And then there were three…
We’re down to three Houston area squads left in the mix for a state title as we enter the state semifinals. North Shore is the last man standing from Houston in 6A-I while Katy holds down 6A-II and Crosby represents Houston in 5A-II. Manvel’s loss last weekend means Houston is shut out of 5A-I.
Instead of the usual weekly recap I do here, I’ll use this weeks’ edition of The Cooldown to preview each of Houston’s three state semifinal matchups. That means congratulations are in order for those who aren’t moving to the next round – Manvel, Ridge Point, Clear Falls and Fort Bend Marshall made it to round four – no easy feat! Congratulations to those squads on a great 2020 season.
North Shore vs. Austin Westlake
North Shore won every game it played in the 2019 playoffs by double digits, including a 17-point thrashing of Duncanville in the state championship game. So for the first time since AJ Carter came down with Dematrius Davis’ Hail Mary attempt to give North Shore the 2018 state title and one of the most thrilling finishes to a game ever, the Mustangs will have a serious playoff test.
North Shore has won every game it has played by at least 25 points outside of its first two games. Westlake has somehow been even more impressive than that. The Chaparrals have shut out their opponents six times this year and their smallest margin of victory came last week in a 34-0 win against Cibolo Steele. Westlake has out-scored its opponents 661-51 and hasn’t let up more than 14 points in any game this year.
North Shore got here by way of a 56-14 win against Ridge Point.
Of course, North Shore has faced a tougher schedule in Houston than Westlake has up in Austin. Westlake’s toughest game on the schedule – Lake Travis – was cancelled due to coronavirus issues. Outside of that, I don’t believe the Chaps have faced any state ranked teams until now, though they did beat Buda Hays 59-6 in the regular season; Hays faces Katy in the 6A-II state semifinals this weekend.
As impressive as Westlake has been, North Shore has championship pedigree and a schedule that has prepared them for another state championship game. The Mustangs hold wins over several state ranked programs, including Katy Tompkins, Pearland Dawson, Atascocita and Shadow Creek in 6A as well as Manvel in 5A.
This game is about as good as it gets and North Shore has a right to be nervous heading into a game for the first time in a while. Despite that, I think the Mustangs are better tested and they have the experience of winning two-straight 6A-I titles. Westlake has championship pedigree as well after winning the 6A-II title last season, but 6A-I is a different ballgame. Give me North Shore by seven in a lower scoring affair than we’re used to seeing in a North Shore game.
Katy vs. Buda Hays Consolidated
Katy rolls into another state semifinals looking for its 15th appearance in a state title game while Buda Hays fights for its second appearance at state.
The Rebels have been tested by some of the best teams in the state this season, but those tests didn’t go particularly well. Buda Hays opened with a 3-3 record with the losses coming by at least 27 points each to Vista Ridge, Lake Travis and Westlake. The only loss on Katy’s record this season was a 24-19 decision at the hands of Katy Tompkins, a team that spent all season ranked in the top 10 in the state.
Katy advanced to the state semifinals with a dominant 51-14 win against Clear Falls while Buda Hays dominated Austin Vandegrift 38-10 to advance.
These squads will meet up in Waco to determine who goes to Arlington for the state championships and there shouldn’t be much need to overthink this one. Katy should win it by a lot and would advance to play the winner of Cedar Hill and Denton Guyer. A matchup with Cedar Hill would be quite familiar as the two squared off for three state titles in the 2010s with Katy winning one of the three.
Crosby vs. Liberty Hill
Crosby has perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the three Houston schools left playing.
Liberty Hill played for a state title back in 2018, losing 35-21 to Waco La Vega back when the Panthers still played in class 4A. The Panthers are playing inspired as ever after the passing of head coach Jeff Walker on December 1. Walker battled kidney cancer for years before his passing and was an inspiration to everyone in the Liberty Hill community.
Liberty Hill beat Sharyland Pioneer to get here with a 56-53 shootout win. The Panthers made headlines around the state this week by rushing for over 700 yards and picking up the win without throwing a single pass in their famous slot-t offense. It is really hard to know how a team will handle a high powered slot-t offense given that not many teams run that offense anymore.
Meanwhile, Crosby beat its third-straight top five team in the state by surviving a back-and-forth affair with Fort Bend Marshall. The Buffs made the last two state championship games, but fell to Crosby 37-28.
The Cougars upset Texas High 62-42 before beating Region III favorites Huntsville 32-29. Crosby has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2020 playoffs regardless of classification and are on a roll. Crosby vs. Liberty Hill feels like an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object and I can’t wait to see who comes out on top. The biggest thing to watch for is how Crosby handles the Liberty Hill run game out of the slot-t. It can be confusing to defend and who wins the game will rest on how well the Crosby defense can adjust. I’ve got Crosby by 10.
What to Watch for: Week 20
With just three games left, I’ll provide the game information for the three contests this week and preview what lies ahead for each.
6A Division I – North Shore vs. Austin Westlake
- Saturday at 2 pm at Katy Legacy
- Winner will face the winner of Duncanville and Southlake Carroll for the 6A-I title at 7 pm on Saturday, January 16 in Arlington, Texas.
6A Division II – Katy vs. Buda Kays Consolidated
- Saturday at 2 pm at McLane Stadium in Waco
- Winner will face the winner of Cedar Hill and Denton Guyer for the 6A-II title at 11 am on Saturday, January 16 in Arlington, Texas
5A Division II – Crosby vs Liberty Hill
- Friday at 7:30 pm at Green Stadium in Bryan
- Winner will face the winner of Aledo and Wichita Falls Rider for the 5A-II title at 11 am on Friday, January 15 in Arlington, Texas