By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – For the past three years, the Katy Tigers had been the demise of the Manvel Mavericks in the playoffs.
Three-straight meetings, three-straight losses, ending their season, each time by the hands of the Tigers.
With the shift down to 5A this season, the undefeated regular season, the dominating victories in the opening three rounds of the playoffs heading into last week, Manvel was a favorite to make it all the way.
But another power football program got in the way.
Temple downed Manvel. 24-23, sealing the win with a sack of Kason Martin on fourth down to seal the come-from-behind and unforeseeable victory. Temple had done what no other team could do or really came close to doing this season – beat Manvel.
Before Saturday, the closest Manvel had come to losing was beating Cedar Park by 12, North Shore by 13 and Crosby by 14 to open the season. Other than that, the rest of the Maverick’s games ended in complete blowouts.
Manvel entered the game ranked No. 3, Temple came in with no number in front of the name. No pressure on their shoulders. The Mavericks hoping to debunk recent history, while the Wildcats tried to add to their successful history.
In the end, Manvel didn’t have enough. Temple just had one more defensive stand.
The shock resonated across social media on Saturday night. Many expected Manvel to do what they had done all season and roll to another victory. This was such a shock that a potential playoff game between Foster and Temple hadn’t even been discussed on where or when it could be played.
The potential meeting between Manvel and Foster had been discussed and preliminarily set for Saturday at NRG Stadium. A potential showdown between Foster and Temple, not even talked about.
Many expected Manvel to be in the State Championship game, but for those that don’t know, Temple isn’t just a push-over program.
The Wildcats, a program going since 1905, have won two State Championships (1992, 1979) and been in the title game eight times, most recently in 2014.
Since 1990, Temple has made the State Semifinals for the fourth time and now face a Foster team that itself is continuing to make history.
The win by Temple on Saturday night shocked the Texas High School Football world.
In the 2016 playoffs there have been surprises but none like this outside of Arp taking down No. 2 Newton,13-6, on Friday.
Now Temple and Foster, two unexpected teams to be in the State Semifinals are there – one got past the favorite, while the other is on a historic run.
In other games where the victor maybe wasn’t the expected, turn to San Antonio.
No. 5 Navarro had their last three seasons ended by No. 3 Cuero in the playoffs. The Panthers finally got their revenge on Friday night.
Garrett Weaver ended up being the hero with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and capped it off with a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal the 35-21 victory and first trip to the State Semifinals.
Navarro’s next obstacle to get to its first ever State Championship is a team that has won three State Championships, including being the defending 4A Division 2 State Champions in West Orange-Stark.
Klein Collins took down Westfield to keep its magical season alive with a 21-18 victory last week. Now the Tigers will get one of the toughest tests so far in No. 2 Desoto.
This marks the second ranked opponent this postseason, earlier beating No. 9 Cedar Ridge in overtime, 40-34.
The other team joining the list of historic seasons is Atascocita.
Beating No. 6 North Shore, a week after they beat Katy, the Eagles have tied the record for most wins in program history and into the State Semifinals for the first time.
Led by senior quarterback Daveon Boyd and a stingy defense, the Eagles get No. 3 Lake Travis. Last season’s magical run was debunked by Austin Westlake, now does another Austin team ruin the party in North Houston?
An emotionally-fueled No. 4 The Woodlands rocked Round Rock a week ago to advance to the State Semifinals after having one of their own go down.
It has been widely reported about Grant Milton suffering an injury during The Highlanders game in Waco two weeks ago, being rushed into emergency surgery and then the entire high school football community rallying around him.
While he recovers, Milton’s teammates took the field on Saturday and rocked Round Rock 41-18 to move to the State Semifinals for the first time in 13 years.
The Woodlands during the past few seasons have been haunted by early-round exits. Despite having a great regular season carry that success over to the postseason has not happened.
To get to the State Finals for the first time since 2003, The Woodlands would have to get past a team that has won four State Championships since 2008 – the Allen Eagles.
The final Houston area school with a shot at glory is Cinco Ranch.
It has been seven years since the Cougars have been this far in the playoffs, but have never been past this point. Standing on the other side of the field Saturday night inside the Alamodome will be a team that has been there and done it in No. 5 Cibolo Steele.
The Knights are fresh off another convincing playoff win, beating Churchill 38-7. Cibolo Steele is powered by a defensive unit that has surrendered just seven points in its past 12 quarters of play, outscoring opponents 111-7 in that three-game span.
Cibiolo Steele won the State Championship in 2010 and haven’t been in the State Finals since 2011. Led by Texas Tech quarterback commit Xavier Martin and running back Brenden Brady, the Knights are rolling in the playoffs.
Cinco Ranch will have to slow down a rushing attack that amassed 230 yards rushing a week ago, led by Brady’s 141 yards and two scores.
The Cougars are coming off a game where they had to stop a rushing attack just like that in Cy Ridge, holding the Rams to just 86 yards rushing last week. Cy Ridge entered the game averaging 317 yards per game on the ground.
The final District 19-6A team will have its hands full on Saturday inside the Alamodome.
Which city will be best represented in Dallas next week?
Houston had a really good run in 2015, bringing home three State Championships with George Ranch, North Shore and Katy winning the ultimate prize.
Right now, Houston has five teams left. Five chances for this city to prove its power on the Texas High School Football scene in 2016.
Foster, The Woodlands, Klein Collins, Atascocita and Cinco Ranch will have their chances this weekend. Almost fittingly, Atascocita gets a team from Austin, Klein Collins and The Woodlands a team from Dallas and Cinco Ranch a team from San Antonio.
It’s Houston High School Football against the rest now.