Cover Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle.
When the phrase “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” was coined, I’m convinced it was actually for the Texas high school football playoffs and not Christmas.
The 5A and 6A brackets are finally out and playoffs set to get underway this Thursday. I’ll recap a few of the top games from last week and offer up a playoff preview with matchups and what to expect now and down the road.
Paetow closes impressive season with win against Deer Park
Paetow capped what was perhaps the best season in the school's young history with a 40-21 win against Deer Park on Thursday.
The Panthers finish the regular season with a record of 8-1 with the one loss coming to Foster; they were able to avoid a showdown with Manvel due to how the district was zoned. The showdown with Deer Park on Thursday had no implications on the playoff race but the Panthers still impressed.
Running back Damon Bankston continued his impressive season with 242 yards and three scores on the ground. Randle Kelley got some time in the backfield as well, and his pair of fourth quarter rushing touchdowns put the game out of reach. Matthew Potts rallied Deer Park from an early 14-0 deficit and the Deer led it 21-17 late in the third when Bankston scored one of his three touchdowns to put Paetow back on top. The Panthers never looked back and Deer Park didn’t score again.
Deer Park finishes with a 5-5 regular season record, but 5-1 in district play is good enough for second place in 22-6A. The Deer are very much an endangered species as they’ll face two-time defending 6A-I champion North Shore in round one.
Paetow will face Baytown Lee in a winnable round one matchup. The Panthers could conceivably make a playoff run, but they’ll have to avenge a previous 28-10 loss to Foster in a potential round three matchup in order to secure a spot in the Region III finals, likely against Manvel – the overwhelming favorites to win the region.
Seven Lakes returns to the playoffs with win over Cinco Ranch
We love a good win-and-you’re-in scenario and that’s exactly what we had in 19-6A on Friday.
Cinco Ranch had just one win on the year but a second one would give the Cougars a playoff spot by virtue of wins against Mayde Creek and Seven Lakes… unfortunately for them, beating Seven Lakes was easier said-than-done.
Keegan Sneedon connected on a long field goal with four minutes left in the third quarter to give Seven Lakes a 30-7 advantage on Cinco Ranch and seemingly put the game out of reach. The Cougars had other ideas. Quarterback Gavin Rutherford scored on a short run early in the fourth before finding Roro Nesiama in the end zone with six minutes left in the game. A two-point conversion made it 30-22 with plenty of time left.
Ultimately, Seven Lakes was able to play keep away just long enough to hold on for the win and a playoff berth. Milton Jones carried the Spartans with 126 yards and a touchdown on the ground, joined by Nick David-West’s 87 rushing yards and a score of his own.
Seven Lakes will match up with 20-6A champion Ridge Point in round one. Not to take away from Seven Lakes big accomplishment, but this was a game many were interested in because of other implications. The Spartans’ playoff berth pushes state powerhouse Katy down to the typically weaker 6A-II bracket. A big matchup with Shadow Creek looms in round three, but if Katy can get past the Sharks, the Tigers will be favored to go to state.
Dobie impresses heading into playoffs with rout of Channelview
Dobie set a new school record for most points scored in a game by routing Channelview 72-20 on Friday.
The Longhorns picked up four interceptions in the contest and scored a whopping 37 points in the second quarter alone. Dobie punished Channelview on the ground, going for 457 rushing yards as a team with Johnathan Baldwin and Trajan Davis scoring twice each; quarterback Cameron Gray threw for two touchdowns as well.
It was a thorough domination and just what the Longhorns needed before a showdown with former district mate Atascocita in round one. Atascocita blew through an easier district last season on its way to the state quarterfinals, including a 61-6 drubbing of Dobie. However, the Eagles haven’t been near as dominant this season. They finished 5-2 with both losses coming in blowouts to top five teams in the state – but they also barely survived in narrow wins against CE King and Beaumont West Brook.
Conversely, the Longhorns are relatively untested – winning every game on the schedule by double digits en route to a 9-0 record. With Dobie’s dominant run game and Atascocita’s struggles at quarterback this season, Dobie has more than a punchers chance to win this game. If they can, the Longhorns are set up with the weaker half of the 6A-I bracket, avoiding the likes of North Shore, Cy-Fair and Tompkins until one of those three advances to round four.
A look-ahead to playoffs
With Columbus’ 23-21 loss to Hallettsville on Friday, Houston is officially eliminated from every small school bracket. The Houston area is left only with 5A and 6A where there are plenty of teams that have a shot at a state championship.
