Cover Photo via the Dallas Morning News/ Steve Hamm
Playoff football season in Texas is here! It doesn’t get any better than the next six weeks of Texas high school football. The season will once again conclude at AT&T Stadium in Arlington with the final day of the season falling on December 16th this year. I suggest soaking up as much football as possible between now and then before we enter another long offseason. Now, let’s recap some of the best games from the final week of the regular season before we preview some of the best first round matchups across the metroplex.
L.D. Bell beats Trinity in Football
No, your eyes do not deceive you. L.D. Bell beat Trinity in football for the first time since 1997 in a 27-24 thriller. The Blue Raiders were so close to ending the losing streak last season in what was ultimately an overtime loss. Victory didn’t escape L.D. Bell this season as a fake punt pass eventually led to the game winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. The truth is, this streak ending is probably in the best interest of both teams. Trinity may not want to admit it, but the pressure of keeping that winning streak alive is off now, and that should be beneficial to the Trojans. There will always be pressure involved in rivalry games, but that pressure is intensified when your trying to extend a winning streak that is older than the turn of the century, the iPhone, and the athletes competing in the game.
L.D. Bell quarterback Maddox Olatunde completed 18 of his 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown in the win. Olatunde also added 135 yards and a score on 27 carries to lead the Blue Raiders in rushing. Kenny Earskin added 10 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. Delvechio Ellis led the receivers with four receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown, while Elijah Zamora caught seven passes for 40 yards and defensive end Tristan Johnson caught the 40-yard fake punt pass that set up the game clinching field goal. L.D. Bell put together a perfect game to beat Trinity by not turning the ball over, not getting penalized, and beating Trinity at its own game by dominating time-of-possession, or so I assume because L.D. Bell ran 59 plays to Trinity’s 41.
Trinity quarterback TJ Tupou completed five of his 12 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Josh Bell led the rushing attack with 15 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. JT Harris added five carries for 56 yards on the ground. Jarvis Heimuli was the leading receiver with two receptions for 25 yards and Harrison Smith caught the lone touchdown pass.
Despite ending the losing streak to Trinity and finishing 7-3 on the season, L.D. Bell missed the playoffs as a result of a tiebreaker. There was a three-way tie for third place in District 3-6A between Crowley, Boswell and L.D. Bell. Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, Crowley and Boswell won the tiebreaker and L.D. Bell is left to watch the playoffs from home after a second consecutive winning season. Trinity finished second in the district and takes on Keller Timber Creek in the first round.
Lovejoy takes down Melissa
Lovejoy won District 7-5A DII by beating Melissa 28-7 on the final Thursday of the regular season. Melissa and Lovejoy both started the season with a bang via big wins over Argyle. Both teams rolled through district play with ease, setting up the district title showdown. Lovejoy looked like the better team last week, but both teams will be in contention to emerge from Region II.
Lovejoy quarterback Alexander Franklin completed 11 of his 17 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Dante Dean led the ground attack with 15 carries for 70 yards. Khalin Williams added 13 carries for 57 yards and a score and linebacker Payton Pierce also scored a touchdown on the ground. Dylan McCutcheon led the receivers with seven receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown and Ethan Nelson added four receptions for 59 yards and a score. If you are bad at math, that means those two combined for all of Lovejoy’s receiving yards.
Melissa quarterback Trever Ham completed 16 of his 34 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown pass went to Jackson Ford, who finished with two receptions for 13 yards. Lincoln Dunn led the receivers with eight receptions for 59 yards. Nathan Adejokun carried with ball 22 times for 45 yards and the Cardinals finished with just 15 total yards on the ground.
Region II is loaded with Melissa, Lovejoy, defending champion South Oak Cliff and a good Midlothian Heritage team. The winner of this region will be the one playing the best football, and it’s hard to argue against Lovejoy at the moment.
Frisco Panther Creek defeats Celina
Frisco Panther Creek capped off a 9-1 season with a 31-27 win over Celina to win District 7-4A DI. The Panthers rode the rollercoaster in this one, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before falling behind 27-17 late in the fourth quarter. Two touchdowns sandwiched around a successful onside kick in the final minutes powered Frisco Panther Creek to the win and the district title.
Frisco Panther Creek quarterback Braxton Roberts completed 27 of his 43 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Sentel Simpson led the rushing attack with 103 yards on 21 carries. Cristian Trickett led the receivers with five receptions for 69 yards and Seth Jackson added five receptions for 64 yards. Roberts also spread the ball around to Parker Ord, who caught four passes for 45 yards and two scores, Ace Traylor, who caught four passes for 30 yards and a score, and Miles Meldrum, who caught seven passes for 62 yards and what was ultimately ruled the game winning score.
Celina quarterback Knox Porter completed seven of his 17 passes for 59 yards. Jacob Henry caught three passes for 27 yards to lead the receivers. Celina did the majority of its damage on the ground with two 100-yard rushers. Harrison Williams led the way with 141 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Logan Gutierrez added 123 yards and three scores on 17 carries.
Region II in 4A DI is loaded. If Celina wants a shot at a rematch with Frisco Panther Creek, it likely will have to go through Stephenville and Kennedale. Panther Creek would potentially have to beat Waco La Vega and China Spring. No matter what happens, pay attention to this part of the 4A DI bracket because it might be one of the most entertaining regions in any classification.
