By Omar Muhammad
Many teams throughout the region are already in the midst of state playoffs, but thousands of teams that haven’t started postseason play most certainly are starting to feel the wear and tear of the regular season. Tensions don't get any higher for high school football with conference titles on the line and a single loss possibly indicating the end of one's season.
Roosevelt Rough Riders (7-2, State PR: 77.80, Rank: 34) vs. Smithson Valley Rangers (8-1, State PR: 86.02, Rank: 19): The Rough Riders look to rebound after a 36-21 loss to Madison. Roosevelt will turn to running back Brandon Armstrong, who has been averaging nearly 190 yards per game. Meanwhile, Smithson Valley coach Larry Hill has regrouped his team after a tough three-point loss to fellow district 26 foe Reagan High earlier this season. Currently the Rangers are on a six-game winning streak. Look for their experienced defense headed by Alex Rubin to be a major factor in capturing a District 26-5A crown.
Denison Yellowjackets (8-0, State PR: 92.75, Rank: 5) vs. Sherman Bearcats (7-1, State PR: 82.53, Rank: 15): This veteran Yellowjackets squad has all the right keys to finish off an undefeated season and have a top five playoff ranking. Denison’s offense, commanded by QB Jordan Taylor and RB D.J. Jones, will have no problem racking up points, since the offense averages 51 points a game. Sherman will turn to RB Waymon Jones to carry the offense and carve up another 1,000 yard rushing season. Even though the Bearcats defense is young, they have still put together a 5-0 record in District 9-4A, which some say is the strongest in all of 4A.
Highland Park Scots (8-0, State PR: 95.69, Rank: 3) vs. Rockwall-Heath Hawks (9-0, State PR: 88.65, Rank: 9): Highland Park’s offense has been lead by QB Luke Woodley, who is averaging 256 passing yards per game with 442 total yards a game and has commanded the Scots to a perfect 8-0 record and the top spot in the district 10-4A standings. The Hawks will have their star RB Kendial Lawrence to carry the load on offense -- the standout is averaging 186 yards per game. Rockwall-Heath’s defense will cause trouble for the Scots' offense with key returners at LB in George Bamfo and Greg Deloache.
West Brook Bruins (6-0, State PR: 89.32, Rank: 9) vs. North Shore Mustangs (7-0, State PR: 97.14, Rank: 4): The Bruins has been on a roll by posting a undefeated season so far and look to make a statement in the 5A playoffs. By the help of RB Christine Michael and QB Christian Lewis, West Brook has been blowing out its opponents by averaging 40 points per game. The Bruin defense has also held their challengers to a total of three touchdowns all season by the help of all-district standouts LB Taylor Reed, LB Caleb Gatlin and DT Roland Bordelon. These Mustangs have been coasting in the District 21-5A standings and don’t look to turn back until the state championship is won. The strength on this North Shore team has been the defense, which has been dominating offenses by only giving up 21 points on the season. This conference crown battle will determine who the best is in district 21-5A.
Hightower Hurricanes (7-0, State PR: 92.03, Rank: 5) vs. Elkins Knights (6-0, State PR: 84.86, Rank: 21): This Hurricane team has been riding the wave of their experienced QB A.J. Highsmith, who is coming up on another 2,000-yard passing season. The Hightower defense has been nothing but excellent by putting up two shutouts and have allowed a total of just 56 points all year. FS Colton Valencia, LB Shaun Lewis and CB Alex Francis are the leaders of a defense that has put together an impressive 7-0 regular season record. The Knights will look to counter Hightower’s defense with their veteran offense. Elkin’s pro-style QB Dean Brantley will be looking for his favorite targets in WRs Nick Harwell and Jordan Jolly in order to claim a district 23-5A title.
Midway Panthers (9-1, State PR: 88.00, Rank: 10) vs. Waxahachie Indians (7-2, State PR: 78.15, Rank: 23): This experienced Panther squad looks to finish the regular season undefeated and keep their eight-game winning streak alive for the playoffs. Midway is alone at the top of the district 16-4A standings and will be a contender for the 4A state title. The Indians have a very young team but have found a way to post an impressive 7-2 regular season. Waxahachie’s veterans in WR/DB Sam Gagliano, LB/RB LaJordan Easley and TE/DT Drew Harrison have helped the team average 30 points per game with a current four game winning streak.
Steele Knights (8-1, State PR: 83.06, Rank: 14) vs. Alamo Heights Mules (7-2, State PR: 75.79, Rank: 29): The Knights will try to make a last push for the District 27-4A title against Alamo in this conference battle. With 12 starters back from a surprising 11-2 team last season, the Knights hope to find similar success in '08. OL Matt Goetz is a three-year starter and has opened passing lanes in the offensive line for QB Jake Trevino. Mules QB Drew Allen has thrown for more than 232 yards per game and has been vital towards his team averaging 30 points a game. RB Sergio Acosta will give Allen a lift when needed with his breakaway speed. The defense has been led by LBs Miguel Vazquez, Ryan Murphy and Beau Wilson and DBs Colin Bibb and JR Philip Massari.
