Cleburne (2-0, 0-0) at University (2-1, 0-1)

Last week: Cleburne idle; University lost to Burleson, 52-13

What’s at stake: It’s a golden opportunity for both teams to snatch their first district win of the season. Certainly, the Trojans don’t want to fall into an 0-2 hole in the District 5-5A Div. II race.

Breakdown: Rodney Smith knows his team will need to start better if it wants to finish this game off with its first district victory.

In last week’s blowout loss at Burleson, the Trojans surrendered two touchdowns to the Elks in the first five minutes of the game. University doesn’t want a repeat against the Yellowjackets, who are coming off an open date.

The Trojans have spent this week trying to clean up the mistakes that aided last week’s sluggish performance. It’s not like they don’t have capable playmakers. Jeremiah Stroupe rushed for more than 200 yards in last year’s meeting with Cleburne. Receiver Corey Sandolph has flashed game-breaking speed, and had a 55-yard TD reception last week.

Cleburne has won the past three meetings with University, including a 47-3 triumph last year in Cleburne.

No. 3 La Vega (2-1) at Pflugerville (1-2)

Radio: 7 p.m., 94.5 FM, centexbeat.com

Last week: La Vega defeated Austin LBJ, 21-7; Pflugerville lost to Elgin, 37-28

What’s at stake: The Pirates are trying to build momentum in nondistrict play by sweeping the home-and-home versus Pflugerville. The Pirates defeated the 5A Panthers, 61-14, in 2018.

Breakdown: La Vega began the season with an inexperienced defense, but it appears the Pirates are making progress on that side of the ball.

Last week, while holding Austin LBJ to a touchdown, La Vega linebackers La’Travius Johnson and Jordan Rogers combined for 24 tackles, including five for losses. Defensive end De’Traveon Thompson pitched in a pair of sacks among his six stops.

The Pirates will try to keep improving against a Panthers team that, despite their 1-2 record, have scored 25 points per game against 5A and 6A competition.

La Vega running back Jar’Quae Walton is leading the way for a rushing attack that’s gaining 199 yards per game. Pirates QB Landry Kinne has provided excellent balance as he’s thrown for 533 yards and seven touchdowns through three games.

China Spring (2-1) at Alvarado (1-2)

Last week: Alvarado defeated Kennedale, 35-28, in double overtime; China Spring lost to Connally, 21-20

What’s at stake: It’s not a district game, so it’s not a season-maker, but China Spring doesn’t want to let one loss snowball into something bigger.

Breakdown: China Spring coach Brian Bell took last week’s one-point loss to Connally on his own shoulders.

“We just got outcoached. I did a bad job of preparing the guys to finish the game,” Bell said. “That’s on me. We had great effort and it wasn’t one play that killed us, but just a bunch of little things combined.”

Bell said the Cougars have worked on addressing those things in practice this week. They’ll need to be on their game against Alvarado, a team that the coach said compares favorably with Connally. “They’re hard-nosed and very physical,” he said. “Not super-flashy, not trying to trick you.”

Emmaneul Abdullah has ably stepped into the vacancy left over by stud running back Erik Hart for China Spring. Abdullah rushed for 154 yards in last week’s game against Connally. Safeties Jordan Nevarez and Major Bowden have proven to be major contributors on the defensive side.

What Bell likes most about his bunch is that they listen.

“It’s just fun to watch these guys play football,” he said. “They love playing the sport, and you don’t have to coach effort, which makes it a lot easier for us as coaches. They’ve very coachable – they listen to us.”

No. 3 Connally (3-0) at Gatesville (0-3)

Radio: 7 p.m., 1590 AM, 99.3 FM, online stream

Last week: Connally defeated China Spring, 21-20; Gatesville lost to Cameron Yoe, 68-34

What’s at stake: The Hornets know a win over the third-ranked team in the state would be buzzworthy, to say the least. Connally is just looking to keep the train on the tracks.

Breakdown: Connally coach Shane Anderson isn’t about to take Gatesville lightly just because the Hornets are sitting at 0-3.

“They’ve played three good football teams in Heritage, Robinson and Cameron, and they’ve gotten better each week,” Anderson said. “They’re getting closer to winning one, and I just don’t want it to happen this week.”

Anderson said that his team came away a little nicked up from last Friday’s battle with China Spring. “They really got after us,” he said.

Obviously, everyone knows that the Cadets are going to try to get the ball to Jay’Veon Sunday (495 yards, 6 TDs on season), who knows how to march to the end zone. QB/DB Kavian Gaither is another who will get his name called by the P.A. announcer plenty of times, and LB Trey Walker is coming off a 16-tackle effort against the Cougars.

