The Cooldown: Week 15
The state semifinal weekend is always a bitter sweet weekend for Texas high school football fans. There are only two weeks remaining in the 2023 season and all of the teams still playing football are elite. Unfortunately, only half of those teams will advance to Arlington and state championship weekend. That’s what makes this weekend so tough. A handful of teams have come this far just to come this far. The other half will have a shot at glory in the form of a state title. Let’s recap the best regional final games and preview the state semifinal round in the metroplex.
Frisco Emerson eliminates Colleyville Heritage
Let’s start off with the game I was at last weekend. Frisco Emerson eliminated Colleyville Heritage 59-48 in an offensive shootout to advance to the state semifinal. Any game that racks up more than 100 points and 1,100 yards of total offense is notable. The Mavs rallied from an early 10-0 deficit and led by a point at halftime. The third quarter featured more points than the entire first half as nearly every drive ended in points.
The last drive of the third quarter ended at the start of the fourth quarter as Frisco Emerson stopped Colleyville Heritage in plus territory. A field goal gave Frisco Emerson a 12 point lead midway through the fourth quarter and Colleyville Heritage was unable to rally for a win.
Frisco Emerson quarterback Michael Hawkins was surgical, completing 21 of his 25 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Hawkins also led the Mavs in rushing with 15 carries for 128 yards and three more scores. Izzy Bills added 11 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Kylen Evans led the receivers with eight receptions for 196 yards and two scores while Kelton Wafer chipped in six receptions for 61 yards and Kameron Lockhart caught the other touchdown pass from 17 yards out.
Colleyville Heritage quarterback Luke Ullrich put on a show, completing 28 of his 44 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns and leading the Panthers on the ground with 21 carries for 169 yards and two more scores. Siona Vahalahi added eight carries for 37 yards and a score on the ground. Braden Blueitt led the receivers with nine receptions for 175 yards and Hayden Golden added seven receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Kai Pruitt chipped in seven receptions for 58 yards and a score.
Frisco Emerson makes an appearance in the state semifinal as a three seed out of its district. Michael Hawkins’ incredible play has certainly helped the Mavs advance this far into the playoffs in just their second season playing Texas high school football. All that stands between Frisco Emerson and an appearance in the state title game is the back-to-back defending state champion South Oak Cliff Golden Bears. This weekend will by far be Frisco Emerson’s toughest test of the season.
Forney eliminates Lancaster
Forney eliminated Lancaster 43-41 in overtime to advance to the state semifinal. This is the second instant classic these two teams have played against one another this season with Forney taking the district matchup by a point. Winning two games by three total points is hard, but the Jackrabbjts pulled it off against Lancaster this year. As for the Tigers, Lancaster had one of the more underrated seasons of any team in the metroplex this year, finishing 8-6 and a step short of the final four despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.
Forney quarterback Kyle Crawford completed 10 of his 18 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Alijah Merkson led the receivers with two receptions for 67 yards and Imari Jehiel added five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Javian Osborne carried the ball 23 times for 99 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Lancaster quarterback Carter Jones completed 25 of his 37 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Mar’kel Porter led the rushing attack with 27 carries for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Kewan Lacy added 10 carries for 64 yards. Emmanuel choice led the receivers with seven receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns and Ti’Erick Martin added six receptions for 49 yards. Kameron Robinson chipped in two receptions for 22 yards and a score.
Lancaster outgained Forney 510-250, but Alijah Merkson returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Aaron Flowers came up with a pick-six in the second half to keep the Jackrabbits in it. Forney has had a great season, but it hasn’t appeared in a state semifinal since 2000. Aledo is the Jackrabbits opponent in the state semifinal, and the Bearcats have arguably been the most dominant program in the state over the last decade. Forney will need to play its best, cleanest game of football to beat a talented Aledo squad and advance to Arlington.
North Crowley eliminates Allen
A big fourth quarter powered North Crowley past Allen 49-37 and through to the state semifinal. The Panthers scored 28 points in the fourth quarter after starting the final frame trailing 24-21. North Crowley has emerged as a new power in the metroplex under coach Ray Gates, but it faces the defending 6A DI state champion Duncanville Panthers in the state semifinal.
North Crowley quarterback Chris Jimerson completed six of his 13 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and added 80 yards and a score on 11 carries. Ashton Searl led the rushing attack, gaining 171 yards and scoring two touchdowns on just 12 carries. Cornelius Warren chipped in 50 yards and two scores on eight carries. Dekoryian West-Davis caught four passes for 93 yards and a touchdown and Mason Ferguson added two receptions for 72 yards and a score.
