Central Texas Games to Watch: Week 13

University (6-5) vs. No. 2 Fort Bend Marshall (10-1)

Round: Class 5A Div. II area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Giddings

Radio: 104.9 FM, CentexSportsFan.com

Streaming: NFHS Network, TexanLive.com

Breakdown: Making their first playoff appearance in 13 years, the Trojans rose to the occasion with a 34-21 win over Austin McCallum in the bi-district round.

Mekhi Sandolph starred for the Trojans as he ran for three touchdowns, including a 29-yarder late in the third quarter for the go-ahead score. In the final seconds of the game, Naje Drakes picked off a McCallum pass, his second interception of the night.

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“We asked our players to make a commitment to discipline and they’ve bought in,” said University coach Kent Laster. “The coaches have done a great job passing that down to the players.”

Explosive Fort Bend Marshall powered its way to the area round with last week’s 56-0 blowout of Huntsville. The Buffalos feature a balanced offensive attack led by quarterback Jordon Davis with 1,969 yards passing and 20 touchdowns while running for 676 yards and 13 scores.

Jy’adrian Wortham leads the ground game with 741 yards and 10 touchdowns and Jakobe Banks is a standout receiver who has made 46 catches for 901 yards and six touchdowns.

“They’re extremely talented and well-coached,” Laster said. “Davis can throw the ball and run, and is definitely a dual-threat that we have to minimize as much as we can.”

Connally (9-2) vs. Hamshire-Fannett (8-3)

Round: Class 4A Div. II area playoffs

Time, site: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Willis

Breakdown: The Cadets are on a real roll heading into the area playoffs as they’ve won six straight games, including last week’s 45-18 thrashing of Giddiings.

Kiefer Sibley keyed last week’s win with four touchdowns to bring his season totals to 2,091 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns. Quarterback JeLani McDonald is a major running threat with 852 yards and nine scores, and he can also sting defenses with his passing skills as he’s thrown for 507 yards and nine scores.

“We’re confident,” said Connally coach Terry Gerik. “We believe we can win, the players believe in the coaches and each other. It’s a tight-knit group that feeds off each other.”

Hamshire-Fannett romped to a 40-10 win over a nine-win Royal team in bi-district. Darius Zeno is a dual-threat quarterback who has passed for 1,458 yards and 14 touchdowns while running for 881 yards and 19 scores, including a 63-yarder against Royal.

Tyler Spencer is another big-time running threat who has rushed for 745 yards and 15 scores. John Henderson is the top receiver with 20 catches for 343 yards and three scores and is one of the Longhorns best defensive players at outside linebacker with 106 tackles and four sacks.

Free safety Gavin Deranieri leads the Longhorns with 132 tackles with 14 for loss.

“They’ve got a really good quarterback who can run and throw, and their running back can go too,” Gerik said. “He can hit you between the tackles and has good speed. They give you a lot of formations and try to make you line up wrong.”

Riesel (6-5) vs. Bangs (7-4)

Round: Class 2A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Burleson

Breakdown: Riesel went three rounds deep in the Class 3A Div. II playoffs last year, so the Indians weren’t necessarily intimidated by their underdog status in a 4 seed vs. 1 seed matchup in their 28-7 win over Cayuga.

“That definitely helps,” Riesel coach Tyler Crow said. “It’s more practices for those returning varsity lettermen, more opportunity to experience that stage. Those guys have been there before, and they understand it’s win or go home. That said, each year is a new year and each team is a new team.”

Gavin Oliver ran for a pair of touchdowns in the win over Cayuga, and the Indians will again try to stay well-grounded as they look to pop Bangs this week.

“We’ve got to play to our strengths,” Crow said. “We’re a physical run team and the games we’ve won, that’s what we’ve been successful at. … If we just take care of the basics — run the ball, play solid ‘D,’ and don’t make mistakes in special teams, we’ll give ourselves a chance at the end of the game.”

