Midway (0-4, 0-1) at No. 5 Duncanville (2-1, 1-0)
Radio: 106.7 FM, SicEm365 app
Streaming: 365 Sports on YouTube
Breakdown: First-year Midway coach Shane Anderson doesn’t see the Panthers’ District 11-6A game against state powerhouse Duncanville as an overwhelming task as much as an opportunity.
“What a great opportunity to play one of the best teams in the state,” Anderson said. “They’ve got Division I dudes everywhere. Name the position, and they've got a Division I offer.”
After opening the season with a 45-3 loss to Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, the No. 1 ranked high school team in the country, Duncanville has bounced back with a 42-27 win over South Oak Cliff and a 42-21 win over DeSoto as coach Reginald Samples won his 300th career game.
Duncanville’s dynamic passing game is led by quarterback Solomon James and wide receiver Stephon Johnson while Malachi Medlock leads the running game.
Trying to break into the win column for the first time this season, Midway rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 21-17 lead last week before Waxahachie scored a late touchdown to close a 24-21 win.
“We’re getting better each and every week,” Anderson said. “We’re just not finishing games, so we have to do a better job down the stretch. We could very easily be 3-1. But our defense is improving.”
No. 5 Stephenville (4-0) at Connally (1-2)
Radio: 107.9 FM, SicEm365 app
Breakdown: Connally’s defense will face a huge challenge trying to stop one of the most dynamic passing games in the state.
Stephenville is off to a 4-0 start as quarterback Ryder Lambert has completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 1,369 yards and 15 touchdowns. His top target has been Coy Eakin with 36 catches for 691 yards and 10 scores.
“They’re a very explosive team and their quarterback is a heck of a passer, and (Eakin) can beat you deep,” said Connally coach Terry Gerik.
The Yellow Jackets have also been successful running the ball as Tate Maruska has rushed for 224 yards and a touchdown while Julian Iribarren has rushed for 211 yards and three scores.
In last week’s 31-22 loss to Palestine, Connally’s Tre Wisner returned a kickoff for an 85-yard touchdown while Jelani McDonald broke loose for an 88-yard run to set up Germone Powell’s six-yard touchdown run. But the Cadets will need to put together a better all-around performance to have a shot against the unbeaten Yellow Jackets.
“We’re not pleased with losing, but I think our kids are getting a little better in every phase of the game,” Gerik said. “The effort is there but there’s not a lot of Friday night experience. My whole deal is that we’re prepared for district, and I think our competition will help us get prepared.”
Rio Vista (2-1) at Bosqueville (2-2)
Breakdown: Bosqueville coach Clint Zander was excited to see how his team responded from consecutive losses to Holland and Palmer as the Bulldogs delivered a strong all-around performance in a 40-21 thrashing of Riesel last week.
Newt Schornack stepped in at quarterback and guided the Bulldogs to 28 unanswered second-half points against the Indians. Noah Pena made three touchdown catches as the Bulldogs gained some momentum heading into their District 7-2A Division I opener against Rio Vista.
“We got into a good offensive rhythm in the second quarter,” Zander said. “We struggled defensively in the first half but we made good adjustments.”
Rio Vista dual-threat quarterback Taylor Pritchett has passed for 526 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 268 yards and six scores. Hunter Andrews has been his top receiver with 15 catches for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
“Their quarterback runs well and he hurt us last year throwing the ball, so I hope we can control him,” Zander said. “They’ve got a young offensive line, and we’re hoping to take advantage of it.”
Waco High (0-4) at Cedar Hill (2-2)
Radio: 92.3 FM/1660 AM, centexsportsfan.com, Centex Sports Fan app
Breakdown: Waco High made a late charge, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter in its district opener against Mansfield last week. But the Tigers escaped with a 34-28 victory.
Now the Lions have to go on the road in what figures to be an even tougher challenge. Cedar Hill has been one of the elite programs in the state for a while. The Longhorns aren’t ranked right now, having lost a pair of nondistrict games against Rockwall and Allen, but they bounced back with a 38-20 victory over Mansfield Lake Ridge last week.
Cedar Hill QB Cedric Harden and RB Jaylen Jenkins, both juniors, have combined for more than 500 rushing yards and 11 TDs so far.
