By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – Before a season even begins coaches and players alike begin circling games on the schedule.
They, as much as they deny it sometimes, will circle the rivalry games, teams that thumped them the year before or opponents that may be the ones in their way of a top seed for the playoffs or a district title or even a playoff spot all together.
We are officially at the circled portion of the schedule time of the year in Houston.
The hiring of former Allen head coach Tom Westerberg to Barbers Hill, which was one of the offseason’s most untold stories, and Jim Holley’s arrival at Porter have both turned out well for the respective programs. Both Westerberg and Holley have their programs definitely in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot and maybe even the District 21-5A Championship. The last two years that honor went to C.E. King, now in 6A, and Crosby, which has dealt with injuries all year long.
New Caney, with the arrival of Jordan Cooper have been contenders all season, losing only one game in the second week to Tomball Memorial on the road. Since then the Eagles have been perfect.
Since Porter, New Caney and Barbers Hill have had their way with some of the lowly teams of District 21-5A already to be a combined 15-1 in district play to be all still vying for the top spot.
The next three weeks will decide everything since the three teams will now face each other to close out the year.
This week Barbers Hill and New Caney clash, while Porter takes on Humble before facing New Caney and Barbers Hill in the final two weeks. Porter and New Caney clash on October 28 at Texan Drive Stadium in the 2016 Battle Line on 59.
District 21-5A will come down to the final three weeks and there is the feeling there are still some surprises in store and more questions will be answered.
Can Porter clinch its first ever playoff berth? Can New Caney win its first District Championship since 1995? Can Barbers Hill record its best season since 2012? Who is the District 21-5A Coach of the Year?
Then outside of those three teams, who takes the final spot?
Crosby is right in the mix as is Humble. The Cougars are trying to make it 11-straight years in the playoffs, while Humble is trying to get back in the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Humble closes out the season against Porter, Crosby and Kingwood Park, while Crosby gets Splendora, Humble and New Caney. The game on October 28 between Crosby and Humble may be the one in the end that determines who gets in at No. 4 and who is sitting at home the second week of November.
With just a few weeks remaining, outside of playing the final games on the schedule the season is virtually over for Cy Falls, Cy Lakes and Cy Springs as they have been eliminated from playoff contention in District 17-6A.
So on to the teams still fighting for the final spots.
Cy Ranch at 7-0 overall and 6-0 in district has already clinched one of the four coveted playoff spots. The Mustangs close out the season against Cy Lakes, Cy Ridge and Cy Woods, two of which are still in the playoff hunt.
Behind Cy Ranch, Cy-Fair, Cy Ridge, Langham Creek and Cy Creek are still all battling for the final three spots. The Bobcats and Rams have the best outlook for playoff berths, both sitting at 5-1 in District 17-6A play. Langham Creek is right behind them at 4-2 and Cy Creek following at 3-3. This week Cy Creek meets Cy Ridge in a must-win for the Cougars. If Cy Creek wants to still be in the hunt this week is a must-win.
North Shore is once again showing off its power leading District 21-6A with a 4-0 mark. The Mustangs only have one true test left in their way from the undefeated district season in Summer Creek in the final week. The Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season last week against rival Atascocita but are still considered contenders for one of the top three playoff spots.
Speaking of Summer Creek they will try and bounce back this week against a team in a must-win situation in Kingwood. The Mustangs are at 2-2 in district following a 38-21 loss to North Shore. The 2-2 mark ties them for the fourth and final playoff slot with Baytown Sterling and Channelview.
Channelview’s road to a playoff spot will be a tough one, considering they will face two of the top teams in the district in North Shore and Summer Creek before closing out against Sterling. For Sterling, its final three games faces the similar situation in getting Atascocita and Kingwood before Channelview. There is a very good chance the season finale between Sterling and Channelview may be for the final playoff spot.
This is the Spring ISD dominated district.
Westfield looks unstoppable in district play, Spring and Dekaney are tied for second at 3-1 in district play. So with a few weeks left it looks as though Spring ISD will be very well represented in the playoffs this year.
Now for the rest of the district. Nimitz and Aldine Davis are tied at 2-2 for the fourth-place spot, which they will meet Oct. 29, and Eisenhower and MacArthur slide in behind at 1-3. MacAthur has the toughest road to a potential playoff berth having to face Spring and Dekaney in the final two weeks of the season. Eisenhower has a chance to make some noise and slide into the playoffs, facing Aldine and Nimitz as two of their final three opponents.
The top of District 16-6A is pretty much decided outside of who gets what seed. But the battle for the final playoff spot will be one to watch.
Finally, this will be one of the most interesting districts to watch here at the end of the season.
Alief Taylor looks unbeatable, starting 7-0 overall and 3-0 in district play. The Lions’ toughest tests will come in the final two weeks traveling to the Rig to take on Dawson, which is also 3-0 in district play, and then hosting George Ranch.
Tied with the Lions for first, Dawson is coming off a dramatic 34-32 win against rival Pearland. The Eagles close out the season against the three Alief schools, taking on Elsik, Taylor and Hastings. The one that will most likely decide the District 23-6A Champion will be the game against Taylor.
George Ranch is still in the running for the playoffs, despite having an up and down year in its first year at the Class 6A level. Also still in the running is Pearland and Hastings at 2-2 in district play.