The Hornets threw two pick-sixes in their loss to Cameron, so ball security will be paramount for Gatesville. Wesley Brown also passed for 242 yards and a pair of TDs in that game, and has improved as the season has progressed.

Whitney (3-0) at No. 9 Robinson (3-0)

Radio: 7 p.m., 104.9 FM, online stream

Last week: Whitney defeated Hillsboro, 33-24; Robinson defeated Troy, 63-35

What’s at stake: Clean records and state rankings. Whitney could no doubt make a case for the top 10 in 3A Division I by going up a classification and winning a road game against the Rockets. Meanwhile, Robinson could keep bumping up the top 10 in 4A Division II with a victory.

Breakdown: Both teams are coming off momentum building wins. Robinson defeated Troy in a game billed by some as the Game of the Week last week. Meanwhile, Whitney hosted 4A Hillsboro and the Wildcats proved they could go up a classification and win.

High school football fans will find one of the more intriguing offensive matchups at Rocket Field. Robinson has been prolific and balanced so far this season, but the brightest stars have been quarterback Joseph McHenry and wide receiver Jordan Rogers, both of whom are at the top of their respective Central Texas stat categories.

The key matchup could be Robinson’s defense against Whitney’s multifaceted running game. Wildcats Dez Garner, Juan Saucedo and Devin Wilson have combined for 931 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in their three games. But Whitney is not all ground-and-pound as quarterbacks Wilson and Garrett Peacock have combined for 506 passing yards and seven touchdowns.

Robinson defeated the Wildcats by a point in Whitney last season. If both teams are sharp, this rematch could be every bit as exciting.

Teague (0-2) at Lorena (2-1)

Radio: 7:15 p.m., lorenaleopards.com

Last week: Lorena defeated Lampasas, 31-30; Teague had bye week

What’s at stake: The Leopards hope to stay on a roll with third straight win while Teague tries to break through with first win.

Breakdown: Lorena bounced back from a season-opening 42-21 loss to China Spring with a 42-21 win over Franklin and last week’s 31-30 win over Lampasas.

Senior quarterback Bradley Lina is off to a superb start by passing for 653 yards and seven touchdowns, and Ty Moore has been his key receiver with 17 catches for 404 yards and six scores. Balancing Lorena’s attack is AJ Brem, who has rushed for 239 yards while averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

“We have to fit our schemes to what our players can do,” said Lorena coach Ray Biles. “We’re settling in on what we can execute to make it work, and we’re taking what the defenses give us.”

Teague spent its bye week trying to find some defensive answers after opening with a 40-14 loss to Malakoff followed by a 49-22 loss to Mexia.

“They’re young, and anytime you’re young you go through growing pains,” Biles said. “But they’re athletic and they have guys who can make big plays.”

Troy (2-1) at Hillsboro (1-2)

Last week: Troy lost to Robinson, 63-35; Hillsboro lost to Whitney, 33-24.

What’s at stake: Who can catch the bouncing ball in this bounce-back opportunity? That’s the goal for both squads.

Breakdown: In their first year under Hillsboro alum Steve Hale, the Eagles have had to learn on the fly. It’s not like the schedule is going to offer up any cupcakes.

“We know our nondistrict schedule would allow us to be battle-tested going into district,” Hale said. “Every week we’ve had a good opponent, and that’s the case again this week with Troy.”

Indeed, Ronnie Porter’s Trojans are a team that can burn out the bulbs of the scoreboard. Zach Hrbacek, coming off last year’s 2,000-yard rushing season, hasn’t missed a beat. He put up 148 yards and three TDs in last week’s shootout with Robinson.

For Hillsboro, Saveon Spencer (26 tackles) and Jaace Miles (23 tackles) are two of the players who will be tasked with corralling Hrbacek and the Trojans.

“We’re still learning how to play 48 minutes,” Hale said. “We’ve had some growing pains, which is going to happen when you’re learning new offensive and defensive schemes. But the guys are playing hard, and mentally they want to learn.”

Brownsboro (0-3) at West (0-3)

Last week: Godley defeated West, 36-14; Sunnyvale defeated Brownsboro, 57-41

What’s at stake: Both West and Brownsboro are seeking first wins of the season.

Breakdown: West is looking to close its nondistrict schedule with a win after losing each of its first three games by three touchdowns or more.

Trojans quarterback Landon Edwards has shown some potential by passing for 276 yards and three touchdowns, but is looking to cut down on turnovers after throwing five interceptions. Ty Janek is West’s top rusher with 194 yards and two scores.

