No. 20 Midway (11-2) at Euless Trinity (10-2)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., 1660 AM, 92.3 FM, 100.9 FM, online stream
What’s at stake: For the Panthers, it’s a chance to get the season started right and avenge last year’s only regular-season loss. Trinity will be trying to protect its home turf at Pennington Field.
Breakdown: Very few high school football programs in the state have a well-earned identity like Euless Trinity. The Trojans are known for big, strong offensive linemen that drive a power running game. Even with just one starter returning on offense and two on defense, Trinity is viewed as the favorite in District 3-6A.
Midway coach Jeff Hulme said it will help to have seen the Trojans a year ago, when Trinity came to Hewitt and thumped the Panthers, 37-7. Midway got a taste of Trinity’s style, both at the varsity and subvarsity levels. Although, having seen video of the Trojans this preseason, Hulme joked that some of those JV players must have hit a growth spurt in the offseason.
Hulme said Jared Moore will start the game at quarterback, but he expects to use three QBs in the game as Preston Recks and Tyler Webb will likely see action.
Midway running back Will Nixon excelled in a running back/wide receiver role last season and looked like the heir apparent to get the bulk of the carries after James Fullbright graduated. But it could be more of a backfield rotation between Nixon, junior Jaden Johnson and sophomore Dhamir McDonnaugh. Nixon is a playmaker, so if he’s not lining up beside the QB, look for him at slot receiver, or really anywhere that strikes the Panthers coaches’ fancy.
Midway came through the preseason feeling good and Hulme said his squad is about as healthy as a team can be going into the opener at Pennington Field.
University (3-7) vs. Waco High (1-9)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., 101.3 FM, online stream
What’s at stake: Waco High expects to improve on its 1-win season a year ago and will try to start fast with a victory over the Trojans. University came within a touchdown of defeating the cross-town rival Lions in 2018’s season opener. The Trojans will attempt to show they’re still climbing by notching the win this time around.
Breakdown: It’s always a special night when Waco High and University meet, especially since it’s the annual occasion for the Waco ISD Hall of Fame induction. This year’s class includes former MLB player Tim Spehr, Richfield Class of 1984, former NFL player Walter Napier, A.J. Moore Class of 1951, football standout Margin Hooks, Waco High Class of 1996, and tennis star Bill Matyastik, University Class of 1972.
But festivities aside, both the Lions and Trojans will be hungry to win this game.
Waco High coach Kwame Cavil, who was a star receiver for the Lions in the 1990s, said there’s always a little something extra in this contest.
“These kids are familiar with each other,” Cavil said. “It’s kind of like Texas-Texas A&M, where you’ve got almost brothers playing against each other. It’s guys you’ve competed against in pee wee and middle school, all the way up.”
Waco High’s likely starting QB will be sophomore Devion Long, who saw plenty of action at the position as a freshman a year ago. His ability to command the Lions’ offense and move it down the field will be a big factor against University.
The Trojans had a QB battle in preseason practice between Emilio Arechiga and Jacob Bryant. Whoever is taking the snaps for University will lean heavily on running back Jeremiah Stroupe and receiver Corey Sandolph to make plays.
No. 8 Lorena (11-2) at China Spring (6-6)
What’s at stake: Lorena spring boarded a fantastic 2018 season by defeating China Spring, 35-21, at Leopard Stadium. Now the Leopards want to do it again, this time on the Cougars’ field. China Spring would very much like to reverse roles.
Breakdown: When the UIL opted to split each classification from 1A through 5A into divisions, it created an opportunity to have matchups like this one early in the season. Lorena and China Spring play each other in district in most other sports and were longtime district foes in football, so this season opener will have a familiar edge.
It’s also one of the best QB battles in Central Texas and maybe throughout the state this week as Lorena senior Bradley Lina led the Leopards to the third round of the playoffs last season, while China Spring sophomore Brayden Faulkner passed for 1,965 yards and 12 TDs as a freshman a year ago.
