By Adam C. Warner
There are seven championships still left for the taking in the Lone Star State. Will Allen follow through with a title after taking out previous No. 1 Trinity? Can Katy make it back-to-back titles after starting the season 0-2? Find out this weekend in what should be a fantastic conclusion to the year.
5A Division I – Dec. 20, 7 p.m. at Reliant Stadium
Allen Eagles (14-1) vs. Hightower Hurricanes (13-0): Two unexpected foes meet on Saturday for the state championship. Allen has defeated some elite rivals along the way, including defending state champs Trinity, despite being out-gained in total yardage in two of the last three playoff games, which includes 177 yards in a 23-21 win over Stony Point last week. Allen quarterback Tucker Carter is a dual threat and can run just as well as he can throw. Meanwhile, the Eagles rushing attack –buoyed by a powerful offensive line – might be the team’s strength. RB Jeremiah Williams typically accounts for 200 yards per game and will called upon often this weekend. Meanwhile, Hightower is riding high after a 28-7 semifinal win over Clark. The squad is playing well at the right time and will rely heavily on its dominating defense. The unit is giving up just 11 points per game this season, including just seven points last week to a tough Clark squad. RB London Hamilton is a safe bet to scamper for 100 yards or more for the Hurricanes, while QB A.J. Highsmith is a major weapon and averages almost 250 yards in the air per game. Expect this game to be a seesaw battle between two formidable teams.
5A Division II – Dec. 20, 2 p.m. at Reliant Stadium
Wylie Pirates (13-2) vs. Katy Tigers (12-3): It’s a battle of metropolitan Houston this weekend at Reliant Stadium. While Katy commenced the season at 0-2, which included a 47-0 loss to the Woodlands, they are now playing its best football of the year. If the Tigers can top a talented Wylie squad, they will earn their second championship in a row. And while Gary Joseph’s team may not be as strong as last season’s 16-0 squad, Katy is still formidable. Running back Vernon Jeffries leads the way for the Tigers in addition to playmaking quarterback Parker Ray. Both players played integral roles in last weekend’s 41-19 dismantling of Smithson Valley. On the other side, Wylie has been a 5A team for just three seasons and hasn’t been to a title game since 1978. But this Pirates team must not be overlooked. Last week, the Pirates came away with five turnovers en route to a 23-7 win over Copperas Cove. Look for RB Nick Knott and the Wylie rushing attack to play a big role in this one. Last week, Knott rushed for 142 of his team’s 267 total rushing yards. If Knott can be highly effective while QB Jerod Monk can get on track, Wylie can certainly earn its first 5A football title.
4A Division I – Dec. 20, 2 p.m. at Floyd Casey Stadium
Longview Lobos (13-2) vs. Lake Travis Cavaliers (15-0): It’s the clash of an old titan versus a current power in the Class 4A Division I championship at Floyd Casey Stadium this weekend. Longview will be looking for its first state title since 1937 when they hit the gridiron against defending champs Lake Travis. The Lobos won’t fool anyone with their overall offensive strategy. The unit runs the ball 70 percent of the time and does so with great success. RB Tyler McCray (1,674 yards and 26 TDs) heads the attack along with QB Aaron Johnson, who needs 82 more yards to top the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Defensively, the Lobos will be led by all-state DB Lamarcus Howard, who has accounted for more than 100 tackles this season. Meanwhile, Lake Travis has been downright lethal all season long. The Cavaliers average 50 points per game behind standout quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who was recently named the offensive player of the year on the Associated Press Sports Editors Class 4A all-state team. Gilbert threw for more than 3,000 yards and 38 TDs in the regular season and can dissect defenses with the best of them. Behind Gilbert, the Cavaliers crushed a talented Friendswood squad last week, 56-22, and have averaged 61 points in the last three games. Longview’s defense will need its best performance of the season, in addition to producing several turnovers, for the team to come out on top.
