By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – A defending State Champion will fall this week.
With the way the brackets were set up, it was inevitable that if the top teams took take care of business there would be a clash of titans at some point.
We have reached that round.
NRG Stadium is the arena. The gladiators decked out in red and white – Katy, the defending 6A Division II State Champions, and North Shore, the defending 6A Division I State Champions, are set to clash the day after Thanksgiving.
The Tigers dispatched the once unbeaten Cy Ranch Mustangs with a dominating 31-14 victory last week, fueled by Josh Oglesby’s 149 yards on 27 carries for two touchdowns on Friday. Katy has outscored its opponents 82-39 in the first two games of the playoffs. The biggest question for Katy is will they have the services of standout sophomore running back Deondrick Glass on Friday. Glass, after rushing for 286 yards in the Tigers’ opening playoff win, was knocked out because of injury in the first quarter leaving with six carries for 34 yards.
Katy’s defense will be put to the ultimate test this week, and arguably its toughest since earlier this season.
North Shore quarterback Bryant Badie is electric.
The dual-threat quarterback leads the team offensively in multiple categories – passing yards (2,322), rushing yards (948) and total touchdowns (34 – 20 passing, 14 rushing). The University of Louisiana Monroe commit has been key to the Mustangs’ 11-1 mark and pair of playoff wins.
Badie has shown in just two playoff games his skill as a passer – completing 11 0f 18 for 258 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception against Pasadena Memorial, while only rushing for 65 yards in that game – and his vision and speed as a ball carrier – registering 21 carries for 147 yards, while going just 6 of 17 for 81 yards, a touchdown and interception against Dickinson.
The senior quarterback will be the key for Katy to stop, while a stable of solid running backs will be North Shore’s defense’s job to hold at bay.
There is talent all over the field in this one. Not very often do you get a pair of defending State Champions to meet the following year in a Regional Semifinal game.
Speaking of State Champions, Cedar Park gets a piece of Manvel on Saturday in what many pen this as a heavy-weight bought with both the Wolverines and Mavericks each entering a perfect 12-0.
The Wolverines last season rolled to the 5A Division II State Championship, averaging 39 points per game in the playoffs, while giving up just 12 per game, the most being 21 to Calallen.
Cedar Park has been in the State Championship game three times since 2012, winning it twice, while falling to Ennis back in 2014. Manvel has made just one trip to the final weekend, falling to Texas powerhouse Aledo, 49-28, in 2011. The Maverick’s issue of making it to the State Championship weekend the past three seasons has been Katy.
Now in 5A, Manvel doesn’t have to worry about clashing with the Tigers anymore, but enter this game as an underdog due to the dominance of Cedar Park, especially the past two seasons.
But Manvel has a ton of offensive weapons to stop.
Start at quarterback. Kason Martin, just a junior, is coming off an impressive 421-yard, seven-touchdown passing performance against New Caney in a 69-21 blowout victory. The Mavericks have clicked on offense in the playoffs thus far, outscoring opponents 147-27, and racking up more than 450 yards of total offense in each game.
Just like Manvel, the Wolverines will trot out junior quarterback Mak Sexton on Saturday. Sexton has passed for 2,266 yards, 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions this season. Sexton has faired well in the playoffs passing for 290 yards and three scores in a pair of blowout victories against Willis and Bryan.
In the backfield, Army commit Tyler Lavine has been load to stop this postseason.
Lavine, entering this week has rushed for 1,265 yards and 25 touchdowns and will try and build on that against a hard-hitting defense. The Mavericks slowed down, back-t0-back 1,000-yard rusher Marte Allison of New Caney, holding him to just 29 yards on 20 carries last week.
Slowing down Lavine will be a tougher task. In the first two games of the playoffs, Lavine has broken loose for 406 yards and seven touchdowns on 57 carries.
With just those two games on the docket, three defending State Champions are featured. What more could you ask for in just the third weekend of the Texas High School Football Playoffs. Both of these games are must-watch events.
Other Notable Games
- The Woodlands will seek to extend its perfect season as it takes on Austin Bowie on Saturday. The Highlanders needed a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks against Garland Sachse to extend its season with a 51-40 victory, knocking off the previously undefeated Mustangs. Senior quarterback Eric Schmid contributed four scores, three passing and one rushing – a 20-yard run with just 3:15 left in the game to seal the victory. Now The Woodlands gets an Austin Bowie team that dismantled Spring, 37-14.
- One team hasn’t been this deep in the playoffs since 2008, the other since 1998. That is the matchup on Saturday at 6 p.m. inside NRG Stadium when Cy Ridge and Clear Brook clash in the Regional Semifinals. The Rams are riding high on the rushing attack of Trelon Smith, who enters this week with 2, 175 yards and 29 touchdowns. In the playoffs alone, Smith – an Arizona State commit – has rushed for 524 yards for six touchdowns on 59 carries. In the Rams’ 55-28 win against Katy Taylor, Smith went off for 356 yards and five scores for his best performance of the season. Smith has rushed for more than 200 yards four times this season and three times in his last five games. Clear Brook on the other side is riding high after upsetting Dawson and beating down Kingwood to advance to the Regional Semifinals. Just like Cy Ridge, the Wolverines have a stud running back in junior Jarrett Smith, who has rushed for 1,630 yards and 14 touchdowns. This will be a test of run defenses, whoever can stop the other running back the best will be playing next week.
- Atascocita is trying to rekindle the magic from a year ago when the Eagles pieced together a run to the Regional Finals before falling to Sam Ehlinger and Austin Westlake. So far, so good for Craig Stump’s team, which is 22-3 in the past two seasons with senior quarterback Daveon Boyd leading the offense. Boyd’s numbers aren’t near the astronomical figures he put up a year ago, but he has still passed for 1,839 yards and 22 scores leading Atascocita to an 10-1 record. Against Pearland, Boyd took over scoring four touchdowns, passing for 303 yards and rushing for another 71. Now Atascocita gets a very good Lamar team. The Texans got past Cy-Fair, 15-14, in the opening round thanks in big part to a missed 29-yard field goal, and downed Ridge Point 24-21 a week ago thanks to their defense in the fourth quarter. Both of Lamar’s games have been close wins and Atascocita’s defense will be another big test for them.
- Fort Bend Marshall continues its impressive roll after taking down Crosby, 42-21, and will next get A&M Consolidated, who beat Brenham 27-7.
- No. 1-ranked West Orange-Stark took down Robinson last week, 47-14, which was averaging 52.3 points per game this year entering the game. The Mustangs this season have outscored their opponents 641-44 this season. Next for West Orange-Stark is Bellville, which beat Salado 34-14 last week.