“For (Faulkner) it’ll be a lot different,” Lorena coach Ray Biles said. “He’s got 12 starts under his belt and a playoff win. That’s good for the Cougars.”
Biles said his team is young and might take a few weeks to develop. But the Leopards, with five returning starters on offense and defense, actually have a slight advantage in that category over China Spring, which brings back four starters on both sides. However, because this is an established local rivalry with at least a few savvy players on both sides, expect it to be a well-played and hard-fought contest.
It might come down to which big-play receiver can turn the momentum – Lorena’s Ty Moore or China Spring’s Jacob Kuligowski.
China Spring coach Brian Bell is ready to see how well his defense tackles coming out of preseason practice.
“We don’t tackle in practice that much and don’t tackle to the ground, so the scrimmages were really the only time we’ve seen that,” Bell said. “But I know (the Cougar defenders are) ready to hit somebody.”
No. 1 La Vega (14-2) at Medina Valley (7-4)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., 94.5 FM (live stream)
What’s at stake: For the Pirates, a chance to start off their title defense with some momentum; for Medina Valley, it’s an opportunity to spring a possible season-defining upset.
Breakdown: Last year’s championship rings will never stop glistening. Yet the time has come for the Pirates to kick off a new season, and try to add to their jewelry collection.
They appear to be ready.
“Any time you can step on the field for a real game against a quality opponent, you can’t help but be excited,” La Vega coach Don Hyde said. “The kids are excited, and we’re excited as a staff for a chance to be playing football again.”
La Vega’s running game has been as easy to stop as a runaway boulder heading downhill in recent years. The Pirates will benefit from three returning starters on the offensive line, who will help clear a path for RB Jar’Quae Walton, who rushed for 1,625 yards and 17 TDs last year.
A year ago, La Vega pounded Class 5A’s Medina Valley, 39-8, in the season opener. But Hyde noted that this team should look different, starting with a change at head coach, where former assistant Lee Crisp has replaced Chris Soza, who left for Beeville.
“They’ve kind of adopted a spread attack,” Hyde said. “The quarterback (Charlie Marsh) can run on offense, their tailback (James Gipson) is big and tough and hard to bring down. … We’ve just got to go out and play hard, and play La Vega football.”
No. 6 Connally (8-4) at Palestine (3-7)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., 1590 AM, 99.3 FM, online stream
What’s at stake: Connally will try to start a much-anticipated season with a road victory. Palestine takes the first step in establishing a new identity with first-year coach Lance Angel, who returned to the school after spending five years as Bryan ISD’s athletic director.
Breakdown: Connally rolled past Palestine, 42-26, at Mac Peoples Stadium a year ago in the season opener. Cadets running back Jay’Veon Sunday set the tone for the season by rushing for 294 yards and four touchdowns.
That started Connally on the road to a strong campaign in which it reached the second round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Palestine struggled most of the fall and the Wildcats have a new coach this year.
Palestine coach Angel has installed a wing-T offense to try to run a ball control scheme in a district with a plethora of dynamic offenses. Even so, Connally coach Shane Anderson noticed on scrimmage video that the Wildcats have plenty of big-play ability on their own offense.
Cadets QB Kavian Gaither will make his debut running the offense and he has plenty of talent around him. Connally returns the Super Centex Offensive Player of the Year in Sunday and a group of receivers that played a key role in helping the Cadets reach the 7-on-7 state tournament.
The challenge will be for the Connally defense to be physical in the box and take the ball back from the Palestine offense and put it in the hands of the Cadets’ playmakers.
Kerens (2-8) at Reicher (4-7)
What’s at stake: New Reicher coach Tyler Holcomb‘s rallying cry since taking over as athletic director and head football coach has been to “Grow the growl.” The season opener is the Cougars’ first chance to do that on the field.
Breakdown: Reicher edged Kerens by a point on the Bobcats’ home field to start the 2018 season. But there aren’t very many players left on either roster that played in that game.
