Texas High School Football: Semifinal Preview

Chris Sommer
December 11, 2018 - 1:50 pm
Football Helmet

© Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com

After 15 weeks of the Texas high school football season, it has come to this. Forty 11-man teams across the state competing for 20 coveted spots in the UIL championship games next week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. 

Some teams seem to make the state semifinals every year. For others, it's been decades or not at all.  And now, there is one final hurdle to clear to reach high school football's promised land. 

Here are the matchups in the state semifinals:

CLASS 6A

DIVISION 1

Regions 1/2

DUNCANVILLE (13-0) vs. ALLEN (14-0)
4 pm Saturday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium

For local matchups, they don't get any bigger than this. 

Defending state champion vs. the most ferocious defense in all of Class 6A. Heck, USA Today ranks Allen as the No. 1 team in the NATION for the third straight week, while Duncanville has climbed to No. 11. 

Allen hasn't faced a team like Duncanville all season, while Duncanville hasn't run into a team like Allen all year.  Both dispatched of their quarterfinal opponents by identical scores of 51-7. 

As Duncanville tries to win its first state title since 1998, we get this gem from Greg Riddle at the Dallas Morning News. In their last nine games, the Panthers have scored 10 defensive touchdowns, while their opponents have scored five OFFENSIVE touchdowns over the same span. Duncanville has allowed 4.6 points per game this season.  That's a touchdown about every seven quarters. 

Then you have the Allen Eagles, who are in the state semifinals for the seventh consecutive year. Thirty wins in a row. A record of 99-2 in their last 101 games. 

Duncanville's Ja'Quinden Jackson and Allen's Grant Tisdale are both dynamic quarterbacks who are surrounded with stellar offensive weapons. 

This one could come down to controlling the line of scrimmage. Allen's offensive line against Duncanville's D-line. It all unfolds at Jerry World on Saturday afternoon. 

As Terrell Owens famously said, "Getcha popcorn ready."  The winner faces the Galena Park North Shore-Lake Travis winner in the state championship game.


CLASS 5A

DIVISION 1

Regions 1/2

DENTON RYAN (14-0) vs. HIGHLAND PARK (14-0)
Noon Saturday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium

If the third time really is the charm, the Ryan Raiders will be celebrating on Saturday. In 2016, Ryan faced Highland Park in the state semifinals, and lost 31-24.  In 2017, Ryan again drew the Scots in the semis, and lost 45-35.  And, for the third straight year, these two will square off in the penultimate game of the year with a berth in the state title game on the line.  Both teams are 14-0. 

Denton Ryan dominated Birdville in their quarterfinal rematch, but the Highland Park Houdinis needed a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback to overcome a 35-14 deficit and eliminate Tyler John Tyler.

The Ryan offense is run adeptly by sophomore quarterback Seth Henigan, who gets a lot of help from running backs Keori Hicks and Emani Bailey. Do-everything athlete Drew Sanders seems to be everywhere on both sides of the ball for the Raiders. 

Quarterback Chandler Morris led the big comeback for Highland Park last week. He'll hope to get things clicking early with standout WR Finn Corwin. 

Denton Ryan's last win over Highland Park came in 2004. The Scots are the two-time defending state champions in 5A Division 1, and as the great Roger Emrich likes to say, "They're still the champs until somebody beats 'em." 

This game opens a tremendous tripleheader at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.  The winner faces the Alvin Shadow Creek-San Antonio Wagner winner for the state title.

 

DIVISION 2

Regions 1/2

WICHITA FALLS RIDER (9-5) vs. ALEDO (14-0)
8 pm Friday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium

Nothing in conventional wisdom says Wichita Falls Rider should still be playing football in mid-December.  They started the season 2-5.  Didn't win their district.  But after four impressive playoff victories - including a nail-biting win over unbeaten Lubbock-Cooper last week - here they are.  And what does Rider get for their trouble?  The Aledo Bearcats. Winners of 14 straight. Number one-ranked 5A team in the state all season. A record of 45-1 over the last three seasons. 

The Bearcats have Jr. RB Jase McClellan, who might be the best running back in the state of Texas. He motored for 185 yards and found the end zone three times in the quarterfinal rout of Waco Midway.  Aledo is quarterbacked by rock-solid Jake Bishop, who helped his team to the state title game last season. The Aledo defense held Frisco Reedy to 277 total yards in last week's win over Frisco Reedy. 

Meanwhile, the Rodriguez brothers are the heart and soul of this overachieving Rider team.  Jacob is a sophomore quarterback.  He threw for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns last week, and also chipped in with 141 rushing yards and 2 more TDs on the ground. Twin brothers Jeremiah and Joshua Rodriguez are Jacob's older siblings. The two linebackers lead the Rider defense.  Joshua is the leading tackler and scored on a fumble return in the quarterfinal win. 

Aledo is a big favorite to advance to yet another state championship game, and besides, they  beat Wichita Falls Rider 72-13 last season. 