Waco High has put a lot of the playmaking responsibility on Braylen Martinez. The Lions are finding creative ways to put the ball in his hands, but what he really needs is a secondary threat to divert opponents’ attention.
Cleburne (2-2, 0-1) at University (0-4, 0-1)
Radio: 104.9 FM, listentexas.com
Breakdown: First-year head coach Kent Laster has the Trojans playing hard each time out, but they’re still seeking that elusive first win of the season.
Against Cleburne, University will need a much more resounding start. In last week’s 45-27 road loss to Joshua that opened District 5-5A play, the Trojans dug themselves a 31-7 hole by halftime. Though they showed some electricity in scoring the final 21 points of the game, they’ll need a more balanced, four-quarter performance.
Mekhi Sandolph has shown himself to be a major weapon for University. He ranks third in Central Texas in rushing with 539 yards, and clicked off 167 last week in the loss to the Owls. The U-Dawg defense is also fully capable of big-play moments, as evidenced by safety Danny Botello’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown last week, but again it just needs more consistency.
Cleburne has had its own issues defensively. Last week it struggled in a 69-28 loss to Arlington Seguin, surrendering 34 unanswered points in the second half and 559 total yards and 29 first downs for the game.
The Pirates will lean on some up-and-coming talent to try to push past the Trojans, led by freshman running back Eli Martinez, who is coming off a 129-yard rushing effort in the Seguin game.
This contest is being billed at the LaDainian Tomlinson Classic, and will feature former University head coach LeRoy Coleman (who coached LT) entering the Waco ISD Hall of Fame.
No. 7 La Vega (2-2) at Corpus Christi Miller (3-1)
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 94.5 FM, centexbeat.com
Breakdown: Moral victories don’t show up in the win-loss column, but for La Vega, there were plenty of positives to take out of last week’s 17-14 loss to No. 1-ranked Argyle.
“I think a lot of teams you go into a game like that and you’re nervous and apprehensive and you don’t’ what to expect,” La Vega coach Don Hyde said in an interview with ESPN Central Texas. “The difference between our kids is that we’ve played them six times in the last three years, so we knew what we were getting into. Once again, we’re trying to get better every week, so that when October 8th gets here we’re pretty good.”
Hyde especially came away pleased with the effort and enthusiasm his team showed. The defensive effort was off the charts, led by the likes of Devon White and David McKnight.
This week, the Pirates have shifted their usual schedule back a day, since they’re playing a Saturday game in Corpus. But Hyde said the tweak shouldn’t disrupt his team’s flow, especially with an open week to follow next week.
Corpus Christi Miller isn’t a state-ranked foe like La Vega has faced the past two weeks in Austin LBJ and Argyle. But the Pirates won’t overlook the Buccaneers, nor should they. In Miller’s 62-28 win over Brownsville Hanna last week, quarterback Jaedyn Brown lit up the scoreboard with eight touchdown passes.
No. 5 China Spring (4-0) at Mexia (1-3)
Streaming: looklivestreams.com/cougars, SHN Sports on YouTube
Breakdown: Is anyone in Central Texas playing any better than China Spring right now?
It’s a subjective question, but certainly the Cougars look potent in all phases, having outscored their opponents, 174-56, on the season.
“We’re getting better every week, but by no means have we peaked,” Cougars head coach Brian Bell said. “Nor do we want to be peaking yet.”
What Bell really appreciates is the gut-busting effort his guys have shown. That was on display when Dave Campbell’s Texas Football retweeted a recent video of a Cougars sub-varsity player hustling from behind a play to make a tackle. “That’s the kind of mindset we want to have at all levels of our program,” Bell said.
So far, so good, as the Cougars have been getting it done on offense, defense and special teams. The defense even got in on the scoring attack in last week’s 47-7 win over Lampasas, as Isaiah Williams had a 45-yard pick-six.
Mexia is coming off a 57-0 loss to Salado last week, but Bell sees a Blackcat team that “understands its identity” better today than it did at the start of the season. QB Nate Burns and RB Xavier Molina are big-play threats that can burn a defense if given a lane.
Lorena (2-2) at Academy (4-0)
Streaming: NFHS Network
Breakdown: Lorena opens District 11-3A Division I play against an Academy team that rolled through the first four weeks of the season. The Bumblebees stomped Clifton and Groesbeck in between close wins over Rogers and Lago Vista.