It all starts in 6A-I with North Shore. We all know the pedigree there and the Mustangs look like the unquestioned best team in the state – perhaps the nation. However, North Shore will have its work cut out if a three-peat is in the cards. They open with Deer Park before a road that could include No. 16 Pearland Dawson, the winner of Tompkins and Cy-Fair (both top-10 teams), a rematch with No. 20 Atascocita, No. 5 Lake Travis in the state semifinals and – of course – No. 2 Duncanville at state.
The Region II side of the bracket features some solid squads that I’m excited to see. Spring and Klein Cain both fall in the Houston-DFW mixed Region II, but so do DFW powerhouses Duncanville and DeSoto. Spring starts out with The Woodlands and could face DeSoto in round three while Cain starts with Cy Woods and could face Duncanville in round three. I’ll certainly be making the trip to Waco for those games if it happens.
Fortunately, the 6A-II bracket is much more intriguing this year than it was last year. Like the 6A-I bracket in Region III, the top half seems to be much stronger than the bottom half. Katy could have a titanic showdown against Shadow Creek in round three, and Shadow Creek will have to beat a good CE King squad just to get there. The reward for whoever wins that game is an easier path to state from there. The winner of a potential Katy-Shadow Creek showdown could easily be the champion of the right side of the bracket. I’m also interested to see how far Houston Heights can go – I think the Bulldogs have a solid squad and I see it being not impossible for them to make a small run.
Region II holds plenty of intrigue. Bridgeland starts out with a tough showdown against Klein Collins and could face Rockwall Heath in round three. I expect Bridgeland to favored in every game until a potential round four showdown with Cedar Hill – and I think the winner of that game goes to state. That could mean Katy-Cedar Hill part four, or it could mean an all-Houston state title game between Katy (or Shadow Creek) and Bridgeland. Remember, Bridgeland previously beat Shadow Creek 27-21 back in week two.
The 5A brackets don’t hold quite as much intrigue as 6A in my opinion. The lower half of Region III in 5A-I features Paetow and Foster, as well as Cedar Park from the Austin area. The top half includes Hightower and Manvel. All of those are good teams, but Manvel has impressed in every game it has played this season, other than a blowout loss to North Shore but c’mon, it’s North Shore. There could be some good games but I like Manvel to win the region and go to state. A Manvel-Denton Ryan state game would be a lot of fun.
The 5A-II bracket has Crosby and Huntsville in the top half and Fort Bend Marshall in the bottom half. I expect Marshall to be playing one of those two squads for the Region III title. The thing is, I have no clue what to expect from Marshall. The Buffs outscored their opponents 508-20 this year, but haven’t played any good teams. Huntsville turned in a similar season, but played more close games against quality opponents. Marshall is ranked No. 3 and Huntsville No. 4, so the winner of that game likely faces the winner of Aledo and Ennis at state.
What to Watch for: Week 16
As previously mentioned, all the small schools are eliminated and we’re left with nothing but 5A and 6A playoff football from here on out. That being said, every game in the playoffs is important, so I’m going to provide a list of every game involving a Houston area team here for the next six weeks. This week will be a simple listing of games, but following weeks will provide more information on what to expect from each game. Y’all get out and enjoy some playoff football!
6A-I, Region II
- College Park vs. Spring Westfield
- Klein Cain vs. Cy Woods
- The Woodlands vs. Spring
- Klein Oak vs. Cy Ranch
6A-I, Region III
- Cy-Fair vs. Westside
- Tompkins vs. Travis
- North Shore vs. Deer Park
- Pearland Dawson vs. Dickinson
- Jersey Village vs. Bellaire
- Seven Lakes vs. Ridge Point
- Atascocita vs. Dobie
- Pearland vs. Clear Springs
6A-II, Region II
- Oak Ridge vs. Eisenhower
- Tomball Memorial vs. Cy Park
- Willis vs. Spring Dekaney
- Klein Collins vs. Bridgeland
6A-II, Region III
- Memorial vs. Lamar
- Katy vs. Elkins
- CE King vs. Channelview
- Shadow Creek vs. Clear Creek
- Cy Creek vs. Heights
- Katy Taylor vs. George Ranch
- West Brook vs. Pasadena Memorial
- Strake Jesuit vs. Clear Falls
5A-I, Region II
- Highland Park vs. New Caney
- Magnolia vs. McKinney North
5A-I, Region III
- Port Arthur Memorial vs. Hightower
- Manvel vs. Beaumont United
- Foster vs. Goose Creek Memorial
- Baytown Lee vs. Katy Paetow
5A-II, Region III
- Texas High vs. Montgomery Lake Creek
- Crosby vs. Willowridge
- Huntsville vs. Nacogdoches
- Galena Park vs. Barbers Hill
- Fort Bend Marshall vs. Port Neches-Groves
- Montgomery vs. Whitehouse
- Nederland vs. Sterling