Reagan Rattlers (6-2, State PR: 77.09, Rank: 36) vs. Madison Mavericks (8-1, State PR: 85.71, Rank: 20): The Rattlers will have their last regular season game to determine how this district 26-5A three-way tie will unfold. Reagan’s offense, led by QB Derrick Walls and WR Zach Behnsch, has combined to average over 30 points a game. Madison RB Aaron Green has been racking up the points for the Mavericks by collecting over 184 total yards per game. The Mavs will need to come out with a win to stay alive in this crazy three-way tie.
Kirbyville Wildcats (8-0, State PR: 90.89, Rank: 1) vs. Newton Eagles (6-2-1, State PR: 69.13, Rank: 38): With the help of the Wildcats' seven returning starters on each side of the ball, this squad should be considered one of the favorites for the 2A state crown. Linebackers Stephan Jackson and Broderick Jackson have been key in holding their last five opponents to only seven points or less. The Eagles have their eyes set on the District 22-2A title after knocking off Shelbyville, 47-15, to put them 4-0 in conference play. Newton is on a five-game winning streak and hasn’t lost by more than six points.
Cinco Ranch Cougars (7-1, State PR: 84.61, Rank: 22) vs. Katy Tigers (6-2, State PR: 77.38, Rank: 35): Cougars RB Adam Hirtz averages nearly 180 yards per game, while on defense, end Devin Williams and standout James Radcliffe give their team a chance at the district 17-5A title. Katy has turned around its season after losses to North and The Woodlands to commence the season. The Tigers are riding a seven-game winning streak into the contest and look to get back to the 5A-II state title game. But first, they will need to get by Cinco Ranch for the District 17-5A title and look to carry that momentum into the playoffs..
Enid Plainsmen (7-2, State PR: 78.54, Rank: 9) vs. Union Redskins (8-1, State PR: 95.88, Rank: 4): Enid has jumped into the top of the District 3-6A standings by posting a 34-16 win against Ponca City last week. This will be the biggest test for the Plainsmen defense, which had trouble with explosive offensives earlier this season in losses to Owasso and Stillwater. The Redskins lost their first contest against Broken Arrow and have been on an eight-game winning streak ever since. Union looks to get back into the 6A championship game behind top returners RB Jeremy Smith, Terrell Williams and WR Anthony Foster scoring at will. Also, the defense will make it hard for offenses to pass the ball behind returning DBs Daniel Hauser, Howard Scarboroug and Randy Stanley.
Glenpool Warriors (9-0, State PR: 93.34, Rank: 2) vs. Star-Spencer Bobcats (8-1, State PR: 81.88, Rank: 52): The Warriors took the loss to Bishop McGuinness last year in the 4A state championship game as motivation to return this season and capture the title. Glenpool has been nothing but impressive by collecting eight shutouts so far in this 10-game season. The Warriors will be playing for their fourth straight District 2-4A title. The Bobcats are achieving great accolades by putting together an eight-game winning streak with a 4-0 home record and 4-1 mark on the road. Star-Spencer will need to knock off this tough Warrior squad to capture a district title.
Eufaula Ironheads (8-1, State PR: 81.64, Rank: 55) vs. Chandler Lions (9-0, State PR: 92.16, Rank: 1): Eufaula has been fearless on offense led by QB Ethan Sharp, who has produced 345 total yards a game while being the force behind his team averaging 37 points a game. The Ironheads have had trouble in the past with undefeated teams and most recently as evidenced by the 45-42 loss to Checotah in the beginning of the season. The Lions' defense is the king of the 2A league by only giving up a total of two touchdowns to their opponents in game play.
Macarthur Highlanders (6-2, State PR: 78.80, Rank: 6) vs. Deer Creek Antlers (7-2, State PR: 77.14, Rank: 8): The Highlanders have locked up the No. 1 spot in the 5A-District 1 standings and look to get ready for the playoffs. MacArthur’s defense has been the backbone of their success and have posted two shutouts against Western Heights and Northwest Classen. These vets have their eyes set back on the 5A state final game. Meanwhile, Deer Creek has a new head coach and the entire team has found a way to get back into the playoff picture for the first time since their transition up to class 5A this year. The Antlers are coming off a great shutout win against Altus and with the help of 23 seniors on the team, they could have the leadership they need for a strong playoff push.
Washington Hornets (7-1, State PR: 89.30, Rank: 3) vs. Bixby Spartans (7-2, State PR: 80.36, Rank: 5): The Hornets have moved down to the 5A class and they look to be a contender for the state championship. The Hornets have been red-hot on offense by blowing out their challengers by more than three touchdowns in their last five games. Also the defense has been nothing but stellar by collecting three shutouts in their last five games. Although these Spartans suffered losses to Jenks and Glenpool in their first two contests, this team is still a favorite in the run for the state title in 5A. Meanwhile, Bixby’s offense have been improving every week and most recently posted a season high of 62 points against Rogers.
