The Cooldown: Week 16

Five rounds down, just one to go.

As we approach the final weekend of year for Texas high school football, just two Houston-area teams remain standing. North Shore will face familiar foe Duncanville for the 6A-I title at 3 p.m. on Saturday while Katy Paetow makes its’ first state title appearance taking on College Station at 7 p.m. Friday. Here’s a recap of last week

North Shore races past Lake Travis in 2019 repeat

North Shore smoked Lake Travis to the tune of a 49-21 win, advancing to take on Duncanville at the state championship game at 3 p.m. on Saturday at AT&T Stadium. That same sentence – only difference being the final score – was true two years ago at this time.

Throw it back two years and you will remember a dominant playoff run from then-junior quarterback Dematrius Davis, now at Auburn. Davis won state titles as quarterback of North Shore in 2018 and 2019 and started there as a freshman. The Mustangs didn’t make the state title game when Davis was a freshman so it isn’t entirely déjà vu, but the Mustangs are once again led by a fantastic freshman quarterback.

Kaleb Bailey had his dual-threat ability on full display, completing 8-of-11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns to go with another 203 yards and two scores on the ground on just 13 carries, good for 15.6 yards-per-carry. David Amador was Bailey’s top target, catching four passes – and both of Bailey’s passing touchdowns – for a total of 110 yards. Xavier Owens continued his hot playoff run with 80 yards and a touchdown.

We have long known that North Shore owns one of the best defenses in the state, but the big play offense we’re accustomed to seeing from the Mustangs has been (mostly) noticeably absent this year. Bailey has inspired more confidence in North Shore’s state title chances by providing some of the big play offense we’re used to seeing, something that was missing against quality opponents through much of the regular season. Duncanville is similar in that regard, but more on that below.

Paetow hangs 73 points in semifinal win

It’s one thing to win a semifinal round five (!!) playoff game in this state, it’s another to score 73 points and win by 59 in that game.

The Paetow football program is only four years old but it is going to it’s first state title game after a 73-14 win against Flour Bluff. The last time a young Houston-area program made a state title was Shadow Creek in its first and second seasons of existence back in 2018 and 2019. The Sharks were routed by Highland Park in that first title game before beating Denton Ryan in 2019. Hopefully Paetow won’t have to be routed in its’ first (and only) state title game as a 5A program.

Paetow running back Jacob brown dominated the first three games of the regular season before going down with an injury. Brown has dominated his way through the playoffs too, until round five. Brown finished with just 52 yards, but he wasn’t needed as much as he will be next week. Paetow used a by-committee approach at running back, with 10 players recording a rushing attempt. The Panthers combined to run 45 times for 313 yards.

If that wasn’t enough, senior quarterback CJ Dumas was stellar, throwing for 215 yards and three scores on 11-of-13. Kole Wilson was the leading receiver, catching five passes for 164 yards. This senior-heavy team could be the perfect balance of offensive explosiveness and defensive rigidness to take down a great College Station team. We’ll preview that game below.

Crosby, Katy, Tomball all blown out

For as dominant as North Shore and Paetow were last weekend, the trio of Katy, Tomball and Crosby were equally dominated. I covered the Katy and Tomball games and it was apparent early that neither would win against over-powering Austin Westlake and Denton Guyer squads.

Katy had the task of defending five-star Clemson-bound quarterback Cade Klubnik and it went about how every other game Klubnik plays in goes: a 35-plus-point win. Westlake had beaten every opponent this year – save for a 20-point win against Euless Trinity – by at least 35 points. That streak ended on Saturday, but just barely, with Westlake winning 45-14, a 34-point win.

Klubnik threw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns while Katy struggled to move the ball – particularly on the ground – all day. Westlake is the No. 2 team in America according to Maxpreps while Katy clocked in at No. 7 in the national top 25. The loss was Katy’s worst postseason loss in school history.

As bad as that seems, Tomball didn’t fare any better. Guyer rolled up 59 points in a 59-14 win that saw Tomball have success on early downs, but the Cougars weren’t able to convert several third- and fourth-and-shorts. It was still a fantastic season for Tomball, one senior quarterback Cale Hellums will never forget.

For Crosby, it was several turnovers that sealed the deal. The Cougars were down just 28-14 entering the fourth and had turnovers in the red zone and gave up a scoop-n-score. Those are things you can’t afford to do playing a methodical and disciplined team such as Liberty Hill, who made Crosby pay for it in a 42-14 win.

Player of the Week

Because we’re really getting down to the end here, I’m going to do a short note on one true player-of-the-week and give a shout-out to one player from each of Houston’s final five, even the three that lost. Crosby, Katy and Tomball might all have been blown out, but that doesn’t make the season each just had any less impressive. It is hard to make it to the state semifinals in this state and each deserve recognition.

My player-of-the-week is North Shore’s Kaleb Bailey! As noted above, the freshman ran for over 200 yards and added more than 100 through the air in a blowout win against Lake Travis. To my knowledge, the last time we saw a freshman start a state title game in class 6A was in 2019, when Duncanville’s Chris Parson had the tough task of filling Ja’Quinden Jackson’s shoes after Jackson tore his ACL in the state semifinals. Parson did a good job, but it wasn’t enough to beat Davis and North Shore.

