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We are officially in the thick of playoff season in Texas -- and what's better than that?
Our coverage of the UIL Playoffs began Thursday night with Prosper's dominant victory over Frisco Wakeland in Allen. Tonight, we're keeping it going with four outstanding matchups.
Here’s what to watch for in each of this evening's contests.
Beaumont West Brook vs. Longview
Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM (CST) | Lobos Stadium (Longview, Texas)
Longview (9-1) is strong on both sides of the ball. The Lobos’ defense held opponents to a touchdown or less in five of its 10 games during the regular season — although, the dam did break on a couple of occasions. The Lobos closed the regular season out by scoring 61 unanswered vs. Mesquite. Jalen Carr hauled in two picks to run his season total to eight. Five rushers scored touchdowns.
West Brook (7-2) is very talented in its own right, with a pair of standout juniors who have been doing some pretty remarkable things. Damon Ward has proven that he has the ability to take over games on the outside — a task made easier by the fact that he has L’Ravien Elia tossing the ball around the yard. Elia scored nine times in a 70-43 win over Conroe Oak Ridge to end the regular season.
A year ago, West Brook ended Longview’s season in a first-round playoff game in Beaumont. A year later, the Lobos are looking for revenge. In order to do that, they have to keep Elia quiet.
Conroe Oak Ridge vs.Mesquite Horn
Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM (CST) | Horn High School (Mesquite, Texas)
Mesquite Horn (9-1) handled its business down the stretch to lock up the district title and a top seed, and there’s a lot to like about the Jaguars — beginning with quarterback Jermaine Givens. Givens topped the century mark in rushing six times and tossed for over 200 yards five times during the regular season, finishing with 3,180 total yards and 29 touchdowns.
Conroe Oak Ridge (6-3) is something of the opposite in that it has no star. Five players recorded at least 27 carries for the War Eagles this season. Three different players attempted at least 38 passes — no one threw more than 74 times. After a 6-0 start, Oak Ridge came crashing back to earth with three blowout losses to end the regular season — including a 70-43 loss to Beaumont West Brook in the finale.
Make no mistake, Horn is the favorite in this one. But the recipe for success isn’t a secret at Oak Ridge: stop Givens. If the War Eagles can find a way to neutralize the Jaguars’ quarterback, they’ll have a shot.
Schertz Clemens vs.Helotes O’Connor
Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM (CST) | O’Connor High School (Helotes, Texas)
Simply put, O’Connor (10-0) scores some points. In 10 games, the Panthers have fallen short of 40 exactly twice. That’s thanks, in very large part, to senior quarterback Roel Sanchez. The senior may not look the part of a game-changing quarterback, but Sanchez's masterful control of the Panthers offense is arguably the single biggest reason for their perfect regular season.
Less than a month ago, Clemens (8-2) looked like it was rolling to a district title. Three weeks and two losses later and the Buffaloes are limping into the playoffs a bit. But Marshawn Brown and the Buffaloes don’t have overly significant cause for concern. They’ve seen O’Connor coming and Clemens’ difficult district has prepared it for the challenge of facing San Antonio’s top team.
This one has the makings of a classic, with contrasting styles and paths to the playoffs. Clemens’ defense will need to do what very few have even remotely accomplished, and slow the O’Connor offense. If the Panthers score like they’re accustomed to scoring, it’ll be bad news for the Buffaloes.
Pflugerville Hendrickson vs.Austin Bowie
Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM (CST) | Bowie High School (Austin, Texas)
Save for the lump the Hawks took from Lake Travis, Hendrickson (7-3) has been a pleasant surprise, rolling to five straight wins after a 2-3 start. Junior quarterback Blaine Barker has been rock solid during that run, and the Hawks benefit from a deep running back room.
Bowie (8-2) has a bit of a sleeper feel to its team. Aside from getting annihilated by Westlake — and many others can say the same — the Bulldogs turned in an impressive regular season before falling in the finale to a strong San Marcos team. Jeff Ables’ offense is led by a sturdy group of seniors, which typically bodes well in November and December.
Bowie would do well to stuff the Hendrickson ground game and force Barker to beat them through the air — not because Barker can’t, but when the Hawks strike a balance on offense, they’re a tough out.