#1 Cameron Yoe (2-0) at China Spring (2-0)
Last week: Cameron Yoe def. Lexington, 67-12; China Spring def. Connally, 58-12
Players to watch: China Spring QB Kameron Coe, RB Keaton Dudik, WR Cutter Haigood; Cameron Yoe RB Traion Smith, QB Jacob Smitherman
Last year’s meeting: China Spring, 23-14
Key matchup: China Spring front seven vs. Cameron Yoe RB Traion Smith
Breakdown: Non-district games don’t get much better than this one.
Both teams can score in bunches. The key matchup of China’s defense vs. Traion Smith is an understatement. Smith has rushed for 520 yards and eight touchdowns in his first two games, helping the Yoemen score 67 and 63 points respectively.
“This is a great opportunity to play the no. 1 team in the state at home,” China Spring head coach Mark Bell said. “We have to try to keep up with their offense and keep them off the field. They are stacked everywhere offensively.”
First-year starting QB Jacob Smitherman has made quite an early-season impression of his own. The junior has thrown for 525 yards and six scores. But Cameron Yoe head coach Ricky Rhoades’ team hasn’t been tested yet this year.
“This is why we schedule teams like China Spring on the road this early in the year,” Rhoades said. “Once you get into district and the playoffs you have to be able to beat good teams away from home. We hope to use this experience come playoff time.”
The Cougars offense is prolific. The three-headed monster of Coe, Dudik and Haigood have ravaged their first two opponents, scoring 89 points with relative ease.
China Spring WR Cutter Haigood is also a threat out of the backfield, rushing for 102 yards and two scores last week against Connally.
“Their offense is very fast and can burn you in a lot of ways,” Rhoades said. “It will be a big test. We will have to tackle well and limit their big plays.”
A nine-point winner a season ago against what proved to be Cameron’s third-straight state championship team, China Spring must play a complete game if the Cougars wish to make it two in a row.
“We can’t make any mistakes, have to play great defense,” Bell said. “When we get our opportunities, we need to take it down and score.”
La Vega (2-0) at Lorena (1-1)
Last week: La Vega def. Hutto, 27-21; Lorena def. Robinson, 41-35
Players to watch: Lorena QB Colby Reed, WR Jacob Spivey, S Zach Grimm; La Vega WR/CB Parrish Cobb, DT Fred Rogers, LB Kemoche Hobbs, RB Cameron Henry
Last year’s meeting: Lorena, 35-28
Key matchup: La Vega’s big play ability vs. Lorena defense
Breakdown: La Vega features a ton of speed and runs a quick-strike offense in the attempt to score early and often. Quarterback Jamal Williams had a slightly tougher of a time last week against a pretty good Hutto defense. His quick screen passing lanes were closed down early.
La Vega running backs Cameron Henry and Kendall Ratliff stole the show, though, as Henry ran for 229 yards and Ratliff for 124 and two scores.
“They’re fast,” Lorena head coach Ray Biles said. “You have to try and keep their offense off the field, but the problem is, their defense is playing lights out.”
The Pirate defense shut out Hutto in the second half, allowing the offense to score 13 in a comeback win.
Cornerbacks Parrish Cobb and Joseph Bryant (two picks last week) have made it tough on opposing QBs thus far. But La Vega’s key to stopping the Leopard offense lines up in the front seven.
DT Fred Rogers and LB Kemoche Hobbs will have their hands full with Lorena QB Colby Reed.
Reed is a big, physical runner that ducks his shoulder and likes to keep it between the tackles. Don’t be fooled by Reed’s physique. He can pop up and throw the ball, using Spivey as his favorite target.
Spivey, still trying to heal a broken hand, manages over 200 total yards and two touchdowns last week against old rival Robinson.
“It’s great for the kids to be at home,” Biles said. “We get to walk out that back door and play and we are excited. But we need to be prepared because I think this is Willie’s best team he has had in a long time.”
