor Hoffman, back from injury last week. Biles said his team is dealing with the normal “nicks and boo-boos” that accompany a team approaching its fourth game of the year. But other than receiver/returner Ben Johnston, who is hobbled by a knee sprain, the Leopards should be at full strength for this one.
Lorena has been here before. Last year the Leopards started out 0-3 against those same three nondistrict foes before winning their next eight games, including a district championship.
Clifton (1-2) at Bruceville-Eddy (1-2)
Players to watch: Clifton RB Marc Gutierrez; Clifton LB Riley Perry; Bruceville-Eddy QB D.J. Weaver; Bruceville-Eddy RB Nathan Quattlebaum
Key matchup: Clifton running game vs. Bruceville-Eddy front seven
There’s something to be said for making your own way.
Breakdown: After picking up a huge win over state-ranked Crawford two weeks ago, Clifton took a step back with a shutout loss to Maypearl last Friday. Clifton coach Chuck Caniford said his players learned a lesson the hard way.
“We didn’t come out with the focus or energy that we had against Crawford, and that came back to bite us,” Caniford said. “Crawford is a close rival, a more emotional game for you, and I think we had a little emotional letdown against Maypearl, which is not a normal opponent.
“We’ve got to learn to play with the same intensity every week, regardless of the opponent.”
Bruceville-Eddy has been enduring its own hard-earned lessons. The Eagles opened the season with a 28-21 win over Moody before dropping games to Axtell and Early by a combined 15 points.
This matchup pits two of the more dynamic playmakers in Central Texas in Clifton running back Marc Gutierrez (516 yards, 3 TDs) and Bruceville-Eddy quarterback D.J. Weaver. They’re the type of home run threats that can be bottled up for a while, but will likely explode eventually.
Gatesville (3-0) at Hillsboro (1-2)
Players to watch: Gatesville: Jett Truss, Zach Mueller, Derrick Bayer; Hillsboro: Courtney Hewitt, Jamal Long
Key matchup: Gatesville air attack vs. Hillsboro secondary
Breakdown: Joey Moss calls Gatesville the most unselfish team he’s watched on film.
“They’re fast and have a lot of timing routes,” the Hillsboro coach said. “They run a lot of tunnel screen type stuff. The Gatesville wide receivers are out there blocking their tails off. Every single kid out there is flying around and doing his job perfectly.”
While Hillsboro looks to give the Hornets their first loss of the season, the Eagles hope to even their record at 2-2 after dropping a last minute contest to Whitney a week ago.
Despite last week’s loss, Moss has seen an impressive amount of fight and resiliency from his players.
“He had that ‘get on my shoulder’ mentality,” his head coach said. “He just took over the game.”
McGregor (1-2) at Marlin (1-2)
Players to watch: McGregor: Jared Lorenz, Johnathan Phenix, Michael Irons; Marlin: Kerry Collins II, Sir Charleston Lee, Donavon Blakes
Key matchup: McGregor secondary vs. Marlin’s offensive speed
Breakdown: Judd Thrash pulled Michael Irons into his office earlier this week and told him that he was nowhere near reaching his ceiling. Last week, Irons had 12 tackles to give him 28 total.
“He’s one of our most improved players since last year,” Thrash said. “He is a very aggressive player. Last year he only played on one side of the ball. This year he plays both and is producing on offense and defense. Michael has so much upside. He gets better every week.”
Crawford (2-1) at Bosqueville (1-2)
Players to watch: Crawford: Garrett Dutschmann, Charlie Adamick; Bosqueville: Marcell Estell
Key matchup: Crawford run game vs. Bosqueville front seven
Breakdown: Bosqueville will be ready for the run. Crawford’s Garrett Dutschmann is an explosive running back behind a physical offensive line.
However, Clint Zander doesn’t want his defense to forget about the pass.
“We have to come off the ball and stop their run for sure,” the Bosqueville coach said. “That’s the main key we have to do. But we have to make sure our defensive backs don’t fall asleep. Crawford drives the field on you running the ball but can hit you with a big pass play.”
China Spring (2-1) at Troy (1-2)
Players to watch: China Spring: Tyrek James, Brayden Mathis, Cayden Johnson; Troy: Chance Mosley
Key matchup: James vs. Troy defense
Breakdown: Mark Bell thought the Cougars played a complete 48 minute game in their win over Cameron Yoe last week. The China Spring coach was pleased with the overall team effort on both sides of the ball.
Now, he wants to see his team get out to a better start in the first half.
“We’ve played decent to start games,” Bell said. “The score has been 7-7 for three straight games. It’s time to get better and clean that up.”
Bremond (2-1) at Reicher (3-0)
Players to watch: Reicher QB Ben Brittain, RB/LB Bradley Bass; Bremond RB Kaidyn Peralez
Key matchup: Bremond defense vs. Reicher QB Ben Brittain
Breakdown: Another week, another tough non-district opponent for the Cougars.
Coming off an emotional last-second win over Bosqueville, the Cougars play host to state power Bremond, a team that lost its first game in four years a few weeka ago.
“Bremond is a state powerhouse each year,” Reicher head coach John Ryan said. “But we believe in playing good competition in our non-district schedule and believe we play to the level of our competition.”