Riesel’s defense will be especially focused on Bangs RB Guy Powell, who went for 236 yards and five touchdowns in a 61-21 rout of Nocona to open the playoffs. “He’s their go-to guy, a special player,” Crow said.

The Riesel-Bangs winner will draw the Crawford-Coleman winner in next week’s regional quarterfinals.

No. 10 West (10-1) vs. Mt. Vernon (9-2)

Round: Class 3A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday at Forney

Breakdown: Hey, don’t I know you? It’ll be a familiar playoff matchup for the West Trojans, as they face off against Mt. Vernon in the postseason for the third consecutive year.

Last year, Mt. Vernon handed West its first loss of the season after 13 straight victories with a 24-13 win in the regional final round. The year before that in 2020, the teams met in the area playoffs, with the Tigers slipping away with a 24-21 triumph.

So, naturally, West has the ultimate respect for these cats, not to mention the ultimate motivation.

“What jumps out, number one, is how good they are on defense,” said West coach David Woodard. “They don’t give up a lot of points. They’ve struggled with some injuries on offense, including at quarterback, and that’s led to some growing pains. … But they’re still not your typical third-place team, they’re going to be a really good team.”

Of course, West’s own defense, headed up by defensive coordinator Dustin Sowders, is playing at a high level. Last week the Trojans pitched their third straight shutout and fifth of the season in a 21-0 bi-district scuffle against Mexia.

Woodard was proud of the way his defenders played, but noted that the Trojans need to clean up some of the offensive miscues they made against the Blackcats if they want to extend their run. Along with crisper execution, the coach just wants to make sure his team keeps playing hard.

“Effort. That’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “If we play up front harder than they do for longer, if we can win the battle in the trenches and take care of the football, maybe catch a big play here or there, we’ll give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

If West wins, it will move on to face either Malakoff or Winnsboro in the third round.

No. 1 Mart (11-0) vs. Cushing (8-3)

Round: Class 2A Div. II area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Madisonville

Breakdown: Handle your business. That was essentially the message Mart coach Kevin Hoffman gave his top-ranked Panthers last week, and they did just that in a 67-14 bi-district beatdown of Linden-Kildare.

“We talked all week about how everyone knows you’re the heavy favorite, but you’ve got to have the mentality that, ‘Hey, this is the playoffs, and if at any point we don’t take care of business we can get knocked out.’ It’s survive and advance,” Hoffman said.

The Panthers will look to carry that same mentality into this week’s matchup with Cushing. Hoffman said that the Bearkats compare favorably to a familiar Central Texas foe in Crawford.

“They remind me very much of Crawford,” he said. “They run that split-back veer on offense, they’ll give you multiple fronts on defense … They’re hard-nosed, well-disciplined kids and they’re never going to quit, whatever the score is, whether they’re up, down, whatever.”

Defensively, Mart continues to punish teams. As the Panthers rolled to 58 first-half points last week, they took advantage of a pick-six by Abram Ross and a scoop-and-score by Jonah Ross. The starting 11 on that rugged defense have given up only 55 points all year, Hoffman said.

The winner of this game will draw the Bowie-Deweyville winner in next week’s regional quarters.

No. 1 Abbott (11-0) vs. Union Hill (11-0)

Round: Class 1A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Mabank

Breakdown: This sexy six-man matchup represents half of the two unbeaten vs. unbeaten battles in all of Texas high school football this week, the other coming in Class 6A where Denton Guyer will face Highland Park.

“They’re not out there hiding in East Texas under our radar,” said Abbott coach Terry Crawford of Union Hill. “They’re probably the best team we’ve faced this year. They’re like us, they’re going to run the ball and not throw it unless they have to.”

That strategy, coupled with a lockdown defense, has worked wonders for the Panthers this season. Abbott has actually won all 11 of its games this season by the 45-point mercy rule, and has yielded only 44 points all season, with seven shutouts.

Abbott’s Riley Sustala remains one of the most prolific playmakers in all of six-man football, but he has some solid help in the likes of Joey Pavelka and Karsyn Johnson, among others.

