Guyer senior defensive back Thabo Mwaniki (1) stops a pass thrown to Byron Nelson senior wide receiver Tyler Milliken (11) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 11, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Seriously, if you’re already singing Christmas songs and decorating Christmas trees, get off my lawn. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! #TeamTurkeyDay.
Now, as I step off my soap box, let’s talk about the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the Texas high school football playoffs, guys, and it got started on Thursday night with a nice slate of area games and continued on Friday and Saturday. The area is down to five teams — Guyer, Ryan, Argyle, Krum and Aubrey — which is the same amount of teams we had make it to the REGIONAL FINAL last year.
Just goes to show, every year is different. So, without further delay, come with Steve Gamel and I as we take you down a path of opening-weekend recollection. It’s recap time, y’all.
Guyer vs Trophy Club Nelson
AB: Yeah, Trophy Club Nelson was red-hot and dangerous, as proven by wins over Euless Trinity and Flower Mound Marcus, but truthfully, this game was the appetizer for what remains — an insanely tough road to hoe in the most difficult region in the most difficult bracket in the state: Class 6A Division II Region I. Next up for Guyer is Cedar Hill, then likely Mansfield, then likely DeSoto. You get the idea. All Guyer can ask for is to be peaking at the right time, and judging by Friday’s performance, the Wildcats are. Luke Stillwell looked very good throwing the ball until he didn’t really need to anymore in the second half, Noah Cain was dominant and that defense that has been so good this year was once again suffocating and won the game early in the second half with a 91-yard pick-six by Dio Williams that completely changed the game.
SG: I expected a Guyer win, but I honestly expected a little more from Trophy Club Nelson. Not only have the Bobcats been on a roll this season, but if you remember last year’s district “monsoon bowl” between Guyer and Nelson where the game was played in heavy rain conditions, the Wildcats got all they could handle before winning with a late field goal. Guyer never gave Nelson a chance to get rolling, and that’s the mark of a good playoff team. Speaking of good playoff teams, Guyer faces Cedar Hill next. Having already lost to Allen and DeSoto, Guyer would love to knock off a perennial playoff power.
Ryan vs Fort Worth Brewer
AB: This wasn’t the conventional win for Ryan, but sometimes you’re going to have games like that. I even saw some action on Twitter talking about how Brewer had “let its chance slip away.” Not real sure about all that, but the Raiders capitalized on some key mistakes and made the Bears pay in a first-round rout. It was exactly what we expected, and while Round 2 theoretically should provide a much stiffer challenge with one-loss Richland, I’m not so sure. Richland should have had a relatively easy time with an injury-ravaged Fort Worth South Hills team and instead needed a big comeback to narrowly edge them. I’ll be tagging along with Steve to see Ryan-Richland, and I’m looking forward to seeing a full game from Ryan. I’m just not convinced I will. Call me when we get to the state semifinal…
SG: Ryan’s race for a state title began with a lopsided win over Fort Worth Brewer. It was expected, but what stood out to me the most were the different ways the Raiders put the game on ice. They scored 20 of their 26 first-half points off two Brewer turnovers and a blocked punt. There was also a blocked field goal, which extended Ryan’s streak of holding opponents scoreless in the first half to seven games. Then the offense exploded for three scores to open the third quarter. These are the sort of big-game plays Ryan will need to keep making as they move deeper into the postseason. Especially since Brewer – which won four games all year – is officially the last “weak” team on the playoff docket. Ryan plays Richland Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium.
Denton vs Justin Northwest
AB: Saw this score early in the evening on Friday and was frankly in shock. The Broncos were putting it on fellow one-loss team Justin Northwest, and it looked like it was gonna be a blowout. Then, disaster struck for Denton. As I’m sure coach Kevin Atkinson and his team knew, when you’re up almost 20 points on a 9-1 team, you have to put it away, and the Broncos couldn’t do it. Instead, Northwest’s explosive offense finally found its way in the second half and took its first lead of the night with just seconds remaining in a crushing loss for what is becoming a perennial playoff program from Fulton Street.
SG: It’s a shame that Denton lost this game after jumping out to such a great start. But Northwest is one of the better teams in the area, too, and that clearly showed as they used a strong second-half surge to steal a 31-29 win to knock the Broncos from the playoffs. Denton put together a solid season, with its only other loss coming at the hands of Ryan, but they clearly didn’t have all the necessary pieces to make a long run in the playoffs. Head coach Kevin Atkinson is getting there, though. After being a doormat for several years, Denton is a consistent playoff contender now.
Argyle vs Snyder
AB: This game was deceptively “close” for a while, but then Argyle showed its mettle and why its looking to play in its fourth straight state championship game and fifth in six years come December. Fortunately for Argyle, the travel hasn’t been quite as bad as we thought it might’ve been when the playoffs began and it should continue to get a bit closer to home with each passing week. The Eagles can expect a stiffer test from Lubbock Estacado than they got from Snyder, but it should ultimately be another cakewalk to set up an epic third-round game with Abilene Wylie, likely at Tarleton State.
SG: If Argyle is going to make the deep playoff run we all expect it to make, it will have to do a lot of travelling. The Eagles just finished a nearly two hour drive to Graham to be a one-win Snyder team and is now gearing up for a similar trip to Burkburnett to face Lubbock Estacado. After that is a possible date with longtime rival Abilene Wylie. Last year, this matchup was played in Waco. The good news is that Argyle has had to travel before, and it doesn’t seem like these boys are fazed by it much.
Krum vs Waxahachie Life
AB: I had the pleasure of covering this game, and minus the fact there were no rosters and a mouse was running around the press box, it was fantastic. Krum is very good, and the Bobcats have the perfect recipe in place to make a deep playoff run once again. They run the ball very well behind QB Brandon Reeves and running back Haeden Knight, who I liken to a Nick Ralston-type back. And they also play stellar defense led by a standout linebacking corps. Last year, Krum “shocked” Sweetwater, and while pundits might pick Sweetwater again, I don’t think this year will be a shock at all. Krum is looking at a regional final showdown with Monahans, which would be lit.
SG: This is a team we are expecting big things from this postseason and, unlike last year, there should be nothing shocking about it. Krum surprised many football experts with its run to the region final last year, but anything less than that this year could be deemed a disappointment. Krum is loaded with a talented senior class and it showed with an easy win over Waxahachie Life this past week. Up next is Sweetwater, a team Krum dismantled last year, too. Will the rematch yield similar results? I think so.
Aubrey vs Canton
AB: The Chaps have had some issues with the feared injury bug this year, but they’ve bounced back and keep on keeping on. That continued on Friday night. We’ve grown accustomed to the two-headed rushing monster of Gatlin Grisso and Pablo Vera, who missed part of the year with an injury, but the Chaps added in a third name on Friday as Sheldon Wingert eclipsed 100 yards on the ground to give Aubrey three 100-yard rushers. That, coupled with a standout defense, is going to mean sleepless nights and headaches for upcoming opponents. Next up, Jasper.
SG: The Aubrey train keeps on rolling. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Aubrey is easily one of the better feel-good football stories from the Denton area as it went from barely being able to win a single game to competing at a high level in the postseason starting last year. This year’s run already includes a big win over Canton, and up next is a strong Jasper team. Aubrey will have to travel to Tyler in order to play this game, but at the rate the Chaps are going, I’m sure they’d travel anywhere so long as they have a chance to keep playing.