The Trojans’ defense is seeking improvement after allowing 120 points in the first three games.

“We just have to be a more consistent team,” said West coach David Woodard. “We’re young and inexperienced. If we can be more consistent in our execution and assignments, we’re talented enough to get the job done.”

While Brownsboro has lost its first three games, its offense broke out in last week’s 57-41 loss to Sunnyvale. With most teams running a spread formation, preparing for Brownsboro’s wing-T formation takes extra preparation.

“They run a wing-T and do it well,” Woodard said. “You don’t see it much anymore and it’s hard to simulate in practice. But I think we’re doing a good job of preparing.”

No. 9 Clifton (2-1) at McGregor (2-1)

Last week: Clifton defeated Maypearl, 45-0; McGregor lost to Rogers, 53-20

What’s at stake: A lot of Central Texas small-town pride. Clifton smashed McGregor, 48-0, last fall. But the last time the Cubs went to McGregor, the Bulldogs won, 42-14, in 2015.

Breakdown: McGregor dropped its first game of the season as Rogers scored on offense, defense and special teams to pile up more than 50 points against the Bulldogs.

It won’t get much easier for McGregor this week as Clifton comes to town.

This will be a prime matchup of Central Texas QBs — McGregor’s Veandre McDaniel versus the Cubs’ Mason Brandenberger. McDaniel has passed for 436 yards and rushed for 137 with nine total touchdowns. Brandenberger counters with 600 passing yards, 213 rushing yards and nine TDs.

The contest on the edge will be a good one too as 6-foot-2 Clifton WR/DB T.J. Ferch will likely have quite a few one-on-one opportunities against McGregor’s 6-1 WR/DB Jhobe Smith.

Crawford (3-0) at No. 10 Holland (3-0)

Last week: Crawford defeated Rice, 28-7; Holland defeated Florence, 59-7

What’s at stake: A spot in the 2A Division I state rankings. Holland has played its way into the top 10 and now the Hornets have to defend their place. Crawford has already defeated a ranked foe this season when the Pirates edged 3A Division II No. 5 Clifton, 16-12, on Sept. 6.

Breakdown: Holland posted a 10-win season in 2018 and returned a ton of players from that squad. The Hornets look even better so far in this campaign, winning their three games by a combined score of 143-16.

Holland’s signature win so far is its 20-3 victory over then-top-ranked Mart in Week 2.

Crawford coach Delbert Kelm was most impressed by how the Hornets came close to shutting out Mart.

Holland has been impressive enough to nudge into the Texas Football rankings this week at No. 10 in Class 2A Division I.

Even with all of the Hornets accomplishments, though, Crawford’s overall resume might actually be better. The Pirates edged Tolar to start the season, then went a classification up and knocked off then-No. 5 Clifton in Week 2. Last week, Crawford established a 28-0 lead over Rice, then stiff-armed the Bulldogs the rest of the way.

The Pirates kept Clifton from finishing drives two weeks ago. They’ll likely need to do the same against Holland and make this a low-scoring affair in order to ride home after a win.

Riesel (1-2) at No. 3 Mart (1-2)

Radio: 7:15 p.m., www.mixlr.com/remo41869

Last week: Franklin defeated Mart, 20-16; Jarrell defeated Riesel, 34-31

What’s at stake: Bragging rights since the towns sit eight miles apart.

Breakdown: After opening the season with a 52-14 blowout of Bosqueville, Mart’s offense has struggled the last two weeks by scoring 19 points.

But the Panthers are certainly capable of regaining their offensive mojo. Roddrell Freeman has rushed for 331 yards and five touchdowns while Klyderion Campbell has added 204 yards on just 25 carries.

“Defensively, we’ve played well and we’ve shored up some things on special teams,” said Mart coach Kevin Hoffman. “But we’ve just to get better on offense. The execution isn’t there, we’re busting assignments, it’s just a combination of anything and everything.”

The Indians solved some of their offensive issues in a 37-34 loss to Jarrell after finding little success in a 40-0 loss to Meridan two weeks ago.

Will McClintock is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in Central Texas with 357 yards passing and three touchdowns while rushing for 269 yards and three scores.

“Will can run and throw, and he’s a tough, hard-nosed player who can run around and make plays with his feet and is smart,” Hoffman said.

No. 6 Bremond (3-0) at Reicher (1-2)

Last week: Bremond defeated Milano, 44-6; Reicher lost to Bosqueville, 60-12

What’s at stake: The Tigers have all the makings for an undefeated regular season, so they don’t need a blip on the map now. Reicher is trying to get back on track after consecutive losses.