Abbott also has a bit of payback on its mind, as Union Hill defeated the Panthers in the playoffs in 2016 and 2020.

If Abbott wins this one, it will draw the Gordon-Blum winner in round three. The Panthers scored a 66-18 win over Blum back in the season opener, the most points they’ve allowed in any game this season.

No. 3 Crawford (11-0) vs. No. 10 Coleman (9-2)

Round: Class 2A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Kangaroo Stadium in Weatherford

Streaming: Team1Sports.com

Breakdown: Crawford quarterback Luke Torbert missed the bi-district game with an ankle injury. Without him, the Pirates easily ran past Kerens, 66-7. But Crawford is going to need Torbert eventually and quite possibly in this top-10 area-round matchup. Crawford coach Greg Jacobs said the QB’s availability will be a game-time decision.

Coleman’s only losses this season came against ranked opponents. The Bluecats fell to Llano, which entered the playoffs at No. 5 in Class 3A Division I, then No. 7 Tolar beat Coleman in district play.

The Bluecats have won their last four games by a combined score of 185-14, so they’re on a roll.

With Torbert out, Crawford handed its offense over to running backs Breck Chambers and Camron Walker, who together rushed for 255 yards on 11 carries. 

The winner of this second-round game will play the Riesel-Bangs winner on Thanksgiving week.

No. 1 China Spring (10-1) vs. Kaufman (8-3)

Round: Class 4A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Corsicana

Streaming: Look! Livestreams on YouTube, Twitter; RoarTVLive on YouTube, WFAA on YouTube

Breakdown: Coming off a 72-7 stomping of Western Hills to open the postseason, China Spring just has to keep letting its offense do what it does, and take its time doing it.

“Defensively, the pressure is going to be on, so we just need our offense to take time off the clock and possess the football,” said head coach Tyler Beatty. “They’ve got some athletes on the defense that can apply pressure to the quarterback and make plays in the backfield. Offensively, they’re a multiple. They’ll spread you out and get into three-by-one formations and then also get into condense formations under center.”

Cash McCollum and the Cougars offense will have to watch out for Lions senior linebacker Jordan Nalls, who’s averaging seven tackles a game and leading the Kaufman defense with 63, as well as junior safety Kylevon Morrow, who is right up there with 60 tackles on the season.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Lions like to run it with senior Braxton Garmon leading the way, totaling 183 carries for 1,364 yards and 17 touchdowns.

No. 6 Chilton (11-0) vs. Brackett (8-3)

Round: Class 2A Div. II area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Fredericksburg

Breakdown: After defeating Yorktown 39-14 in the first round of playoffs, the undefeated Chilton Pirates will face a tougher opponent in Brackett who advanced after picking up a 68-12 victory over Woodsboro in bi-district.

“They scored a lot of points last week,” said Chilton coach Bennie Huitt of his team’s opponent. “We know going into this week we have to defend their passing game and their run game. They have a very good system in place and we have to make sure we limit their possessions and keep their score down. Hopefully at the end of the night we have more points on our side than they do on theirs.”

The Tigers rely heavily on junior quarterback Marques Hernandez (136/226 for 2,354 yards and 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions) to get the ball where it needs to go, which is usually the hands of senior wide receiver Mathew Huerta (48 receptions for 1,146 yards and 15 TD).

On the ground, the ball is well spread with sophomore Kontagious Cook (151 carries for 875 yards and 7 touchdowns) and seniors Avion Jaso (127 carries for 751 yards and 5 TD) and Carlos Martinez (86 carries for 537 yards and 11 TD) taking charge.

The winner will take on either Burton or Rocksprings Thanksgiving week.