Reicher has just three players back who started last season and Kerens has only a pair of starters back on both sides of the ball. So the Cougars and Bobcats will be trying to find themselves when they kick off at Reicher’s J.J. Kearns Field.
Holcomb said quarterback Jake Boozer, who was held out of the Cougars’ scrimmage against Mart last week, is healthy and ready to go. He’ll operate behind an offensive line led by senior Noah Plsek.
The key for Reicher’s chance to start off the Holcomb era with a win will be to win the battle in the trenches. That means running the ball effectively and containing the edge when the Bobcats have it.
But Holcomb is confident coming out of preseason camp, especially with Boozer and wide receiver Will Aynesworth healthy again. “We’re going to look a lot different than we did in the scrimmage,” Holcomb said.
No. 1 Mart (15-1) at Bosqueville (8-4)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., Lonestargridiron.com
What’s at stake: Bosqueville is seeking revenge after Mart opened last season with a 67-12 blowout of the Bulldogs to jump start its Class 2A Division II state championship season.
Breakdown: The Panthers will field a much younger team this season with as many as eight sophomores expected to start. However, Mart has experience in key spots with senior quarterback Kyler Martin back from an injury, junior Roddrell Freeman bringing dynamic running skills to the backfield, senior Micah Sauls anchoring the offensive line, and senior middle linebacker Tony Sanchez leading the defense.
Bosqueville also has some rebuilding to do with just seven starters returning and having to replace quarterback Tyler Webb, who transferred to Midway. But Coach Clint Zander likes what he’s seen from junior quarterback Luke Bradshaw and senior quarterback Ian Guerrero.
The quarterbacks will have some talent surrounding them in wide receiver Will McClellan and running backs Hunter Henexson and Blaine Reynolds. Though opening against Mart is formidable, Zander will get an idea where his team stands.
“We could schedule teams that are weaker, but Mart is an explosive team that will show you where you are weak,” Zander said.
Marlin (0-10) at McGregor (4-6)
What’s at stake: Marlin coach David Haynes Jr. and McGregor’s Mike Shields will try to get their debut seasons at their respective schools off to a successful start.
Breakdown: When Haynes accepted his first head coaching at Marlin during the offseason, he quickly noticed that McGregor was the first game on the schedule. Haynes is a McGregor graduate who starred at quarterback for the Bulldogs and was later an assistant coach at his alma mater.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Haynes said. “But I’m going to try to approach it like I would any other game.”
Haynes has his work cut out for him as he takes over a team that went 0-10 last year, but he likes the progress the Bulldogs have made and is excited about the potential of quarterback Braylen Fisher and running back Sir Charleston Lee.
Shields is taking over a McGregor squad that finished 4-6 last year, but there’s a lot of experience returning. McGregor’s offense has a chance to be explosive behind quarterback Veandre McDaniel, who passed for 2,169 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He’s got a pair of top targets in receivers Jhobe Smith and Deondre Parker.
“We had a lot of sophomores who played last year, and getting varsity experience helps out,” Shields said. “I can tell coach Haynes is getting in there and getting his players going at Marlin. We’ll prepare for plenty of talent and speed.”
Taylor (4-7) at Robinson (5-6)
Radio: 7:15 p.m., 104.9 FM, online stream
What’s at stake: With 31 seniors on his roster, Robinson coach Tommy Allison hopes to get the season off to a big start.
Breakdown: After reaching the bi-district playoffs last season, the Rockets are looking for bigger things with eight starters returning on each side of the ball and plenty of veteran depth behind them.
Quarterback Jordan Rogers passed for 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns last year while Malik Ford is a talented running back. Cade Allison anchors the offensive line and Kaden Honeycutt leads the defensive line.
Former Riesel coach Robert Little became Taylor’s head coach during the offseason, and will take over a team that is also coming off a bi-district playoff appearance. Quarterback Michael Schneider is back after recovering from a season-ending injury last season. Running back Jason Martinez and lineman Alex Estrada also bring veteran leadership.