Breakdown: Sometimes it’s all about hanging on for the ride.

“We told our guys, ‘Hey, this first year it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride,’’ Reicher coach Tyler Holcomb said. “There are going to be some ups and downs. That first week they were like, ‘All right, we’re going to win state!’ … Then the next week, (McKinney Christian) threw some different wrinkles at us, and we weren’t ready for that.”

After back-to-back losses to McKinney and Bosqueville, things don’t get any easier this week for Reicher. That’s because Jeff Kasowski’s sixth-ranked and unbeaten Bremond team come storming into town.

The coach’s son, Seth Kasowski, has really ascended as a playmaker for Bremond in this, his junior year. Kasowski has 482 passing yards and five TDs to go with no interceptions, along with another 260 yards and three TDs on the ground.

Reicher will counter with the pass-catch combo of Jake Boozer and Eric Ochoa, who have the potential to light up the recordbooks in Holcomb’s spread offense.

“Bremond’s going to come in with a lot of confidence, and they have the athletes,” Holcomb said. “We’re just focused on ourselves, and we’re trying to get ready for district. … Hopefully we can get this one this week and go into district on a roll.”

Week 4: Trib staff high school football picks

See what Trib staffers Chad Conine, Brice Cherry and Glynn Beaty think about this week's games.

  CHAD
CONINE
BRICE
CHERRY
GLYNN
BEATY
DISTRICT 12-6A
Harker Heights at Belton Belton Belton Belton
Shoemaker at Temple Temple Temple Temple
Midway at Killeen Ellison (Thu.) Midway Midway Midway
DISTRICT 5-5A DIV. II
Cleburne at University Cleburne Cleburne University
NON-DISTRICT
La Vega at Pflugerville La Vega La Vega La Vega
China Spring at Alvarado China Spring China Spring China Spring
Connally at Gatesville Connally Connally Connally
Teague at Lorena Lorena Lorena Lorena
Whitney at Robinson Robinson Robinson Robinson
Palestine at Fairfield Fairfield Fairfield Fairfield
Mexia at Coldspring-Oakhurst C-Oakhurst C-Oakhurst C-Oakhurst
Eustace at Groesbeck Groesbeck Groesbeck Groesbeck
Brownsboro at West West Brownsboro West
Clifton at McGregor Clifton Clifton Clifton
Cameron Yoe at Giddings Yoe Yoe Yoe
Troy at Hillsboro Troy Troy Troy
Early at Hamilton Early Early Early
Crawford at Holland Holland Holland Crawford
Hubbard at Valley Mills Hubbard Hubbard Hubbard
Rogers at Bosqueville Rogers Rogers Rogers
Granger at Bruceville-Eddy (7 p.m.) B-Eddy B-Eddy B-Eddy
Italy at Marlin Marlin Marlin Marlin
Dallas Inspired Vision at Itasca Itasca Itasca Itasca
Moody at Meridian Moody Moody Moody
Rosebud-Lott at Jarrell Jarrell Jarrell Jarrell
Riesel at Mart Mart Mart Mart
Dawson at Thorndale Thorndale Thorndale Thorndale
Malakoff Cross Roads at Frost Frost Frost Frost
Wortham at Cayuga Wortham Wortham Wortham
Chilton at Axtell Axtell Chilton Axtell
Bremond at Reicher Bremond Bremond Bremond
Dallas HSAA Blue Home School at Texas Wind (7 p.m.) Wind Wind Wind
SIX-MAN
Evant at Blum Blum Blum Blum
Abbott at Bryson Abbott Abbott Abbott
Aquilla at Gilmer Union Hill Union Hill Union Hill Union Hill
Morgan at Covington Covington Covington Covington
Jonesboro at Coolidge Jonesboro Jonesboro Jonesboro
Penelope at Mount Calm (7 p.m.) Penelope Penelope Penelope
Sidney at Cranfills Gap Gap Gap Gap
Walnut Springs at Avalon Avalon Avalon Avalon
Gordon at Iredell Gordon Gordon Gordon
Oglesby at Kopperl Kopperl Kopperl Kopperl
Gustine at Bynum Bynum Bynum Bynum
Live Oak at Methodist Home (7 p.m.) MCH MCH MCH
Vanguard at Watauga Harvest Harvest Harvest Vanguard
Gholson at Parkview Christian Gholson Gholson Gholson
Eagle Christian at Mineral Wells Community (7 p.m.) Eagle Eagle Eagle
RECORDS CHAD
CONINE
BRICE
CHERRY
GLYNN
BEATY
Last week 38-10 40-8 33-15
Season to date 109-37 103-43 89-57

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