The Cooldown: Week 11

It’s officially the holiday season… Thanksgiving is coming up, some of you heathens are already listening to Christmas music, and most importantly – it’s time for the TXHSFB playoffs. Here’s a quick recap of week 11 action and a playoff preview!

Tomball clinches playoffs against Klein

As if 15-6A could go any other way, the playoff race included several surprises throughout the season and took until the final day to determine the final spot.

Tomball started off the season an impressive 6-0 before losing three-straight entering Friday night’s game with Klein. A loss would mean Tomball would miss the playoffs, ending the season with four-straight losses. It’s a good thing for the Cougars that they didn’t lose.

Tomball got the job done how it has all year – dominance from quarterback Cale Hellums – who finished with 78 yards and a touchdown on 6-of-8 passing in addition to 13 carries for 191 yards and two more scores. Chance Womack added 69 yards and a score on 13 carries while Derrick Taylor was Hellums’ leading receiver with 41 yards and hauled in Hellums’ lone touchdown pass.

Tomball didn’t struggle too much in a 35-14 win to secure the final playoff spot in 15-6A. The Cougars will take on Cy Park on Thursday at 6:30 at Cy-Fair’s FCU Stadium.

The Woodlands gets rivalry revenge on College Park

The Woodlands finished an abbreviated 2020 season at an uncharacteristic 5-4, though the Highlanders lost just one district game. That game was the one they’d least like to lose.

College Park stunned The Woodlands with a 35-31 win to claim the 13-6A title a year ago. The Cavaliers looked primed to do it again through one half on Thursday night, but – unfortunately for them – football is four quarters and not two. After College Park took a 14-10 lead to the lockers, The Woodlands erupted for 35 second half points to close out a 45-14 win.

Sophomore quarterback Mabrey Mettauer was surgical through the air, completing 12-of-15 passes for 183 yards a score. He added 12 carries for 91 yards and this insane hurdle for a touchdown run.

Running back JoBarre Reed also had a nice night, racking up 124 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Ben Ferguson paced the team in receiving yards with 89 on five catches while Tobin Miller hauled in Mettauer’s only passing touchdown. Jason Williams and Jacoby Mitchell tacked on the other touchdowns with one each on the ground.

The Woodlands finishes as 13-6A champs and 8-2 overall, with a four-point loss to Bridgeland and a seven-point loss to Katy. This Highlanders squad has proved it can compete with anyone and unfortunately for them, they will have to prove that in round one. The reward for winning a district title for The Woodlands – ranked No. 20 in the state for class 6A – is a first round tilt with No. 9 Spring at Woodforest Bank Stadium at 7 on Friday night. This is because Spring finished second in its district behind No. 6 Westfield. Neither of these teams should be sent packing in round one, but oh well… it will be the game of the week nonetheless.

Ridge Point races past Travis

Same year, same story for Ridge Point. The Panthers went 10-2 in 2018 followed by two 8-3 seasons (although 2019 saw a first round playoff loss while 2020 saw the Panthers go to round four due to a shorter regular season schedule) before capping off a 9-1 regular season in 2021.

Ridge Point will have a chance to win more games this year than it has in the last three years, all of which were successful. It isn’t easy to win 10 games playing 6A football in Texas, but it gets a lot easier when your team is running out Bert Emanuel, Jr. at quarterback. Emanuel torched the Travis defense for 265 yards and two scores on an efficient 16-of-18.

Ezell Jolly led Ridge Point in rushing with nine carries for 50 yards and a score while Marvin Session paced the Panthers in receiving with 93 yards and a score on six catches. Both teams are playoff-bound with Travis drawing Katy Tompkins in round one while Ridge Point takes on Seven Lakes at 7 on Thursday night at Hall Stadium.

Player of the Week

Because we’re onto the second season essentially, we’ll skip a full recap of last week in lieu of a playoff preview. So to cap off last weeks’ recap, here’s my player-of-the-week.

Alief Taylor has been waiting to break through. Playing in district 23-6A is no easy task as evidenced by identical 3-7 records in 2018 and 2019 followed by a 2-4 record last year. But as we reached the penultimate day of the 2021 regular season, Taylor found itself one win away from its first playoff berth in five years.