Axtell (8-2) vs. Hamilton (6-5)

Round: Class 2A Div. I area playoffs

Time, site: 7 p.m. Friday, Midway’s Panther Stadium

Breakdown: Axtell squeezed by Rosebud-Lott to grab its first playoff win since 2012 and now the Longhorns take on a team similar to themselves in the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“They’re kind of a mirror image of us to tell you the truth,” said Axtell coach Craig Horn. “You know, there’s no superstars. They’re just a bunch of kids that play hard and get after it and they play team football. They don’t have a lot of holes. They’re just solid everywhere. It’s kind of where we feel our team is to.”

The Longhorns may not think they have any superstars but quarterback Coldyn Horn, wide receiver Chris Gacayan and kicker Mo Lindle were caught in the spotlight when Horn found Gacayan with a 33-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Rosebud-Lott and Lindle added the extra point for the 28-27 victory.

The Axtell defense then held off the Cougars for two drives in the final four minutes to secure the win.

Meanwhile fourth-seeded Hamilton upset Tioga, shutting the Bulldogs down in the first half.

The winner will take on either Marlin or Tolar the week of Thanksgiving.

Trib staff’s Week 13 high school football predictions

University (6-5) vs. Fort Bend Marshall (10-1),
7 p.m. Friday at Giddings
Marshall Marshall Marshall
Belton (9-2) vs. Brenham (7-4),
7:30 p.m. Friday at Bryan
Belton Brenham Brenham
China Spring (10-1) vs. Kaufman (8-3),
7 p.m. Friday at Corsicana
China Spring China Spring China Spring
Connally (9-2) vs. Hamshire-Fannett (8-3),
7:30 p.m. Friday at Willis
Connally Connally Connally
West (10-1) vs. Mount Vernon (9-2),
7 p.m. Friday at Forney
West West West
Whitney (8-3) vs. Pottsboro (10-1),
7 p.m Thursday at Mesquite’s Memorial Stadium
Whitney Pottsboro Pottsboro
Cameron Yoe (8-3) vs. Orangefield (9-2),
7 p.m. Friday at Alvin
Yoe Orangefield Orangefield
Crawford (11-0) vs. Coleman (9-2),
7 p.m. Friday at Weatherford
Crawford Crawford Crawford
Marlin (7-4) vs. Tolar (11-0),
7:30 p.m. Thursday at Crowley
Tolar Tolar Tolar
Axtell (8-2) vs. Hamilton (6-5),
7 p.m. Friday at Midway
Axtell Axtell Axtell
Riesel (6-5) vs. Bangs (7-4),
7 p.m. Friday at Burleson
Riesel Riesel Riesel
Mart (11-0) vs. Cushing (8-3),
7 p.m. Friday at Madisonville
Mart Mart Mart
Chilton (11-0) vs. Brackettville (8-3),
7 p.m. Friday at Fredericksburg
Chilton Chilton Chilton
Wortham (9-2) vs. Price Carlisle (10-1),
7 p.m. Friday at Palestine
Wortham Carlisle Carlisle
Abbott (11-0) vs. Union Hill (11-0),
7 p.m. Friday at Mabank
Abbott Abbott Abbott
Blum (7-4) vs. Gordon (11-0),
7 p.m. Friday at Hico
Blum Gordon Gordon
Jonesboro (10-1) vs. Medina (11-0),
6:30 p.m. Friday at San Saba
Jonesboro Jonesboro Jonesboro
Morgan (8-3) vs. Bluff Dale (10-1),
7 p.m. Friday at Dublin
Morgan Bluff Dale Bluff Dale
Oglesby (11-0) vs. Oakwood (9-2),
7 p.m. Friday at Mexia
Oglesby Oglesby Oglesby
Live Oak (6-5) vs. Pasadena First Baptist (11-0),
6 p.m. Friday at Bryan Brazos Christian
Live Oak PFB PFB
Last week 22-13 26-9 26-9
Season to date 363-172 406-129 417-118

Texas High School Football Predictions: 2022 Area Round: It’s the area round of the 2022 Texas High School Football Playoffs, and Dave Campbell’s Managing Editor Greg Tepper makes his picks on every matchup across the state!