4A Division II – Dec. 20, 2 p.m. at the Alamodome
Sulphur Springs Wildcats (13-2) vs. Dayton Broncos (13-1): Two high-powered offenses clash on the turf at the Alamodome this weekend. Sulphur Springs enters this pinnacle contest on the heels of a 47-34 win over Everman in the semifinals. The Wildcats’ offense averages 41 points per contest behind RB Ryan Young (140 yards per game) and QB Tyrik Rollison, who averages nearly 300 total yards per game as a passing and running threat. The Wildcats are also on a roll, having defeated three straight undefeated teams to get to the finals. Sulphur Springs will likely need a stronger performance by its defense, which has given up 28 points per game this year. Dayton and its potent offense will likely go right at the Wildcat defense and aim for some long, sustaining drives for scores in order to be successful. QB Cody Green is the catalyst for the Broncos and averages more than 200 yards passing and 110 yards rushing per game. The standout has accounted for 56 touchdowns this year and 4,300 total yards. It’s clear that Green holds the keys towards victory for the Broncos. AJ Dugat is Dayton’s top receiving threat and has 104 catches for 1,617 yards and 18 scores this year. Expect nothing other than a thrilling high-scoring affair this weekend.
3A Division II – Dec. 19, 8 p.m. at Texas Stadium
Celina Bobcats (13-2) vs. Carthage Bulldogs (13-2): Celina is on the verge of setting an unprecedented record this weekend when they take on an excellent Carthage program. Should the Bobcats prevail on Friday, the squad will earn a state record ninth overall championship. They can also become the second team from District 9-3A to win a state title after Proper won the Division 1 title last week. The Bobcats will likely look to RB Troy McCartney early and often. McCartney had 196 total yards last week and two touchdowns in last week’s 40-12 semifinal win over Liberty Hill. Celina scored touchdowns on all six of its possessions last week, so Carthage will certainly need to force them to punt or come up with some turnovers to win. The Bulldogs will count on RB Dwight Smith to carry the load offensively. The standout rushed 22 times last week for 298 yards and five scores en route to a 41-14 win over Giddings. The Bulldogs feature a rush-oriented attack that features a host of backs, which includes Jarvin Robinson and O’Bryan Washington. This state title berth is the team’s second all-time and first since 1991 and they would want nothing more than Celina to notch an all-time record against them.
2A Division II – Dec. 20, 3 p.m. at Waco ISD
Cisco Loboes (14-1) vs. Daingerfield Tigers (14-1): This game may just be the most evenly matched up contest of the weekend, so be prepared for a down-to-the-wire finish. Cisco enters after defeating Pottsboro 33-26 last week thanks in part to Cory Pippen’s interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Pippen will play a key role in stopping Daingerfield’s high-powered attack. Last week, the standout’s unit forced seven turnovers, three of which resulted in scores. Offensively, Josh Bridges leads the way at QB, while running backs Robert Medina and Vegas Hastings will split time in the backfield. On the other side, Daingerfield hopes to raise a championship trophy into the air and they very well may do so should the squad’s big three find frequent success. QB Tyler Boyd is a two-way threat, WR Juron Smith is a playmaker and is coming off a two-touchdown performance and RB KoKo Smith is a workhorse in the backfield (rushed for 172 yards last week). The team that can come up with defensive stops and some key turnovers will likely come out as victors at the end of the day.
1A Division II – Dec. 20, 3 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium
Stratford Elks (13-1) vs. Cayuga Wildcats (13-2): It’s a battle between two red-hot teams this weekend at Shotwell Stadium. Stratford is riding high after beating previously undefeated Albany last week, 28-0. The Elks are averaging nearly 40 points per game this year thanks in large part to running back Jessie Lopez. The standout ran 19 times for 124 yards and a score last week to fuel his team’s semifinal victory. The Elks will likely rely heavily on their potent rushing attack, so if Lopez and company can find open holes down the field and move the chains, they could very easily be state champions. Meanwhile, Cayuga is coming off a 42-7 dismantling of Ganado in the semifinals last weekend. Like the Elks, the Wildcats are putting up nearly 40 points per contest and giving up nearly 17 per game defensively. Cayuga running back Traylon Shead is a workhorse and will certainly see a heavy load on Saturday. Last week, Shead rushed for 253 yards and six touchdowns on 31 carries. So far this season, the standout has found pay dirt 51 times. Whichever defense can come up with some big plays and prevent their opponents from reaching the end zone will give their squad a great chance of winning the title.
To contact editor Adam C. Warner, send an e-mail to email@example.com.