“Taylor will be very athletic, and they’re going to have kids that will try to attack you in space,” Allison said. “They have a new scheme with a new coach, and they’ll be different than in the past. They’re in a gun with a lot of tight end and two-back sets.”
Hillsboro (5-6) at West (8-4)
What’s at stake: Coffee shop bragging rights between a pair of old, familiar rivals
Breakdown: It’s the debut game for head coach Steve Hale in Hillsboro, who comes to the Eagles after three years in Groesbeck. Hale knows Hillsboro well, though, as he grew up in the town and was an assistant coach there from 1998-2001. As such, he knows the history and meaning behind Hillsboro vs. West.
“Both communities enjoy this game,” Hale said. “It’s one of those games everybody looks forward to. I’ve got a lot of friends in the West community, and this one, with the weekend of Westfest, it should feel like a homecoming environment.”
Early in the year, Hale wants his team to figure out its identity, “who we are and who we’re going to become.” Quarterback Thomas Pratt, who threw for 961 yards last year, should assume the role of either the bread or the butter in Hillsboro’s scheme.
West has a load of starters to replace off last year’s 8-4 area finalist. However, QB Landon Edwards should benefit from the experience he gained last year, and the Trojans are blessed with a deep and sturdy running back rotation.
Last year, West rolled in this matchup of former district rivals, 58-7.
No. 7 Clifton (11-1) at Valley Mills (5-6)
What’s at stake: Highway 6 neighbors get a chance to see how far along they are as season kicks off
Breakdown: The speed limit between Clifton and Valley Mills on Highway 6 tops out at 70 miles an hour, but it’s even faster on the football field.
“They’re disciplined and well-coached, and they go 100 miles an hour,” Valley Mills coach Sam Moody said of Clifton. “You turn the film on and watch them play, and you see 11 guys going 100 miles an hour all the time.”
Clifton won its first 11 games of the 2018 season, and the Cubs feature a team capable of assembling another unbeaten regular season. QB Mason Brandenberger (more than 2,300 yards of total offense) stands out as one of the most skilled signal callers in Central Texas. Riley Perry is a two-way force at both running back and linebacker, where he won district defensive MVP honors in 2018.
“In December, these guys set goals for the next year (2019) and they recognized with the guys we had coming back the opportunity that was in front of them,” Clifton coach Chuck Caniford said. “But they also understand that everything is earned. What we did last year was great and fun, but now it’s time to go out and perform.”
Valley Mills has high aspirations of its own. RB Spencer Eccleston (1,228 yards, 15 TDs) headlines a group of 17 returning starters, and the Eagles are coming off a good week of practice. “We’re just looking for improvement from week to week,” Moody said.
Live Oak (5-7) at Vanguard (8-3)
What’s at stake: The winner of this cross-town clash will take the first step in claiming the mythical city championship between Waco’s private-school six-man powers.
Breakdown: The Falcons and Vikings feature two of the area’s most consistent six-man programs, combining for 83 wins over the past five years.
Vanguard is breaking in a new head coach in Luke Pilant, who moved up from the offensive coordinator position. Pilant is pleased with the overall team speed he has to work with, and he’ll certainly try to put DB/WR Marlow Welch in space as often as possible. Welch was a TAPPS all-state performer last year as a freshman.
Live Oak enters its second season under Brice Helton. The Falcons feature an especially green roster – 17 of the team’s 25 players are freshmen and sophomores – but they don’t lack playmaking ability. One guy to watch is freshman spreadback Will Schorlemer, one of the team’s standouts in preseason camp.
Last year, Vanguard used a 68-22 season-opening win over Live Oak as a launching pad for another strong season that included both a playoff trip and the mythical private-school six-man city title, as the Vikings went on to beat Parkview and Methodist Children’s Home as well.