Alvin stuck around for a little bit, but didn’t have enough fire power to keep the game close as Taylor went on to win it 56-33. Chase Jenkins was unstoppable from his spot at quarterback, completing 16-of-23 passes for 180 yards and three scores while adding another 172 yards and two scores on just seven carries. In all, that’s 352 yards and five touchdowns on 23 touches, an average of 15.3 yards-per-touch, earning him POTW honors!

Alief Taylor will take on Dickinson at 7 on Friday night at Vitanza Stadium.

Playoff Preview: 6A

We’ll start with Region III in the 6A-I bracket. A potential showdown between undefeated Jersey Village and high-flying Katy Tompkins in round two is certainly interesting. I think JV took advantage of a weaker district, but Tompkins wasn’t particularly tested either outside of a blowout against rival Katy. Nonetheless, these two are both state ranked – JV at No. 24 and Tompkins just behind at No. 25 – and would be a great second round matchup. The road doesn’t get easier with No. 7 North Shore potentially awaiting the winner in round three followed by a Region III final against No. 11 Atsascocita or No. 23 Dickinson, who will have to face each other in round two with a potential showdown with No. 21 Ridge Point awaiting the winner of that one.

Basically, I expect the top half of the region to shake out as North Shore waiting for the winner of JV and Tompkins in round three with Ridge Point waiting for winner of Atascocita and Dickinson in round three for the bottom half. The survivor of each trio wound face off in the Region III final with the winner facing either No. 8 Lake Travis or No. 12 SA Brennan (baring upsets in Region IV) for the right to go to state.

Houston-area schools also comprise half of Region II on the opposite side of the bracket. Last year, DFW schools swept Houston out of that side of the bracket in round three, but this year could go differently. Because I don’t have the expertise on half of the teams in this bracket, I’ll just give a what to watch for in round three. I’m picking Spring Westfield to beat Conroe and the winner of Klein Oak and Cy Ranch and I give the Mustangs more than a fair chance to beat the trio of DeSoto or Rockwall or Harker Heights. For the top half of the bracket, I have Klein Cain beating Cy Woods and I think Spring has a toss up – maybe a slight edge – on The Woodlands. I could see any of those teams ending up in round three, but they’ll have to beat No. 4 Duncanville to advance to the region final. This region includes No. 6 Westfield, No. 9 Spring and No. 20 The Woodlands with Spring and The Woodlands facing off this week. One of them could challenge Duncanville, but it won’t be easy.

Ironically, it’s 6A-II that has more standing in the way for Houston-area teams than 6A-I does, despite the fact that 6A-II has the highest-ranked Houston-area squad with Katy at No. 2. The problem is Katy will need to upset No. 1 Austin Westlake to make a return trip to state.

Katy is the overwhelming favorite in Region III and should breeze to the third round where it will face either C.E. King or Shadow Creek. After that, the Tigers probably get either Summer Creek or the winner of the round one game between Clear Falls and Dawson, but I see Katy breezing – for the most part – to the state semifinals. Austin Westlake will likely do the same with the only obstacle being the winner of No. 16 Cibolo Steele and No. 18 Austin Vandegrift. Westlake has lost just three games in the last four seasons, so unseating the Chaps – especially in legendary coach Todd Dodge’s final season – will be quite difficult.

In Region II, I expect Bridgeland to beat Klein Collins – thought the Tigers deserve respect here – and College Park before a showdown with a high-powered Garland squad in round three. If the Bears can win that, it will likely be a round four showdown with the winner of Rockwall-Heath (who beat Bridgeland in round three last year) and Cy Park. So, the names to watch for the Region II representative (who has a strong chance at beating the winner of a weaker Region I) are Bridgeland, Garland, Cy Park and Rockwall-Heath. I would bet one of those teams makes it to Arlington, unless Denton Guyer unseats them out of Region I.

