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Central Texas football previews and predictions: Week 6

Central Texas football previews and predictions: Week 6

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Here we go: Previewing this week’s high school football games.

Remember to check out wacotrib.com/tribfridaynight for a live, constantly updated scoreboard and Twitter updates from around the area.

No. 4 Austin Westlake (15-1) at Midway (9-4)

Radio: ESPN Central Texas 1660 AM

Streaming: Midway Panthers on YouTube

Breakdown: Midway has holes to fill as the season opens, but the Panthers are optimistic.

Panther fans have gotten used to relying on a playmaker at running back after James Fullbright and Will Nixon toted the rock for the past several campaigns. But both are gone now and the combination of Jaden Johnson and Dhamir McDonnaugh will get the first crack at handling that role.

Midway has inserted Garrett Childers at quarterback, replacing 2019 starter Jared Moore, who moved to receiver and then suffered a knee injury in the preseason. Childers has a couple of outstanding targets in junior Jaylon Gibson and senior Zach Stewart.

Defensively, Midway will be bringing along an inexperienced defensive line after heavy losses up front from 2019. But the good news for Panthers fans is that they have an very solid group of linebackers led by senior Reid Cromie and junior Zacobie Haverly.

The young Panthers will have to grow up fast as defending 6A D-II state champion Austin Westlake comes to town. The Chaparrals return four offensive and five defensive starters from their 15-win team of last season.

Westlake, the school that produced QB stars Drew Brees, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger, has a four-star college prospect in junior Cade Klubnik. He’ll run the offense full time for the first time this season after playing behind Chaps QB Kirkland Michaux in 2019.

Defensively, Westlake is led by DBs Lucas Mireur and Michael Taaffe, who was the state championship game MVP last December.

Waco High (1-0) at Hutto (0-1)

Breakdown: Waco High started the season with a 33-23 victory over West Mesquite last week, but Lions coach Kwame Cavil is a long way from satisfied.

“The great ones are constantly criticizing themselves,” Cavil said. “All we’ve done is reach our weekly goal of going 1-0. I won’t stop criticizing until we’ve hoisted a gold ball.”

Waco High got a sparkling performance from QB Nate Reyna and utility back Braylon Martinez. They connected for a pair of passing touchdowns and Martinez added a 20-yard touchdown run.

Now the Lions will try to take their show on the road.

Cavil said he expects an engaged crowd and possibly the wafting smell of barbecue in the air on Friday night. At least that’s what he remembered from his time at Manor when the Mustangs often played the Hippos.

Cavil, who wore No. 9 at Texas in his college days, noticed Hutto receiver Sean Davis on film, and not just because he wears No. 9 as well. The Hippos wear burnt orange, so it stood out to Cavil as the Hutto senior receiver made a 29-yard catch last week.

Hutto will try to get the ball to a lot of playmakers in its power spread offense. Last week, eight Hippos caught passes and seven different players had carries in their 55-14 loss to College Station.

Granbury (1-0) at University (0-1)

TV: WISD-TV Channel 17, wacoisd.org/live

Breakdown: Last week, the University Trojans opened the season against A&M Consolidated, the No. 5-ranked team in 5A D-II. That’s quite a challenge, especially considering that University had just 14 possible days of preseason practice and game-week preparation combined.

A&M Consolidated claimed a 62-13 win. But University still showed some flashes.

Trojans sophomore quarterback Nik Sanders got in the game in the second quarter and started moving the offense.

“He came in and gave us a little spark,” University coach Rodney Smith said. “He’s won the starting spot for now.”

The Trojans struggled to slow down the A&M Consolidated offense. Smith said that put his team’s focus on lining up correctly and tackling better this week.

Granbury opened the season with a 56-20 victory over Fort Worth Paschal last week.

Waxahachie Life (1-3) at No. 3 La Vega (3-1)

Radio: 94.5 FM

Streaming: Modoc Media on YouTube

Breakdown: The Pirates have had two weeks to prepare for their District 5-4A Div. I opener. Not that they’ve needed a lot of fine-tuning.

La Vega should be plenty battle-tested after a who’s-who list of non-district opponents that included Port Lavaca Calhoun, Connally, Corpus Christi Calallen and Argyle. Waxahachie Life isn’t in that same caliber of foe, but no doubt Pirates coach Don Hyde has spent the last two weeks ensuring that his guys don’t overlook the Mustangs.