Games to Watch
Thursday, November 9
Lewisville (8-2) @ Allen (6-4)
Allen and Lewisville meet on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium in Plano. Lewisville eliminated Allen in the first round last season and looks to do the same on Thursday night. Allen got off to a rough start before rebounding and playing good football throughout district play. Lewisville played good football throughout the season. I think this game will be more competitive than the Fighting Farmers 43-18 victory last year, but I am picking Lewisville to win. The winner gets the winner of Arlington Martin and Richardson Berkner in the area round.
Friday, November 10
Denton Guyer (7-3) @ Coppell (10-0)
These two districts have produced some good first round matchups recently. This one should be no different as Coppell finished the regular season undefeated and Denton Guyer was competitive in all of its regular season games. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Denton Guyer beat Coppell 52-24 in 2020. I have Coppell avenging that loss and advancing to take on the winner of Jesuit and Arlington Bowie in the area round.
Frisco (6-4) @ Richland (10-0)
Richland has been one of the surprising teams in the metroplex, going undefeated and beating Mansfield Timberview to win a district championship. The Royals got off to a slow start with slim wins over Mansfield Legacy and Haltom before dominating eight straight games leading into the playoffs. Frisco moved in the opposite direction, starting 6-1 before dropping its last three games against three really good teams. I’m interested to see how this one plays out, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Richland cruised to a win. Give me the Royals over the Raccoons on Friday night.
Keller Timber Creek (7-3) @ Trinity (6-4)
Keller Timber Creek made the jump from 4-6 last year to 7-3 this year. Southlake Carroll and Byron Nelson put the screws on every team in District 4-6A this season, but Keller Timber Creek impressed in its over eight games. The Falcons other loss came to Coppell 21-14 back in September. Trinity got off to a slow start but looked great in district play until the last week. The Trojans will have to rebound after a loss to L.D. Bell, but I am picking Trinity in a close one. The winner takes on the winner of El Paso Montwood and Midland Legacy in the area round.
Rockwall Heath (8-2) @ Sachse (8-2)
These two teams got four combined losses out of the way early as neither have lost since September. Both teams had great regular seasons and are evenly matched. This should be a great bi-district matchup. Unfortunately for the winner, Duncanville likely waits in the area round. I am taking Sachse’s dynamic duo of QB Brenden George and WR Kaliq Lockett in a shootout.
Frisco Wakeland (8-2) @ Mansfield Timberview (9-1)
Mansfield Timberview appeared on its way to a district title and an undefeated regular season before losing to Richland 37-27 a few weeks back. Now the Wolves get Frisco Wakeland in the bi-district round as a result. This team has a lot of talent, especially on offense. QB Zuric Humes, RB Jaylon Woods and WR Cameron Bates form a three-headed monster. I am picking against that trio and going with Frisco Wakeland and its explosive offense, led by QB Brennan Myer and his stable of receivers, to win this one.
State Championship Predictions:
6A DI: Duncanville over Galena Park North Shore
Let’s do another round of Panthers vs Mustangs! These two teams have met in the 6A DI State Championship Game every year since 2018, aside from 2020 when Austin Westlake defeated Southlake Carroll. Duncanville finally got on the scoreboard against North Shore with a 28-21 win in last year’s 6A DI title game. I am not picking against Caden Durham, Keelon Russell, Dakorien Moore and a talented Duncanville defense.
6A DII: DeSoto over Humble Summer Creek
DeSoto beat Duncanville 49-35 a few weeks ago and officially put the rest of the 6A DII bracket on notice. The Eagles defense is nasty, but keeping up with DJ Bailey, Daylon Singleton and Marvin Duffey. If Deondrae Riden is healthy enough to play, DeSoto adds one of the top running backs in the country to an already lethal offense.
5A DI: Aledo over Fulshear
Fulshear put together a perfect regular season, and I think Fulshear could get within a game of a perfect postseason, but Aledo’s experience in this game will be too much for the Chargers to handle. Robby Jones gets his first state title as Aledo’s Head Coach and Hauss Hejny is the difference in this one. Aledo rolls over Fulshear and gets a tougher challenge from Longview in the state semi-final.
5A DII: Lovejoy over Montgomery Lake Creek
Montgomery Lake Creek has had a great season, and it will get even better if it can make it to Arlington, but that’s where the journey will end. Lovejoy's talent on both sides of the football will be way too much for the Lions to overcome. DFW will once again sweep the 6A and 5A championships to shut out the Houston area, much like the Rangers did to the Astros in the ALCS.
Offensive Player of the Week:
My Offensive Player of the Week is L.D. Bell quarterback Maddox Olatunde! It takes a massive performance to end a decades long losing streak to a rival, and Olatunde delivered on the biggest stage! He finished with 150 yards and a touchdown through the air and 135 yards and a score on the ground to lead the Blue Raiders in passing and rushing. L.D. Bell fans will remember this win for a long time and Olatunde’s performance will be synonymous with arguably the biggest win for L.D. Bell this century.
Defensive Player of the Week:
My Defensive Player of the Week is Plano East defensive back Desmond Smith! Plano East needed a win to advance to the playoffs, and Smith delivered in the Panthers 30-18 win over Flower Mound Marcus! Smith finished with 12 tackles and an interception in the win. Plano East will take on Prosper in the bi-district round on Friday night and our own Professor Diggs will be on hand to provide updates and coverage from the game.
Cover Photo courtesy of the Dallas Morning News and Special Contributor Steve Hamm.