Inside High School Sports Houston | The Cooldown: Week 4
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09/20/21

The Cooldown: Week 4

Another week of games gone by and we’re starting to get into the interesting stuff. Some teams had an early bye week, some were still playing non-district games and some teams kicked off district play.

Week four was all about the 4-0 club. See who impressed with a perfect record through four weeks here!

Clear Falls takes down resurgent Cinco Ranch

After a combined 1-17 record in 2019 and 2020, Cinco Ranch got off to an impressive 3-0 start to the 2021 season. The Cougars couldn’t extend their first win streak since early October 2018, but did impress against a quality opponent.

Perhaps an equally impressive story awaited Cinco Ranch on the opposite side of the field. Clear Falls made just its third-ever playoff appearance last season, and won its first-ever playoff game. That first playoff win snowballed into two additional wins, putting the Knights into the state quarterfinals despite finishing third in their own district. Just a few months removed from the first playoff win in school history, Clear Falls is ranked No. 21 in the state for class 6A.

As for the game itself, Clear Falls jumped out to a 23-7 lead at the end of the third quarter. Instead of packing up and heading back to Katy, Cinco Ranch came out swinging in the fourth. Gavin Rutherford connected with Seth Salverino for two touchdown passes, but each TD was matched by the Knights, who won it 37-21.

The important thing for Cinco Ranch was putting up a solid fight against a state-ranked opponent. For Clear Falls, it showed they can be dominant against good competition. At 4-0, the Knights will need all the momentum they can get ahead of a titanic district showdown with Dickinson on Friday.

For Clear Falls, sophomore quarterback Landon Vessel threw for 102 yards and two scores on an impressive 8-for-10. Luke Vidal caught both of Vessel’s touchdown tosses, finishing with a total of six catches for 77 yards and a pair of scores. David Smith (a junior) and Payton Greer (a sophomore) ran for 115 yards and 63 yards with two scores respectively to pace a solid rushing attack for the Knights.

Rutherford finished with 192 yards and two touchdown passes on 12-for-24. The Cougars struggled to run the ball against a solid Clear Falls defense; leading rusher Sam McKnight totaled 42 yards on 13 carries and the team ran for just 52 yards total. Salverino had a fantastic night at wide receiver, finishing with 165 yards and two scores on six catches.

That Cinco Ranch offensive trio – Rutherford, McKnight and Salverino – are all juniors. For Clear Falls, QB Vessel and RB Greer are sophomores. It’s clear both of these teams could be quite good for the foreseeable future.

Tomball tops Oak Ridge to continue impressive start

There’s a reason district 15-6A is always one of my favorites and this year is no exception. Tomball Memorial and Klein Collins are slumping after a few great years. Meanwhile two teams who didn’t make the playoffs last season – Klein Forest and Tomball – are the last remaining undefeated teams in the district.

For the first time in at least five years, Tomball is 4-0. Cale Hellums has been outstanding at quarterback, throwing for 163 yards and three scores while adding another 91 on the ground. Hellums’ touchdown passes came from 45 yards, 55 yards and 17 yards with just a few seconds left in the half. The last one gave Tomball a 21-0 halftime lead and it never looked back.

The Cougars would go on to win the game 38-13 behind a great performance from Hellums and a dual rushing attack of Evan Alaniz (71 yards) and Chance Womack (79 yards). The 4-0 start is great, but those four wins also mean nothing in deciding the playoff picture. District play starts for the Cougars next week at rival Tomball Memorial – the first Tomball-only showdown in TISD’s brand new, beautiful stadium.

Clements keeps rolling against Dulles

Clements is 4-0 for the first time in more than a decade. That might not seem that impressive, but starting 4-0 in Texas is incredibly hard.

Micah Darnell has led the way for Clements at quarterback. He finished with 168 yards and a touchdown on 11-for-19 passing to lead the Rangers. He spread the ball around well, but the leading receiver was Patrick Smith with four catches for 65 yards and hauled in Darnell’s lone touchdown pass.