La Vega hasn’t scored more than 21 points in a game this season, but that has a lot to do with the quality of the Pirates’ opponents. Life gives up 40.3 points per game on average, so this could be La Vega’s bust-out game in that regard. Keep an eye on RB Jar’Quae Walton.

The Mustangs feature a gifted freshman quarterback in Kaden Mayfield, who has thrown for 709 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions in the first four games. But he has yet to see a ball-hawking defense like La Vega’s, led by the likes of DB Ja’von Iglehart, who had two interceptions last time out against Argyle.

This one is homecoming for the Pirates, so they’ll be looking to put on a show.

Robinson (2-3) at Connally (2-2)

Radio: 106.7 FM and SicEm365.com (Connally), 99.3 FM (Robinson)

Streaming: Centex Sports Network

Breakdown: Asked what he’s learned most about his team through the non-district portion of his schedule, Connally coach Shane Anderson quipped, “That whoever scheduled those four games wasn’t very smart.”

Connally’s opponents, which included state-ranked La Vega and 2019 state semifinalist Springtown, certainly stretched and challenged the Cadets. But they learned who they are and that when they play well they can play with the state’s best. “We found our identity,” Anderson said. “Then we tried to fine-tune last week in our open week, and now we’re ready to roll for District 9-4A play.”

Connally’s running game, paced by the area’s fifth-leading rusher Kavian Gaither (585 yards), will always put pressure on teams. Anderson said that he’d like to mix in a bit more passing into the offense, in order to keep teams honest.

Under first-year head coach Robert Rubel, the Rockets continue to learn new lessons each week. QB Joseph McHenry has flashed big-play capability, but against Connally — a team that Rubel described as “always big, always athletic” — Robinson may need to dole out nickels and dimes rather than try to cash out the whole dollar.

“We’ve got to be happy with our three or four yards and try to play our game,” Rubel said.

Lorena (3-1, 1-0) at Troy (2-2)

Streaming: SchoolboySports.com

Breakdown: This District 11-3A brouhaha has the potential to be the Game of the Week in Central Texas. But, then again, you could say that about nearly every game in this competitive district week to week.

Lorena dumped Academy from the ranks of the unbeaten a week ago, as the Leopards struck up a sturdy run-pass balance. Ben Smedshammer’s return to Lorena after transferring back from Midway has given the Leopards the latest in a string of playmakers at quarterback. RB Reed Michna (187 yards against Academy) heads up a productive running game, while safety Andrew Brittain will be counted on to come up and make tackles against Troy’s end zone-seeking missile Zach Hrbacek.

Hrbacek has the most carries (120), yards (1,035) and touchdowns (21) of any player in Central Texas. He’s obviously the guy that makes the Trojans go. However, if the Trojans are going to muzzle the Leopards and pick up their first district win, they’ll need to power up their defensive effort. In last week’s 42-21 loss to Franklin, Troy surrendered 524 rushing yards to the Lions’ straight-forward attack.

A year ago, Lorena started out District 8-4A play at 0-2 and ended up missing the playoffs, so the Leopards are eager to put themselves in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 start in their new 3A district.

McGregor (3-2, 1-0) at Academy (4-1, 0-1)

Streaming: mcgregor-isd.org/athletics/mcgregorlive

Breakdown: From here through the rest of this season, every game McGregor plays will be the most meaningful game in second-year coach Mike Shields’ time at the school. That’s the bar the Bulldogs set by defeating district favorite Rockdale last week.

Shields made the point this week when he explained that the district’s standings will be determined by total wins and not winning percentage in the case that any of the teams have to cancel for COVID-19 reasons. So the Bulldogs really need a road victory at Academy this week.

McGregor QB DeAndre McDaniel and RB Chad Lorenz each had great games as the Bulldogs started district play with a 49-40 victory against the Tigers. McDaniel passed for 182 yards and four touchdowns and Lorenz rushed for 161 and a score.

Academy won four straight games to start the season, but hit a wall in a 41-27 loss at Lorena last week.