Mansfield Timberview (1-1) at Midway (0-2)
Last week: Timberview def. Midlothian, 34-17; Midway lost to Mansfield, 45-44
Players to watch: Mansfield QB Devin Williams, LB Michael Badejo; Midway RB Eric Clayburn, WR Joe Ward
Last year’s meeting: Midway, 41-34
Key matchup: Timberview’s offense vs. Midway’s defense
Breakdown: Midway finds itself in an unfamiliar position after letting a fourth quarter lead get away last week.
The Panthers have dropped three straight going back to last season, and the competition doesn’t get easier against Mansfield Timberview.
The Wolves came up just short to defending Class 5A Division II state champion Ennis in the opener before bouncing back to double up Midlothian.
QB Devin Williams is a dangerous player as a runner and thrower. He’s hit 24 of his 36 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s added 71 yards and a score on the ground. Six players have gained yardage on the ground for the Wolves, led by Travonne Armstead’s 110 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re very athletic, very well-coached, and offensively they have big-play potential at all times,” Midway coach Terry Gambill said.
The Panthers were hit for 317 yards on the ground and 250 through the air, so they will look to find ways to get off the field defensively.
Part of that will improvement will be to hold onto the ball offensively and keep it away from opponents. Despite Midway’s early struggles, its approach hasn’t changed.
“You’ve got to do your job, and you’ve got to do it for four quarters,” Gambill said. “You have to be consistent. That’s the most important thing.”
McGregor (1-1) at #8 Mart (2-0)
Last week: McGregor def. Marlin 43-14; Mart def. Normangee 70-34
Players to watch: McGregor QB CJ McLeain, WR Andrew Taylor; Mart RB Shatydrick Bailey, Tyrek Horne, QB Kellen Martin
Last year’s meeting: Mart, 54-23
Key matchup: McGregor defense vs. Mart speed
Breakdown: It’s been a year bitten by the injury bug for Tim Seward’s McGregor Bulldogs, but he isn’t making any excuses.
“We have three two-way starters out, so we are still trying to deal with that,” Seward said. “But we know we just have to scratch our way through, get some guys and just try to maintain until we get into district.”
McGregor beat a good offensive team last week in the Marlin Bulldogs, so Seward is hoping that momentum will carry against what is annually one of the more explosive offenses in Central Texas.
“On both sides of the ball, they are physical and quick,” Seward said. “They have a great winning tradition and that definitely carries over every year.”
Mart’s offense, under new head coach Kevin Hoffman, struggled a bit the first week, but bounced back by hanging 70 on Normangee. Bailey and Horne are a formidable duo in the Panther backfield, but the defense gave up over 300 yards passing last week against Normangee.
“We still think the defense played really well again,” Hoffman said. “We made progress offensively but need to limit our turnovers. We know McGregor will be a little bigger, so it will be all hands on deck. We need to rotate and stay fresh.”
Robinson (0-2) at Mexia (2-0)
Last week: Robinson lost to Lorena, 41-35; Mexia def. Teague, 27-20
Players to watch: Robinson RB Jordan Thompson, WR Braxton Ashcraft; Mexia WR Avery Williams, LB Tyrik Ray
Last year’s meeting: Robinson, 27-20
Key matchup: Mexia’s passing game vs. Robinson’s secondary
Breakdown: Two teams that have started the season in opposite directions meet.
For Robinson, it’s been a frustrating two weeks filled with turnovers and other mistakes that have cost it games, while Mexia is flying high after WR Avery Williams caught four touchdown passes from QB Jaylen Gipson to help it take down Teague last week.
“Offensively they have a really good quarterback, and he has ability to make plays whether it’s running or throwing,” Robinson head coach Tommy Allison said. “They have a really good receiver in Avery Williams. He’s a tall receiver, a touch matchup who can stretch the field, and they do a good job of spreading the field and making you defend the whole thing.”
Robinson has moved the ball offensively itself, but six giveaways in two weeks have taken away scoring chances that could have changed the outcome of both games.
“That’s really tough to overcome,” Allison said. “That’s an area where we have to do better.”
The Rockets won’t have an easy time against the Mexia defense, especially with LB Tyrik Ray in the middle.
“They have tremendous team speed, and they like to put lots of pressure in the box,” Allison said. “Tyrik Ray is a really good linebacker. he’s a big, physical guy who helps them take care of the middle.”