Dulles gets it done on the ground and had a quartet of good rushers. Jalen Brown was the leading rusher with 15 carries for 96 yards, while Deadric Hubbard (13 carries for 68 yards) and Devin Graham (12 for 64) also impressed. Alfred Antwi was the go-to red zone threat, running 10 times for 33 yards and both of Dulles’ touchdowns. Homecoming king Jaxon Tilley carried three times for six yards, and also had two tackles.

Unfortunately for Tilley, it was Darnell and Clements who spoiled homecoming with the Rangers staying perfect with a 19-13 win to kick off district play. Next up for Clements is a big game with Ridge Point, while Dulles gets Bush on the road.

News and Notes

In this section each week, I’ll do some bullet points to highlight the other games that caught my eye but didn’t have time to discuss in detail like the game mentioned above.

  • Seven Lakes continues a nice start by beating Heights, 28-6; the 19-6A playoff race is quietly shaping up to be quite good
  • Lake Creek outlasted Morton Ranch 41-40 despite a huge effort from Santana Scott
  • Katy survived a scare from The Woodlands with some stellar defensive play, 21-14
  • Lamar is back to its old ways, beating Conroe 43-21
  • Atascocita couldn’t make it 2-for-2 in DFW, falling to Guyer 46-35
  • Dickinson beat a good Dobie team, 48-27
  • North Shore bounced back with a 58-34 win against Klein Oak
  • CE King flexed with a big time 49-6 win against 5A state-ranked Huntsville, a game the Panthers lost last year
  • Rayburn is off to a 4-0 start for just the second time in school history after a 39-0 shutout of Sam Houston: this is a big deal!! Congrats!
  • Tomball Memorial outlasted Kingwood, 41-34
  • Klein Cain ran all over Katy Taylor, 63-28
  • Willis upset College Station 24-17
  • Stafford picked up an impressive 28-14 win over Sealy
  • Bellville boat-raced Rockdale, 67-7… more on that below

Player of the Week

My player-of-the-week earned a shout-out from the Greg Tepper on Twitter, which is the ultimate sign of standing out considering Tepper covers and tweets about every school in the state.

Bellville is currently ranked No. 6 in the state in 4A-II and it’s in large part due to the dynamic duo of Robert Briggs (Utah State) and Richard Reese (Baylor). Last week was Briggs' time to shine.

Coach Grady Rowe sent us a DM on Twitter with Briggs' stats from the big win against Rockdale. In a blowout, a lot of backups typically play in the second half. Starters might not put up big numbers because they don’t get as man touches. The latter part of that statement was certainly true for Briggs but the former was not. Briggs had just seven total touches, but finished with an astounding 294 yards and five touchdowns. And here’s the thing, only four of those touches came on offense, the other three we on special teams! That’s crazy!

The final line broke down to two carries for 52 yards and a score, two catches for 91 yards and two scores, and three punt returns for 151 yards and an additional touchdown. It’s easy to see why Utah State wanted to lock up him before he hit his senior season and the Bears are getting a special player. But first, there’s unfinished business at Bellville, who is looking to make a deep playoff run after being bounced in round two by Salado in 2020.

Ashlea Bullington will have more on this during The Warmup this week, so be sure to check that out.

What to look forward to:

Here are the games I’m looking forward to this week:

  • A hot Willis squad battles struggling Klein Collins (TH)
  • State-ranked Tompkins takes on a revitalized Cinco Ranch (TH)
  • Heights looks for its first win against Westbury (TH)
  • Hightower faces a tough district test against Manvel (TH)
  • Alief Taylor battles Shadow Creek (F)
  • North Shore faces a good West Brook squad (F)
  • Dickinson and Clear Falls battle in what could be the de-facto 24-6A championship game (F)
  • Langham Creek looks to upset Bridgeland (F)
  • Rayburn looks to stay perfect against Deer Park (F)
  • Atscocita looks to rebound from a tough road loss against Humble (F)
  • Strake Jesuit and Pearland battle for playoff positioning (F)
  • College Park and Mayde Creek look for a momentous win heading into district play (F)
  • Klein looks to prove itself as a potential playoff threat against Klein Cain (F)
  • Tomball and Tomball Memorial renew their rivalry (F)
  • Memorial and Jersey Village look for a big win (SAT)
  • Klein Oak and Klein Forest face off in what could be a playoff-defining early-season district tilt (SAT)