Week 1: Trib staff high school football picks
|Waco High vs. University||University||Waco High||Waco High|
|Midway at Euless Trinity||Midway||Midway||Midway|
|Belton at Austin Westlake||Westlake||Westlake||Westlake|
|Temple at RR Cedar Ridge||Cedar Ridge||Temple||Cedar Ridge|
|Lorena at China Spring||China Spring||Lorena||Lorena|
|La Vega at Medina Valley||La Vega||La Vega||La Vega|
|Gatesville at Midlothian Heritage||Heritage||Heritage||Gatesville|
|Taylor at Robinson||Robinson||Robinson||Robinson|
|Connally at Palestine||Connally||Connally||Connally|
|Mexia at Cameron Yoe||Mexia||Yoe||Yoe|
|Fairfield at Rusk||Fairfield||Fairfield||Rusk|
|Groesbeck at Rice||Rice||Groesbeck||Groesbeck|
|Marlin at McGregor||McGregor||McGregor||McGregor|
|Malakoff at Teague||Malakoff||Malakoff||Malakoff|
|Hillsboro at West||West||West||West|
|Jarrell at Whitney||Whitney||Whitney||Whitney|
|Salado vs. Troy (at UMHB)||Troy||Troy||Troy|
|Clifton at Valley Mills||Clifton||Clifton||Clifton|
|Hamilton at Millsap||Millsap||Millsap||Millsap|
|Tolar at Crawford||Tolar||Crawford||Crawford|
|Mart at Bosqueville||Mart||Mart||Mart|
|Bruceville-Eddy at Rio Vista||B-Eddy||Rio Vista||B-Eddy|
|Itasca at Wortham||Itasca||Wortham||Itasca|
|Moody at Holland||Holland||Holland||Moody|
|Thrall at Riesel||Riesel||Riesel||Riesel|
|Axtell vs. Dawson (Thu. at Waco ISD)||Axtell||Axtell||Axtell|
|Rosebud-Lott at Anderson-Shiro||A-Shiro||A-Shiro||R-Lott|
|Cayuga at Frost||Cayuga||Cayuga||Frost|
|Hubbard at Bartlett||Hubbard||Hubbard||Hubbard|
|Santo at Meridian||Santo||Santo||Meridian|
|Bremond at Normangee||Normangee||Bremond||Bremond|
|Chilton at Cushing (7 p.m.)||Cushing||Cushing||Cushing|
|Kerens at Reicher||Reicher||Reicher||Reicher|
|FW Atlas Home School at Texas Wind||Wind||Wind||Wind|
|Abbott at Avalon||Abbott||Abbott||Abbott|
|Gholson at Morgan||Gholson||Gholson||Morgan|
|Coolidge at Granbury N. Central Texas||Coolidge||Coolidge||Coolidge|
|Penelope at Buckholts||Penelope||Buckholts||Penelope|
|Covington at Kopperl (Thu.)||Covington||Covington||Kopperl|
|Evant at Crowley Nazarene||Evant||Nazarene||Evant|
|Iredell vs. Dallas UME Prep (5 p.m. at Gorman)||Iredell||Iredell||Iredell|
|Cranfills Gap at Mount Calm (7 p.m.)||Gap||Gap||Gap|
|Sidney at Walnut Springs (7 p.m.)||WS||Sidney||WS|
|Oglesby at Bynum||Bynum||Bynum||Oglesby|
|Live Oak at Vanguard||Live Oak||Vanguard||Vanguard|
|Bulverde Living Rock at Parkview (6:30)||Parkview||Parkview||Living Rock|
|Methodist Home vs. Gordon (5 p.m. Thu. at Gorman)||Gordon||Gordon||MCH|
|Eagle Christian vs. FW Covenant Classical (6 p.m. at Gholson)||Covenant||Covenant||Covenant|
|Jonesboro vs. Newcastle (5 p.m. Sat. at Gorman)||Jonesboro||Newcastle||Jonesboro|
|Blum vs. McLean (5:30 p.m. Sat. at Jayton)||McLean||McLean||Blum|
|Aquilla vs. Aspermont (8 p.m. Sat. at Gorman)||Aspermont||Aspermont||Aquilla|