No. 6 China Spring (4-0) at Jarrell (0-5)

Streaming: looklivestreams.com/Cougars

Breakdown: Last week’s 41-9 tromping over Mexia was a good sign for China Spring for a couple of reasons. For one, China Spring coach Brian Bell thinks the Blackcats are a team on the rise and one to watch as the season progresses. But it also signaled that the Cougars were ready to play after their previous week’s game against Lampasas was wiped out due to COVID-19 protocols.

“I’m really proud of how our guys came out and played after we couldn’t get to play the week before,” Bell said. “I was questioning how fast we might start, but I was really proud of the kids, they played hard from the first snap.”

RB Emmanuel Abdallah (850 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and QB Major Bowden (501 rushing) have emerged as major weapons in China Spring’s arsenal. But the Cougar defense, led by linebackers Dawson Exline and Tristyn Pechacek, takes some of the pressure off those guys to score all the time, as they’ve been formidable in shutting down China’s foes.

Next up in their crosshairs is Jarrell in the District 9-4A Div. II opener. Jarrell’s Cougars are winless and averaging just over 16 points per game, but it’s a new day, Bell said.

“They’ve got a young ball team with a lot of young guys who are improving every single week,” he said. “We’re all 0-0 now, and anything can happen.”

Dallas Life Oak Cliff (0-3) at West (3-1)

Streaming: YouTube

Breakdown: Since a loss to Lexington, the Trojans have been on fire with wins over Fort Worth Western Hills, Blooming Grove and Rogers by a combined score of 122-43.

In a 35-29 win over Rogers in the last game two weeks ago, Trey Janek exploded for 301 yards and four touchdowns on just 18 carries. With Landon Roberts passing for 112 yards, the Trojans finished with 536 yards total offense.

Meanwhile Dallas Life Oak Cliff has gone winless in three games, but they’ve shown signs of offensive improvement. After a 20-0 loss to Fort Worth Dunbar in the opener, the Lions dropped a 30-14 decision to Newman International Academy before a 36-21 loss to Whitney last weekend.

However, Life Oak Cliff’s pass defense needs work coming into this District 7-3A Division I opener after Whitney quarterback Garrett Peacock passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns.

Cameron Yoe (3-1, 1-0) at Rockdale (2-3, 0-1)

TV: The CW (Spectrum 20, Grande 12, DirecTV 14, antenna 46.2)

Streaming: NFHS Network

Radio: 105.1 FM, KMIL.com

Breakdown: Cameron would appear to have the upper hand against longtime rival Rockdale in the “Battle of the Bell.”

The Yoemen are coming off wins over Franklin and Caldwell. In a 54-27 win over Caldwell to open District 11-3A Division I play, Yoe quarterback Zane Zeinert threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Yoe coach Tommy Brashear likes the way senior Eduardo Gil is leading the defensive line.

“We’ve got kind of a young team that’s hungry,” Brashear said. “We’re making some mistakes but our guys are coachable. We have some older kids like Eduardo on the defensive line doing well.”

Rockdale is coming off a district-opening 49-40 loss to McGregor. The Tigers showed plenty of offense as Kobe Mitchell threw for 185 yards and four touchdowns.

“They’ve got some really good athletes that are very dangerous,” Brashear said. “We have to prevent those big plays and we have to make them drive it. Most importantly we’ve got to win the battle up front.”

Tolar (1-4, 1-0) at No. 7 Crawford (4-0, 0-0)

Breakdown: Crawford has had two weeks to prepare since its grueling 13-8 win over then-No. 10 Holland.

The Pirates sealed the win in the final two minutes when Breck Chambers batted away a Holland pass that was intercepted by Luke Torbert.

“We’ve improved each week and we’re playing with more confidence,” said Crawford coach Greg Jacobs. “A lot of it is senior leadership and younger players buying in and understanding what we’re doing.”

After losing its first four games, Tolar romped to a 50-7 win over Valley Mills in its District 7-2A Division I opener.

“Their record is kind of misleading,” Jacobs said. “They’re fairly young but have played some good people this year. They’ve grown over the last three or four games, and that culminated with their win over Valley Mills.”

