Cover Photo via @NSSH_Mustangs on Twitter.
Sixteen weeks into the season and we’re down to three: Just three schools will represent Houston at the state championships, each making a second straight appearance. This edition of The Cooldown serves as our state championship preview.
1. Class 6A Division I -- The Rematch
North Shore breezed past Lake Travis 49-38 to make it back to Arlington. Star running back Zach Evans took the ACT on Saturday morning and missed nearly the entire first half, and it still didn’t matter.
Now comes the rematch we’ve been waiting for since last year’s state championships. Duncanville and North Shore each returned sophomore and junior-laden teams and have been on a collision course to play for another state title for a year. That moment is finally here.
North Shore looks good as ever, blowing past every opponent it has faced in the playoffs by a wide margin. Duncanville has largely done the same; beating great teams in Southlake Carroll and Rockwall over the last two rounds. However, the Panthers will likely be without starting quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson in the state championship game. Jackson suffered a knee injury against Rockwall on Saturday. The extent of the damage is not yet fully known but team officials fear that it's a season-ending ACL.
While Duncanville still has plenty of weapons, the backup quarterback is freshman Chris Parson. He did a good job stepping in for Jackson in the state semifinals, and received his first scholarship offer from Kansas after the game. However, a first career start against North Shore in the state championships is a daunting task for anyone. It will be interesting to see how Parson will hold up and how Duncanville generates offense. The Panthers have an outstanding back of their own in Trysten Smith.
My Prediction: North Shore 49 – Duncanville 41
2. Class 6A Division II -- Marshall Looks for Revenge
Marshall impressed for the second week in a row, following up a blowout win against Manvel with a blowout win against Boerne Champion. The duo of Malik Hornsby and Devon Achane did it again – Hornsby completing 74 percent of his passes for two scores and Achane adding 152 yards and three scores on the ground in the 55-21 win.
The Buffaloes defense stepped up as well, with defensive back Christian Jackson picking off two passes and blocking a punt. Marshall had the game wrapped up by halftime with a 48-7 lead to sprint into a state championship rematch with Aledo.
Aledo has struggled this season more than in the past – which should say something that a down year for the Bearcats still results in a state championship appearance. They opened the year with a loss to 6A Denton Guyer (who will also be playing for a state championship this weekend in 6A Division II) before needing overtime to beat Midlothian in the regular season. The Bearcats squeaked by their opponents in the last two weeks, needing overtime to beat Ennis and taking down Lubbock Cooper 28-21 to advance to state.
While still dangerous with four-year starter and Oklahoma commit Jase McClellan at running back, Aledo lacks the overall punch it has had in recent years. The blowouts against top talent haven’t been there in 2019, and that’s OK for Aledo: blowing out top talent isn’t normal. The point is, this isn’t quite the same Aledo team that routed Marshall in last year’s title game. This game has the chance to be one of the better games of state weekend.
My prediction: Marshall 40 – Aledo 38
3. Class 5A Division I -- Shadow Creek Gets a New Test
San Antonio Wagner played Shadow Creek closer than any team not named Foster in 2019, and still lost by 24. The defense has been the story for the Sharks all season and this game was no different. Shadow Creek took a 24-21 lead to the locker room before the defense shut out Wagner in the second half as the Sharks pulled away.
Jay’Veon Bell stepped up for the Sharks offense, finishing with 146 yards on the ground as Kyron Drones led the Sharks with 219 yards and three scores through the air. However, Drones completed just 11 of his 22 passes, and may need to be more efficient for Shadow Creek to win its first state championship.
Denton Ryan is unlike any team Shadow Creek has faced this season. Alabama commit Drew Sanders and Texas commits Billy Bowman and Ja’Tavion Sanders lead a very explosive offense. The Raiders have boat-raced every team they have faced this season. The smallest margin of victory came against Keller Fossil Ridge, 24-0, back in week two. Ryan has been eliminated by Highland Park in the state semifinals each of the last three seasons, and have finally made it to state.
The 5A Division I final will be a matchup of two teams who have rarely been tested this season. The key to the game will be how Shadow Creek’s defense steps up against Ryan’s offense. Ryan has scored less than 40 just three times this season, scoring 35 last weekend against Frisco Lone Star, 35 against Colleyville Heritage in the regular season, and the aforementioned 24 against Fossil Ridge.
Conversely, the Shadow Creek defense has let up more than 20 just twice this season, letting up 21 against Wagner on Saturday and 31 against Foster back in round three. The game will be strength vs. strength, and I think Ryan’s offense is better.
My Prediction: Denton Ryan 45 – Shadow Creek 35