Groesbeck (2-0) at Teague (1-1)
Last week: Groesbeck def. Kane, 44-16; Teague lost to Mexia 27-20
Players to watch: Groesbeck RB Josh Forge, LB John O’Kelley; Teague QB Mikkail Shepherd, CB Cooper Jones
Last year’s meeting: Teague, 40-0
Key matchup: Groesbeck defense vs. Teague QB Mikkail Shepherd
Breakdown: The Goats are looking to start the season on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2004.
Groesbeck faces a tough test in Teague, a team still looking for its identity a year removed from the best overall season in school history.
The Goats defeated a Bullock team in week one that made the playoffs in 2014, but faced a subpar Canadian team in Kane last week.
Josh Forge has provided a spark offensively for the Goats. Defensively, O’Kelley has been a beast.
“They are better offensively and it shows from last year,” Teague head coach Donnie Osborne said. “Their running back (Forge) does a great job of running hard and they have several other offensive weapons. O’Kelley can hit and rushes to the ball hard.”
Coming off a seven-point loss to a solid Mexia team, Osborne still sees some question marks.
Shepherd has shown early bursts of speed, but struggled throwing the ball against the Blackcats. And with an almost brand new receiving core, Osborne knows it will take some time to gel.
“We just need more reps, and that’s what these non-district games do for us,” Osborne said. “We played good enough to win last week but that’s not going to be enough. We have to eliminate our mistakes and get back to doing what we can do.”
Crawford (2-0) at Clifton (1-1)
Last week: Crawford def. Hico, 20-7; Clifton def. Rosebud-Lott, 40-13
Players to watch: Crawford QB Wyatt Griffith, OL Jason Wiethorn; Clifton QB Tanner Thomas, RB Jordan Larance
Last year’s meeting: Crawford, 34-13
Key matchup: Clifton’s running game vs. Crawford’s front seven
Breakdown: A little confidence goes a long way.
Crawford always has it. Clifton is building it with every win.
“When you have confidence, it doesn’t affect you as much when you make a mistake,” Crawford coach Delbert Kelm said. “You can play through a little adversity better.”
Clifton ended a long playoff drought last year and won a game once it got there, and it comes in with an experienced group of skill players.
QB Tanner Thomas is as dangerous as they come in the area running the ball. He came up just short of the 2,000-yard barrier in that category last season, and is off to a strong start in this campaign.
“They’re much more athletic than they’ve been,” Kelm said. “They might not be as big, but they’re much more athletic than they were last year. They’ve got a dangerous quarterback, and that’s always a worry. He’s got tremendous speed, and he’s a breakaway threat on every play.”
Crawford’s defense hasn’t let much get past it yet this season, but it has struggled more than normal with turnovers and penalties.
QB Wyatt Griffith ran for 85-yard and 75-yard touchdowns last week and finished with more than 200 yards, but Kelm said he knows the Pirates need to throw the ball more to be successful. Crawford isn’t sure what type of defense it will face, but that’s nothing new.
“They’re multiple on defense, so I don’t know what they’ll do against us,” Kelm said. “They scrimmaged Hico, so I have a feel for how they lined up there. But they played a completely different defense against us than they did against Hico last year, so we don’t really know.”
Calvert (2-0) at Abbott (1-0)
Last week: Abbott was idle; Calvert def. Denton Calvary, 46-0
Players to watch: Calvert QB JaQuan Thompson, RB Zacchaeus Williams; Abbott
Last year’s meeting: Abbott, 44-36
Key matchup: Calvert’s speed vs. Abbott’s physicality
Breakdown: File this one in the strange-but-true section, but this game was originally scheduled to be played in Calvert but has been moved to Abbott.
Why? A group of armadillos has uprooted the southeast portion of the field in Calvert and made it unplayable.
The game may have changed venues, but what it represents hasn’t. It’s a battle of two of Class 1A’s traditional powers.
“Coach (Wayne) Ware has brought in some of his own stuff. They’ve added a little more to the offense, and their defense has adjusted. But they’re still extremely talented and extremely athletic,” Crawford coach Terry Crawford said.