No. 1 Mart (4-0) at Chilton (3-2)

Streaming: mixlr.com/mart-panthers-radio

Breakdown: Mart geared up for District 10-2A Division II play by playing a tough non-district schedule. In their 32-7 win over Whitney two weeks ago, Roddrell Freeman threw for 140 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards and two more scores.

The Panthers’ defense delivered another solid performance by holding Whitney to 216 yards.

“We’re playing as good as we have been for this time of year,” said Mart coach Kevin Hoffman. “We want to improve in everything we’re doing, and we feel like we’re on track going into our district schedule.”

Chilton is coming off two very different wins. Following a 58-14 blowout of Axtell, the Pirates held on for a 6-0 win over Kerens last week.

“Coach (Chris) James is trying to put his stamp on things and changing the culture,” Hoffman said. “They’re trying to go in the right direction and bring it back to the Chilton of the old days. They’re trying to find what best fits their personnel and philosophy and what they want to do.”

Trib staff’s Week 6 high school football predictions

All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

  CHAD CONINE BRICE CHERRY JOHN WERNER
Austin Westlake at Midway Westlake Westlake Westlake
Waco High at Hutto Hutto Hutto Hutto
Temple at Magnolia West (7 p.m.) Temple Temple Temple
Belton at Round Rock RR RR RR
Granbury at University (7 p.m.) Granbury Granbury Granbury
Waxahachie Life at La Vega* La Vega La Vega La Vega
Robinson at Connally* Connally Connally Connally
China Spring at Jarrell* CS CS CS
Gatesville at Salado* Salado Salado Salado
Canton at Hillsboro (7 p.m.) Canton Hillsboro Canton
Dallas Life Oak Cliff at West* West West West
Whitney at Grandview* Grandview Grandview Grandview
Groesbeck at Eustace* Eustace Eustace Eustace
Teague at Malakoff* Malakoff Malakoff Malakoff
Lorena at Troy* Troy Lorena Lorena
McGregor at Academy* McGregor McGregor McGregor
Cameron Yoe at Rockdale* Yoe Yoe Yoe
Clifton at Rogers* Rogers Clifton Rogers
Franklin at Riesel* Franklin Franklin Franklin
Tolar at Crawford* (7 p.m.) Crawford Crawford Crawford
Hamilton at Valley Mills* (7 p.m.) Hamilton Hamilton Hamilton
Rio Vista at Itasca* (7 p.m.) Rio Vista Rio Vista Rio Vista
Axtell at Cayuga* Cayuga Cayuga Cayuga
Kerens at Dawson* Dawson Dawson Dawson
Thrall at Bruceville-Eddy* B-Eddy Thrall B-Eddy
Hearne at Rosebud-Lott* Hearne Hearne Hearne
Meridian at Albany* (7 p.m.) Albany Albany Albany
Mart at Chilton* (7 p.m.) Mart Mart Mart
Bremond at Frost* (7 p.m.) Bremond Bremond Bremond
Hubbard at Wortham* (7 p.m.) Hubbard Hubbard Hubbard
Bishop Reicher at Dal. 1st Bapt.* (7 p.m.) Reicher Dallas FB Reicher
* District game
SIX-MAN
Blum at Abbott Abbott Abbott Abbott
Bynum at Cranfills Gap Bynum Bynum Bynum
Covington at Penelope Penelope Penelope Penelope
Coolidge at Calvert Calvert Calvert Calvert
Jonesboro at Bryson Jonesboro Jonesboro Jonesboro
Blanket at Evant Evant Evant Evant
Avalon at Gholson Avalon Avalon Avalon
Johnson Co. Home School at Morgan Morgan Johnson Johnson
Lingleville at Walnut Springs WS WS WS
Mount Calm at Aquilla Aquilla Aquilla Aquilla
Prairie Lea at Oglesby Oglesby Oglesby Oglesby
Live Oak at McKinney Cornerstone* Live Oak Live Oak Live Oak
Vanguard at Rockwall Heritage* Vanguard Vanguard Vanguard
Methodist Home at Haslet Legacy* MCH MCH MCH
Parkview Chr. at Haslet Heritage* Parkview Parkview Parkview
Eagle Chr. at Rising Star (7 p.m. Sat.) Eagle RS RS
RESULTS
Last week 22-14 21-15 0-0
Season to date 119-56 109-66 0-0

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