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07/07/20

Under The Microscope: Week 13

Cover Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle.

One of the few districts that remained mostly intact from 2019 heading into 2020 is 17-6A, which goes from a nine-team district down to eight by virtue of losing Cy Falls to 16-6A.

Other than that, every school in this district remains, which gives us a good idea of what the district could look like since all these teams played each other last season. There are no wild cards, nothing new to expect.

With that being said, let’s take a dive into our 17-6A preview to see just about how that playoff picture could shake out.

Cy-Fair

Cy-Fair went 11-1 a season ago before falling to Katy in the 2nd round – who spent most of the season ranked in the national top 10 – and the Bobcats are reloaded for a season that should be just as good if not better.

The reason why starts with L.J. Johnson, who is one of the premier backs in the nation and will have his pick of anywhere he wants to go to school. Johnson is one of the best players in the entire state, and he’ll be joined by his quarterback from last season in Carter Cravens – who threw for more than 1,000 yards in Cy-Fair’s run-heavy attack.

Jaydon Harris is back to lead a defense that will have some talent to replace, but the offensive firepower should be enough to put Cy-Fair on the shortlist among state title contenders. They may not be the favorites, but I believe the Bobcats can hang with anyone.

Cy Creek

The 2019 season was quite interesting for Cy Creek.

The Cougars grabbed the third spot in a top-heavy district, but were able to advance four rounds deep in the playoffs while the more talented Cy-Fair Bobcats bowed out two rounds earlier competing in 6A Division I.

It was the second consecutive season of a fourth round playoff appearance for Creek, which is pretty impressive. But the real question is, can they do it again?

Cy Creek loses a large collection of talent on both sides of the ball, but the offense is hit particularly hard. Julian Uwadia, Cogan DeRousselle, Legend Grigsby and Eddie Jimmerson are all gone, leaving Creek’s skill position talent incredibly depleted.

But two consecutive fourth round playoff appearances don’t come by way of not being able to replace talent. They’ll miss those offensive weapons as well as Josh White on defense, but I’m confident Cy Creek will find its way without them.

Brazos Gadler will help replace the production of DeRousselle and Grigsby at wideout while Joey Verret will do the same as White departs at linebacker. Those two won’t be enough, but I’m incredibly interested to see who else steps up in the fall.

Cy Ridge

The bad news about gaining early momentum in a season is having to sustain that momentum for the rest of the season.

That was the downfall for Cy Ridge in 2019. The Rams were winners of four of their first five before winning just one of the final five. That ending to the season resulted in a narrow playoff miss.

Jaelon Madden returns at quarterback and he’ll have Aaron Woods to throw to as well, which should help put Cy Ridge back into the playoff conversation. Having one less team will help, especially when the team that left happened to make the playoffs last season and accounted for one of Ridge’s losses.

They’ll also return Jai Vaquera, who can play at running back or wide receiver. With Madden having Woods and Vaquera back, the offense should be no problem. It will be tougher to figure out the other side of the ball.

The defense lost meaningful talent in the departures of Vernon Broughton and Je’Vaun Debon. If the Rams can find a way to replace that defensive production, watch out for them at the back end of the 17-6A playoff picture.

Jersey Village

While Cy Ridge is on the shortlist for teams who could fill Cy Falls’ abandoned spot in the playoffs, Jersey Village probably tops that list.

The Falcons won their first playoff game since 2004 during the 2018 season, but failed to make a return trip to the playoffs in 2019. Thankfully, a young team will be back to make another run at the playoffs.

Caleb Weaver is an outstanding young two-way talent at quarterback and defensive back. Despite being one of the best defensive backs in Texas, the Falcons will need him most at quarterback, where he spent most of his time last season.

Weaver will have no shortage of weapons out wide either. Michael Evans is one of the bigger receivers in the district at 6-foot-5, and Dionel Burrell pairs nicely with Evans as a speedy wide out.

The defense will have talent to replace, but the offense will have the Falcons right back in the playoff conversation.

Memorial

The other team I think will be in contention at the back end of the playoffs is Memorial, but the Mustangs look a little different than their counterparts.

They’ll rely on defensive talent to get them into the playoff picture rather than offense, like Cy Ridge and Jersey Village. That defensive talent will be led by the return of Jack Dragna on the defensive line. While his return is welcomed, the Mustangs will still have some holes to fill, but I expect their defense to be strong once again.

Carson Zahn will be back to carry the load on offense from his running back position, but I think Memorial has some serious holes to fill to contend with Jersey Village and Cy Ridge for a playoff spot. Not impossible, but it will be a tall order.

There is talent that could have them making a return trip to the playoffs, but I think it’s more likely the Mustangs drop out at this point – making way for either Cy Ridge or Jersey Village.

Northbrook

Not many programs around the Houston area have struggled as much as Northbrook over the last few years, but help is on the way.

The Raiders hired former Klein Cain assistant Andres Gomez as their new head ball coach, and it’s a hire that I love. Gomez helped lead Cain to its first ever playoff appearance last season, and he’s exactly the kind of coach Northbrook should need to help turn things around going forward.

As for the immediate future, Gomez will have Noah Cox and J.D. Watkins to work with on offense and defense respectively. Northbrook may not be ready for a massive step forward, but look for the Raiders to try and win a few games and string some momentum together heading into 2021.

Spring Woods

Yet another team that has struggled in the last few years, Spring Woods doesn’t have the benefit of a new perspective at head coach but will return a solid amount of talent.

Thomas Ainsworth is back to quarterback the offense and Isaiah McKnight will help out as well. Being in another loaded district isn’t good news and the Tigers likely won’t make the playoffs, but like Northbrook, they’ll look to string a few wins together and get some momentum moving into 2021.

Stratford

The Spartans were right there with Jersey Village and Cy Ridge in challenging for a playoff spot last season, with each falling short with a district record of 3-5.

The good news for Stratford is that they were young last season – but most of that talent was on defense. If they’re to challenge for a playoff spot this season, finding some answers on offense will be imperative.

The offense scored more than 20 points in just two of the eight games they played against teams not named Northbrook and Spring Woods – each of whom let up more than 20 to every opponent last season.

Reco Griffin is back to lead the defense, but the offense needs some serious answers. Because of that, I like Cy Ridge and Jersey Village to step into the playoffs until I know more about the Stratford offense.

Team and Player to Watch

My team-to-watch for this district seemed to be a pretty obvious choice. I wanted to go with a team I think has a shot to make the playoffs after missing out last season, so I’m going with Cy Ridge.

Jaelon Madden already has good chemistry with his top targets for this season in Aaron Woods and Jai Vaquera. I expect that offense to power the Rams into the playoff picture, unseating Memorial for the final spot. Keep an eye on that offensive trio for sure, I believe they have the power to shake up the district standings.

My player-to-watch was also an easy choice in Jersey Village’s Caleb Weaver.

He’s absolutely the best two-way player in the district in my opinion as a lockdown corner and a dual-threat quarterback. He’ll have excellent weapons out wide in the big Michael Evans and speedy Dionel Burrell.

His impact on both sides of the ball for Jersey Village makes him my player-to-watch. I know he’ll play the majority of his snaps at quarterback, but I’m confident he’ll be available to shut down half the field late in the game when the coaching staff asks him to do so.

I have the Falcons sliding into the third playoff spot, and Weaver is the biggest catalyst for that. Watch out for him and the Falcons this fall.