Allen quarterback Dylan Chapman completed 11 of his 21 passes for 171 yards. Messiah Washington led the receivers with four receptions for 101 yards and Micah Ellis caught three passes for 39 yards. Ryan McDowell led the ground game with 10 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Caleb Smith added eight carries for 73 yards and a score. Quinton House-Hammonds scored two touchdowns on four carries.
I was in attendance for North Crowley’s 2020 bi-district round win over Byron Nelson. The Panthers finished 6-4 that season and lost in the area round to Abilene. Three years later North Crowley is 14-0 and can call itself a state semifinalist. Not many programs in Texas, if any at all, can say they have come as far as North Crowley has over the last three years. The biggest test and a trip to the biggest stage in high school football awaits.
Games to Watch
Friday, December 8
South Oak Cliff (12-2) vs Frisco Emerson (12-2)
South Oak Cliff faces Frisco Emerson in the 5A DII State Semifinal on Friday night at 7 at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco. South Oak Cliff’s playoff run has been nothing short of impressive, punctuated by a 42-0 win over Lovejoy last weekend. Frisco Emerson is also peaking at the right time, led by an explosive offense. This should be a great game, but South Oak Cliff hasn’t lost a playoff game since before Frisco Emerson opened its doors and played its first football game. I’m picking South Oak Cliff to advance to its third straight state title game.
Aledo (14-0) vs Forney (13-1)
Aledo faces Forney in the 5A DI State Semifinal on Friday night at 7:30 at Midlothian ISD Stadium. Aledo is 28-2 since making the jump up to 5A DI, including an 11-0 playoff record. Forney finished the 2020 season at 0-9, but improved significantly to 7-4 in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Now, Forney is just one game away from a trip to the state title game. Like, Frisco Emerson and North Crowley, slaying the defending state champs won’t be an easy task. I am taking Aledo to make its 14th appearance in a state championship game with a win over Forney on Friday night.
Saturday, December 9
Southlake Carroll (13-1) vs DeSoto (13-0)
Southlake Carroll takes on DeSoto in the 6A DII State Semifinal on Saturday afternoon at 2 at Eagle Stadium in Allen. Southlake Carroll hammered Byron Nelson 56-7 to advance to the state semifinal. That’s the same Byron Nelson team the Dragons lost to 34-17 earlier this season. DeSoto beat Cedar Hill for the second time this season, this one a 59-16 blowout, to advance to the state semifinal. Southlake Carroll is playing its best football of the season and should keep this game a lot closer than many might think. DeSoto’s has the best win of any team in the state this season, and I can’t pick against that. I am taking DeSoto to advance to its second straight 6A DII State Championship Game.
North Crowley (14-0) vs Duncanville (12-1)
North Crowley faces Duncanville in the 6A DI State Semifinal on Saturday afternoon at 3 at Mesquite Memorial Stadium. As I stated above, North Crowley’s turnaround over the last few seasons has been as impressive as almost any other program in the state. Duncanville has been at the level North Crowley is getting to for a more than half a decade now, and the Panthers are playing great football right now. Duncanville eliminated Spring Westfield 70-28 to advance to the state semifinal. I really like North Crowley, but I don’t believe there is a team in the state that can slow down Duncanville’s offense right now. I am taking Duncanville to go back to the 6A DI State Championship Game for *another* rematch with Galena Park North Shore.
Offensive Player of the Week
My Offensive Player of the Week is Frisco Emerson quarterback Michael Hawkins! Frisco Emerson needed Hawkins and his arsenal of playmakers to score on every possession in the third quarter to keep pace with Colleyville Heritage. The Panthers blinked first and Hawkins’ six touchdown propelled Frisco Emerson to the state semifinal! Hawkins completed 84% of his passes for 316 yards through the air and another 128 yards on the ground. The Mavs might not still be playing football if not for Hawkins. Scoring six total touchdowns in the playoffs at this level is not an easy thing to do, but Hawkins is so talented he made it look casual.
Defensive Player of the Week
My Defensive Player of the Week is South Oak Cliff linebacker Jamarion Phillips! South Oak Cliff’s defense suffocated a talented Lovejoy offense in a 42-0 shutout. Phillips finished with 13 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and three sacks in the Golden Bears win! Watch for Phillips to make an impact this week and get used to hearing his name. The talented linebacker is only a sophomore.