So the Leopards have a challenge in front of them. What else is new?
Lorena’s nondistrict slate included state-ranked Franklin and China Spring and improved 4A foes Gatesville and Madisonville. Academy falls right in line with that group. Lorena coach Ray Biles said Academy coach Chris Lancaster’s Bumblebees deploy a balanced offense and don’t give things up with mental mistakes.
The Leopards added an offensive playmaker to the mix last week as Braylon Henry needed just six carries to go over 100 rushing yards. Henry has been solid at linebacker as well and Biles wouldn’t reveal whether or not he’ll remain in the regular rotation in the offensive backfield.
Lorena’s passing game has been efficient with QB Ryne Abel regularly getting the ball to receivers Jadon Porter and Kasen Taylor. A third member of the crew, Camden Brock, has been an outstanding blocker but could see the ball come his way more often as the season progresses.
The Leopards look like the clear district favorite, but they’ll have to go prove it on grass.
McGregor (2-2) at Rockdale (2-2)
Radio: 94.5 FM HD2, 1560 AM, CenTexSports1 app
Streaming: SHN Sports on YouTube
Breakdown: The playoff race begins in earnest as McGregor faces Rockdale in both teams’ 11-3A DI opener. A year ago, the Bulldogs defeated Rockdale in McGregor, giving them a fast start toward a postseason berth. Rockdale recovered from the defeat and made the playoffs as well.
Chad Lorenz, the Built Ford Tough 3A Player of the Week this week, was a key part of McGregor’s playoff run in 2020. Now he’s the star on offense as he’s moved over to QB. Bulldogs coach Mike Shields said he’s big and powerful enough to get positive yards any time he carries it with the speed to break open a big play. But Lorenz will likely need to make use of McGregor’s entire offensive arsenal — particularly receivers Darieus Dixon and Cooper Burgess — to post another district-opening win.
Rockdale was led on offense by dual-threat QB Kobe Mitchell a year ago. With the emergence of sophomore Blaydn Barcak at QB, the Tigers are able to move Mitchell around in the offense. The Bulldogs also can’t afford to lose track of Tigers Robert Owens and Wyatt Windham either.
“They have a bunch, so you can’t key on one guy,” Shields said.
No. 8 West (4-0) at Oak Cliff Life (3-1)
Breakdown: West is climbing the state rankings and looking like one of Central Texas’ best teams. Last week, the Trojans survived a battle and defeated Rogers, 35-28, to keep an unblemished record.
But West coach David Woodard knows it’s too early for his squad to start patting itself on the back.
“It’s a long season,” Woodard said. “Every day of practice is important and the kids now that. They’re working hard.”
Woodard likes how his offense is spreading the ball around. Last week, 10 different Trojans touched the ball and played a role in the thrilling win over the Eagles. QB Zane Meinen led the way with 165 rushing yards and 104 through the air. His best target has been Wyatt Wolf (232 receiving yards, 3 TDs so far).
West grappled with Rogers’ strong running game last week, but will face a change of pace against Oak Cliff Life. Woodard said the Lions lean toward the passing game at about a 60-40 rate. That might be good news for the Trojans’ secondary, which already has 8 INTs, led by Easton Paxton’s three picks.
Best of the Rest
Groesbeck (3-1) at Normangee (2-2): Allen Lewis will try to build on his Central Texas-leading total of 13 touchdown passes for the explosive Goats. … Marlin (2-2) at Wortham (3-1): In a legit dogfight (both mascots are Bulldogs), the winner should gain some momentum as they build toward district play. … Blum (1-3) at May (4-0): Moved to Thursday night, this is a rematch of last year’s 1A Division I semifinals, won by May, 92-86. Unfortunately for Cooper Thornhill’s Bobcats, they’ve endured some injuries and aren’t playing quite at that 2020 level.