Now, Bailey will have his chance and will have far more experience than Parson did entering the state title game. He’ll be faced with a tough task facing Duncanville’s defense, but it should make for a great game.

Now, for each individual shout-out. For Paetow, it has to be CJ Dumas. He struggled in round four against Hightower and leaned on his running backs to get that win. This week, it was the running backs who leaned on Dumas and his excellent connection with receiver Kole Wilson. Dumas torched Flour Bluff and Paetow is heading to the state title game as a result.

For Katy, it’s Nic Anderson that deserves a big shout-out. He caught both of Caleb Koger’s touchdown passes which were Katy’s only scores of the game. On one of those catches, Anderson broke a tackle around the first down marker on third down, and broke a few more tackles as he rumbled more than 50 yards into the end zone. Anderson is a senior and will play at Oklahoma next year.

For Crosby, it’s Kameren Kirkwood, who accounted for both of Crosby’s touchdowns in the Cougars loss. Crosby replaced some talented playmakers from last years’ state runner-up team and reloaded to make it back to the state semifinals. Kirkwood was a big part of that.

State Title Preview

Here’s a quick state title preview for our two Houston teams that will be playing for a state title.

North Shore faces Duncanville in the 6A-I game for the third time in four years. Just like 2019, this game will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. North Shore won the first two matchups – the 2018 edition on that memorable Davis Hail Mary and 2019 by a comfortable margin – before both were knocked out in the state semifinals last season. Now, these teams look nothing like the 2018 and ’19 versions.

North Shore had an explosive offense, scoring 35-plus in each of the first two editions of this game. Now, the Mustangs are led by a freshman quarterback who has experience, but is still getting his feet wet at the same time. The receivers are young and led by veteran David Amador, while Xavier Owens is solid at tailback – but it isn’t quite the days of Shadrach Banks and Zach Evans at those positions.

Nevertheless, the trio of Bailey, Owens and Amador have provided plenty of offensive spark in the last few weeks, including a 49-point outing last week. Where North Shore really exceeds is on defense, where cornerback Denver Harris is one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. Add in Kris Ross on the defensive line and linebacker Kent Battle and North Shore owns one of the most dominant defensive units in the state.

Duncanville is much of the same way. The Panthers are led by running back Malachi Medlock, a Toledo commit, on offense. Duncanville takes a grind-it-out approach with Medlock running behind a big offensive line. Just like North Shore, this is a once-explosive Duncanville offense that doesn’t generate many big plays anymore.

However, Duncanville is a methodical offense and will score a lot of points if given the opportunities. They might not rack up a bunch of chunk plays, but they will move the ball at a steady rate and score. Just because they aren’t scoring from 50 yards out doesn’t mean they won’t score often.

Duncanville is fresh off a 35-9 dismantling of a solid Southlake Carroll squad that played for a state title last season. They’re led by an outstanding defense that features five-star defensive lineman Omari Abor and linebacker Jordan Crook, an Arkansas commit. Both offenses have improved throughout the course of the playoffs but both defenses are among the best in the state, if not the nation. Expect a slugfest with not many explosive plays. I’ve got…

Duncanville, 31 – North Shore, 21

The other Houston-area state game has Katy Paetow taking on College Station on Friday night at 7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Paetow enters at 14-1 with the lone loss coming to Manvel in the regular season, a game in which the Panthers were without their two best running backs. College Station is 15-0 and won its first 12 games by at least 20 points each. That streak ended with a 45-35 win against Frisco Wakeland in round three, followed by a 26-21 win over defending state champs Denton Ryan in round four and the Cougars’ closest call to date – a 28-21 win over Mansfield Summit last week.

College Station is powered by quarterback Jett Huff and running back Marquise Collins on offense. Huff is an efficient passer, but the offense really relies on Collins, who has several “Power 5” college offers as a junior. Paetow is a similar team.

Paetow has CJ Dumas at quarterback, an experienced signal caller with some small college offers. But the Panthers really rely on their running backs, led by Jacob Brown, who routinely racks up 200-plus yards in most games. Behind him, Damyrion Phillips has had an outstanding season as well to give Paetow a solid two-headed attack at running back. Throw in Dumas and top receiver Kole Wilson, and the Panthers have been hard to stop on offense this year.

College Station is likely the favorite in this one but it is tough to get a read on who is better. Paetow played a weaker schedule, with two good wins against Hightower and the loss to Manvel. Outside of that, the Panthers haven’t played many quality teams. College Station owns close wins against outstanding teams such as Denton Ryan and Frisco Lone Star, but the Cougars’ most recent win was by just seven points against a fairly uninspiring Mansfield Summit squad. Summit is good, but not better than similar teams College Station has beaten this year.

With that being said, I feel like this one could go either way. I’ll take…

Paetow, 34 – College Station 31

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