This is a huge step up in competition for both teams. Neither defense has yet to be scored upon, with Calvert posting shutouts of Marshall Christian and Denton Calvary, while Abbott blanked Austin Hill Country in its opener before having a bye last week.
The Panthers went back to basics and focused on some things Crawford felt they had neglected during the off week, and they feel they’re more polished going into this contest.
They’ll need to be, as this is always an intense and usually close battle.
“They are definitely talented,” Crawford said. “They have lots of speed like you would expect from a Calvert team. They like to play physical, and they like to come hit you. That makes for an interesting game.”
Gatesville (0-2) at Connally (0-2)
Last week: Gatesville lost to Stephenville, 28-21; Connally lost to China Spring, 59-12
Players to watch: Gatesville QB Jeff Speer, LB Cooper Edmiston; Connally ATH Ronnie Briscoe, LB Jamaica Doyle
Last year’s meeting: Gatesville, 34-20
Key matchup: Battle in the trenches
Breakdown: It’s been a tough start to the season for both teams, part of which can be attributed to playing top-tier competition.
Gatesville has been in both of its games against Brownwood and Stephenville, while Connally has taken it on the chin in losses to Cameron Yoe and China Spring.
“We’ve learned we’re a young and inexperienced football team, but we’ve played two quality opponents,” Connally coach Shane Anderson said. “We look for both of those teams to make deep playoff runs. The thing we have to do is take care of the ball on offense and not stop ourselves.”
Anderson pointed out the Cadets have rushed for more than 300 yards in both of their games, and “you’d expect to score more than 14 and 12 points when you do that.”
But it’s been youthful mistakes that have hurt Connally. A dropped pass in the end zone got the ball rolling against the Cadets last week.
Connally will have to find a way to counter a Gatesville team that presents multiple challenges from the standpoint of lining up from anywhere in a I-formation with two tight ends to an open-backfield spread, and a physical style. On defense, the Hornets try to keep blockers off of LB Cooper Edmiston and let him clean everything up.
“They do a great job,” Anderson said. “Cooper Edmiston is an unbelievable football player on defense, but they also move him around and use him on offense. This is two good teams, and we’re just looking for that first win of the year. We’re glad we’ve got them at home. It’s homecoming, and we should have a good crowd and a good atmosphere.”
Bosqueville (2-0) at Tolar (0-2)
Last week: Bosqueville def. Hubbard, 35-6; Tolar lost to Comanche, 31-14
Players to watch: Bosqueville Bosqueville RBs Adrian Mathis and Marcell Estell, QB Tanner Moncus; Tolar RB Marcus Garcia
Last year’s meeting: Tolar, 16-11
Key matchup: Bosqueville RBs vs. Tolar front seven Breakdown: Tolar was hit hard by graduation after advancing three rounds in the playoffs in 2014, and it’s shown in the Rattlers early games.
Tolar has given up 31 and 41 points and are facing a Bosqueville team that has put up some early points.
The Bulldogs are averaging 49 point-per-game. Mathis has four scores on the ground thus far, both in blowout wins.
Harker Heights (0-2) at University (0-2)
Last week: Harker Heights lost to Round Rock Stony Point, 27-0; University lost to Georgetown East View, 34-28
Players to watch: Harker Heights OL Chris Hughes, OL Khalil Corbett-Canada; University RB Nick Ward, DB Joshua Browning
Last year’s meeting: Harker Heights, 52-13
Key matchup: University’s offense vs. Harker Heights’ defense
Breakdown: University had everything it wanted last week — a lead in the fourth quarter against a quality opponent.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, Raichey Green’s 65-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Crane with 8:30 to go didn’t prove to be a game-winner. East View scored less than two minutes later and held on from there.
It was a positive step, however, something coach Keith Willis has preached to his team throughout his tenure.
The Trojans outgained their opponents and popped three touchdowns of 50 yards or more. RB Nick Ward had one of those, a 79-yarder, and finished with 160 yards on 13 carries. But they were forced to punt six times, a number they’ll try to improve this week.
Harker Heights was shut out last week after falling victim to a Waco High comeback the week before, but it has a talented group on the offensive line and will provide a challenge for University’s smaller defenders.