The winner faces the Fort Bend Marshall-Corpus Christi Calallen winner for state next week.

 

CLASS 4A

DIVISION 1

Regions 1/2

DECATUR (8-6) vs. WACO LA VEGA (12-2)
4 pm Friday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium

In some ways, Decatur is an even more unlikely semifinalist than Wichita Falls Rider. Of the 40 teams remaining in 11-man competition, Decatur is the only one that entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in its district.  They've still allowed more points than they've scored this season.  They are the only six-loss team still playing.  But the most important stat of all - Decatur has won four playoff games to be in this position. 

And like Rider with Aledo, Decatur gets to play one of the hottest teams in the state in Waco La Vega. La Vega has run for nearly 5,000 yards this season. That's more than 350 per game. La Vega has won 11 straight.  They dominated Argyle in the quarterfinals to avenge a loss from earlier this season.  RB John Richards is a bruiser.  He ran for 217 yards and four touchdowns last week. 

On the Decatur side, they have a major weapon in Sr. WR Beau Bedford, who leads Class 4A with 1,629 receiving yards on 112 catches this season.  That's darn good at any level.  Bedford also has 15 touchdowns.  The Decatur rushing attack is led by Gunner Ragsdale, who scored three times last week. 

This is Decatur's first state semifinal since 1988.  They've never been to a state title game. 

The Decatur-Waco La Vega winner will meet the survivor of Liberty Hill-Carthage for the state championship.


CLASS 3A

DIVISION 1

Regions 1/2

BROCK (13-1) vs. MALAKOFF (11-2)
4 pm Friday, Frisco's Ford Center

This could be one of the best semifinal games in the state this weekend.  Brock's reputation is well-known.  They are accustomed to playing football well into December.  This is the third semifinal berth for the Eagles in the last seven seasons. 

Meanwhile, Malakoff is into the final four for the second time in three years, and they are playing their best football of the year.  Jr. RB R.J. Carr returned for last week's game after missing most of the season with an ankle injury.  His ankle appears to be just fine.  Carr ran for 180 yards in the quarterfinal win over Atlanta.  Malakoff had a trio of 100-yard rushers last week.  Jr. RB Keevie Rose ran for 124, while Soph. QB Darion Peace chipped in with 102. 

Consider that Shallowater QB Cutter Sparks ran for 204 against Brock last week, and the Eagles could have their hands full.  On the offensive side of the ball, Brock counters with its own power rushing attack.  RB Toby Morrison ran for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns in the quarterfinal win, while RB Zakk Young added 116.  Young also scored the game-winner on a one-yard reception with five seconds left. 

Both teams feature solid defenses. The Brock-Malakoff winner faces the Grandview-Yoakum winner in the state championship game.

 

Regions 3/4

GRANDVIEW (12-2) vs. YOAKUM (12-2)
7 pm Friday, Pflugerville's The Pfield

While Brock and Malakoff get to stay close to home for their semifinal showdown, Grandview will make the long trip south for their meeting with the Yoakum Bulldogs. 

The Zebras have won nine in a row, and were able to advance over East Chambers in overtime last week despite six turnovers.  Quarterback Dane Jentsch leads a Grandview offense that has averaged 42.9 points per game this season.  Elijah Golden is Grandview's workhorse running back.  He had 149 yards and a touchdown in the quarterfinal win. 

This is a familiar spot for Yoakum, which has made several deep playoff runs in recent years.  It's a bit surprising to see the Bulldogs back in the semifinals, after they lost nine defensive starters and 26 seniors from last year's team.  Head Coach Bo Robinson always has his team ready to play.  Grandview will hope to contain QB Hagen Garvin and WR Holden Lauer.  That combo was lethal in last week's quarterfinal rout of Edna. 

The Grandview-Yoakum winner draws the Brock-Malakoff victor in the state title matchup.


DIVISION 2

Regions 1/2

CANADIAN (13-1) vs. GUNTER (14-0)
7 pm Friday, Vernon's Lion Stadium

This is a definite revenge spot for Canadian. They were pounded by Gunter in this same round last year, 56-27.  Gunter also leads the series 2-0 over the last 15 seasons.  The Tigers have been an albatross for a Canadian team that has had astounding success for the last two decades. 

This is Canadian's 12th berth in the state semifinals since 1998.  They are here for the ninth time in 11 years.  Now they just need to prove they can get by Gunter. 

As for the Tigers, they are one of the elites in 3A Division 2.  A record of 45-1 over the past three seasons, including one state championship and a loss in the the final last season. Gunter allows only 8.4 points per game.  That's the No. 1 scoring defense in Class 3A.  Gunter also has RB Dylan Jantz, who ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns last week.  Jantz will pound the ball, he's good at catching out of the backfield and he's also been known to throw the ball time and again.  He'll be the top target for a stout Canadian defense. 

The winner here advances to face the winner between defending state champ Newton and East Bernard.