Dutchtown Griffins (7-1, State PR: 80.65, Rank: 8) vs. Destrehan Wildcats (8-0, State PR: 94.41, Rank: 2): The Griffins' success has come from talented skill players like QB Wesley Perkins and two of the best RBs in the state, Eddie Lacy and Kelvin York. Dutchtown is currently on top of the district 6-5A standings and have been outscoring challengers by 30 points or more. Destrehan’s defense has been their bread and butter and have been shutting down opposing offenses with ease. Led by defensive Div. I prospects DE Darrington Sentimore, LB Rufus Porter and CB Antonio Parker, the Wildcats have posted three shutouts so far in the regular season. These Wildcats will aim to get back into the 5A state championship game but first has to take down Dutchtown for the district title.
Byrd Yellowjackets (8-1, State PR: 79.53, Rank: 10) vs. Ouachita Parish Lions (6-1, State PR: 75.15, Rank: 117): At the moment, Byrd is in complete control of District 1-5A. LB Jonathan Stewart has led his defense to three incredible shutouts against formidable opponents in Airline (28-0), Ruston (13-0) and Huntington High (49-0). The Lions are also coming off a shoutout of their own against Huntington (59-0). Ouachita Parish has had trouble in the past against high-caliber teams like Byrd, so this weekend's contest will be a statement game for sure.
Brother Martin Crusaders (7-0, State PR: 86.67, Rank: 4) vs. Archbishop Rummel Raiders (7-0, State PR: 86.26, Rank: 5): The Crusader offense has been averaging 30 points by the help of OL Joey Fontana and RB Dalton Hilliard -- both key returners. Brother Martin will look to take the No. 1 spot in the District 10-5A standings and advance deep in the playoffs. Once again, the Raiders will look to take the district crown and make another journey back into the playoffs. The Raiders defense has been the backbone of the team and has posted three shutouts while only letting opponents score no more than two touchdowns all season.
Central Cougars (8-0-1, State PR: 92.42, Rank: 8) vs. Batesville Pioneers (9-0, State PR: 91.00, Rank: 1): These Cougars have been on a roll ever since week three when they tied West Memphis (14-14). Central has been a scoring machine steered by QB Deondre Johnson and RB and Arkansas commit Turrell Williams, who have combined to lead their team to an average output of 46 points or better. This will be the Pioneers' first challenge for the offense to put up points and the defense to step up because of Central’s potent offense.
Russellville Cyclones (9-1, State PR: 83.96, Rank: 2) vs. Cabot Panthers (8-1, State PR: 88.39, Rank: 1): The Cyclones will need to rebound after a surprising loss to Conway, 10-7. Russellvilel will look for all-state LB Terrell Carter to lead his team and have speedster RB Kenneth Golden.
Top Playoff Matchups
Palatine Vikings (7-2, State PR: 79.96, Rank: 13) vs. Bartlett Hawks (9-0, State PR: 90.72, Rank: 5): The second round of the class 8A playoffs kicks off with Palatine ranked No. 8 and Bartlett ranked No 1 in the upper bracket. Palatine is coming off an easy 24-7 first round win to start the playoffs. Meanwhile, Bartlett is trying to regroup after a tough 10-7 victory against Notre Dame.
Derby Panthers (8-1, State PR: 69.83, Rank: 5) vs. Goddard Lions (3-6, State PR: 36.21, Rank: 19): Derby is coming off an upset loss to Heights High, 33-14, to end the regular season but that didn’t have an effect on their No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The Lions started the regular season struggling, but have been playing better as of late and are thinking upset this weekend.
Lawrence Central Bears (9-2, State PR: 82.56, Rank: 10) vs. Warren Central Warriors (8-3, State PR: 87.36, Rank: 7): The Bears are coming off a 3-8 season last year, but they still made the second round of the state 5A playoffs before dropping out. This year, Lawrene Central has made it into the Sectional 5 championship by beating Richmond, 73-41, in the semifinals. On the other side, the Warriors had no problem knocking off Fisher High, 56-27, in the semifinals to advance to the championship.
Indianapolis Cathedral Fighting Irish (8-2, State PR: 78.14, Rank: 13) vs. Whiteland Warriors (11-0, State PR: 92.72, Rank: 3): Cathedral is coming off an 11-3 season that ended with a one-point loss in the semifinals of the state 4A playoffs to eventual champion Reitz. Now the Fighting Irish are back into the 4A section 14 championship by taking out Greenfield-Central, 45-7. Whiteland is also coming off an impressive semifinal victory over Greenwood.
Check for Omar's regional breakdowns each Thursday right here at FootballPower. You can contact him at email@example.com.