Playoff Preview: 5A

I think I was wrong about this last year, but I think it is entirely possible that we have three out of four teams from district 10-5A-I in the regional semifinals. Of course, Cedar Park won this region last year so what do I know?

Katy Paetow has looked phenomenal this year and I give them a good chance to beat Cedar Park in round three, especially in running back Jacob Brown is back healthy. Cedar Park had a down year, but Pflugerville Weiss and Manor were both solid and are both in this region. However, I still think we get a Manvel-versus-Paetow rematch in the Region III final and I think the winner winds up in Arlington. Manvel will have to get past No. 7 Dripping Springs, but other that, the top six teams in 5A-I all play on the other side of the bracket.

In Region II for the 5A-I bracket, Houston has New Caney, Magnolia and Magnolia West. Unfortunately, Region II also includes a murders row of the best teams in 5A-I, all from DFW. No. 3 Highland Park will be favored against New Caney in round one and the same for Longview against Magnolia. If No. 10 Magnolia West beats Tyler in round one, it has defending state champ No. 1 Denton Ryan waiting in round two.

Watch for a state title run for No. 8 Manvel or No. 9 Paetow (very likely in my opinion!) but that’s about it for Houston in 5A-I.

The 5A-II bracket is similar to 5A-I in how the right side of the bracket shapes up. Of the top 10 teams in 5A-II, only No. 3 FB Marshall, No. 7 Texas High, No. 8 Montgomery, No. 9 Alamo Heights and No. 10 Crosby are housed on the right side of the bracket. Marshall’s path will likely be Barbers Hill, A&M Consolidated, Crosby, and then the winner of Texas High and Montgomery. Then Alamo Heights likely waits in the state semifinals before Aledo or Lovejoy at state.

I think the winner of Crosby and Marshall gets to the Region III finals, and I think Marshall gets revenge on Crosby and wins that one after Crosby knocked Marshall out last year. I love what Montgomery has done this year and I think the Bears knock off Texas High. If those things happen, I think the winner of Montgomery and Marshall beats Alamo Heights and goes to state. There are no Houston teams in Region II in this bracket, so that’s about it.

Playoff Preview: Small Schools

It is much harder for me to predict these brackets because I simply don’t know a lot about the non-Houston schools in Region III and IV in 4A and 3A. So instead, I’ll do a quick preview for each perceived contender in Houston for these classifications.

El Campo is the Houston-area favorite in 4A-I. The Ricebirds have climbed to No. 3 in the state but have a tough playoff road. They could draw No. 10 Lindale in round two, 8-2 Little Cypress-Mauriceville in round three, No. 6 Kilgore in round four, and then top it off with No. 1 Austin LBJ in the state semifinals. Then, whoever wins out among No. 2 Stephenville, No. 4 Melissa and No. 5 Argyle awaits at state. El Campo is a great team, but that’s a murders row of opponents.

Class 4A-II is home to Bellville. Just like El Campo, the Bellville Brahmas have to survive a murders row of opponents to win Region III, and the Brahmas might have it even worse. Bellville should get to round three, but then have to play No. 4 West-Orange Stark. Win that and Bellville would face the winner of No. 5 China Spring and No. 1 Carthage in the Region III finals. This region houses four of the top six teams in the state, with Bellville being the lowest ranked among them. But if they can survive that, then the winner out of No. 7 Cuero, No. 8 Sinton or No. 9 Wimberley is the likely opponent in the state semifinals.

The reality is Bellville is probably not making it to state. The left side of the bracket is home to only No. 2 Gilmer, No. 3 Celina and No. 10 Van. Bellville has to survive every other ranked team to make it to state. Not impossible, but not probable either.

The only other Houston-area contender is in 3A-I with No. 6 Columbus. The good news for the Cardinals is the best 3A-I teams aren’t in Region III. To win the region, they need to beat No. 5 Lorena and No. 7 Hallettsville, but that’s it. Then, No. 8 Edna is the only ranked team in Region IV. If Columbus can upset Lorena and everything else holds serve, the Cardinals could be playing for a state title.

That’s it for my state playoffs preview and I’ll have my brackets filled out and championship results posted to Twitter later this week.

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