Trib staff’s Week 5 high school football predictions
|CHAD CONINE||BRICE CHERRY||JOHN WERNER|
|Midway at Duncanville||Duncanville||Duncanville||Duncanville|
|Waco High at Cedar Hill (7 p.m.)||C. Hill||C. Hill||C. Hill|
|Temple at Bryan||Temple||Temple||Temple|
|Belton at Copperas Cove||Belton||Belton||Belton|
|DISTRICT 5-5A DIV. II|
|Cleburne at University (7 p.m.)||Cleburne||Cleburne||Cleburne|
|DISTRICT 7-3A DIV. I|
|West at Dallas Life Oak Cliff||West||West||West|
|Whitney at Dallas Madison||Madison||Madison||Madison|
|DISTRICT 11-3A DIV. I|
|Lorena at Academy||Lorena||Lorena||Lorena|
|McGregor at Rockdale||Rockdale||McGregor||Rockdale|
|Cameron Yoe at Caldwell||Yoe||Caldwell||Yoe|
|DISTRICT 13-3A DIV. II|
|Clifton at Riesel||Clifton||Riesel||Clifton|
|DISTRICT 7-2A DIV. I|
|Rio Vista at Bosqueville (7 p.m.)||Bosqueville||Bosqueville||Bosqueville|
|Hamilton at Itasca (7 p.m.)||Hamilton||Hamilton||Hamilton|
|Tolar at Valley Mills (7 p.m.)||V. Mills||Tolar||Tolar|
|DISTRICT 12-2A DIV. I|
|Thrall at Rosebud-Lott||R-Lott||R-Lott||R-Lott|
|Thorndale at Moody||Thorndale||Thorndale||Thorndale|
|TAPPS DIST. 2-III|
|Dallas First Baptist at Bishop Reicher (7 p.m.)||DFB||DFB||DFB|
|TAPPS 6M DIST. 3-II|
|Red Oak Ovilla at Live Oak (7 p.m.)||Live Oak||Live Oak||Live Oak|
|TCAF 6M DIST. 1|
|Killeen Memorial at Parkview Christian (7 p.m.)||Parkview||Parkview||Parkview|
|Methodist Children's Home at Taylor St. Mary's (11 a.m. Sat.)||MCH||MCH||MCH|
|La Vega at CC Miller (2:30 p.m. Sat.)||La Vega||La Vega||La Vega|
|Teague at Hillsboro||Hillsboro||Hillsboro||Hillsboro|
|China Spring at Mexia||C. Spring||C. Spring||C.Spring|
|Stephenville at Connally||Stephenville||Stephenville||Stephenville|
|Robinson at Burnet||Burnet||Burnet||Burnet|
|Lampasas at Gatesville||Gatesville||Gatesville||Gatesville|
|Groesbeck at Normangee||Groesbeck||Groesbeck||Groesbeck|
|Axtell at Meridian||Axtell||Meridian||Meridian|
|Dawson at Hubbard||Hubbard||Hubbard||Hubbard|
|Marlin at Wortham||Marlin||Marlin||Marlin|
|Mart at Italy (7 p.m.)||Mart||Mart||Mart|
|Kerens at Chilton||Chilton||Chilton||Chilton|
|Bremond at Centerville||Centerville||Centerville||Centerville|
|Texas Wind at Cedar Hill DasCHE Home School||DasCHE||DasCHE||DasCHE|
|Katy Jordan at Lake Belton (7 p.m.)||L. Belton||L. Belton||L.Belton|
|Blum at May (Thu.)||May||May||May|
|Plano Coram Deo at Bynum||Coram Deo||Coram Deo||Coram Deo|
|Coolidge at Avalon||Coolidge||Coolidge||Coolidge|
|Keene at Abbott||Abbott||Abbott||Abbott|
|Dallas UME Prep at Aquilla||Aquilla||Aquilla||Aquilla|
|CANCELED: Jonesboro at Milford|
|Evant at Penelope||Evant||Evant||Evant|
|Bluff Dale at Iredell||Iredell||Bluff Dale||Iredell|
|Covington at Walnut Springs (7 p.m. Sat.)||W. Springs||Covington||W.Springs|
|Cherokee at Cranfills Gap (7 p.m.)||Gap||Gap||Gap|
|Morgan at Eden (6:30 p.m.)||Eden||Eden||Eden|
|Methodist Home JV at Kopperl (6:30 p.m. Thu.)||Kopperl||Kopperl||Kopperl|
|Eagle Christian at Oglesby||Oglesby||Oglesby||Oglesby|
|Blanket at Gholson||Blanket||Blanket||Blanket|
|Season to date||133-57||136-54||130-60|