The Cooldown: Week 20

The last week of the Texas high school football season is here! 20 weeks ago, we set out on a journey to complete the season and crown State Champions. Now, we’re here. There are four teams from the metroplex playing this weekend and I will preview all four State Championship Games. First, let’s take a look at how we got here.

Southlake Carroll upsets Duncanville

What more can be said about the Southlake Carroll defense? The Dragons shutout Duncanville in the second half and forced several turnovers. This was the group that was being questioned before the season started. Everyone knew how good the Carroll offense was, but was the defense good enough to get the Dragons to a state title? The answer was a resounding yes on Saturday afternoon.

Quinn Ewers completed 11 passes to three different receivers for 168 yards and a score. That includes an incredible grab and touchdown run from Landon Samson in the 2nd quarter. The Dragons found plenty of success on the ground from sophomore back Owen Allen, who finished with 192 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon. Allen’s most impressive run of the day was a physical touchdown run that put Southlake Carroll ahead of Duncanville for good.

Of course, this sets up the Dodge Bowl. It will be Southlake Carroll against Austin Westlake for the 6A DI State Championship. I will have more on that game below.

Cedar Hill ousts Denton Guyer

Cedar Hill took out Denton Guyer on Saturday with a 27-17 win over the Wildcats. The Longhorns avenged their loss to Denton Guyer in the playoffs last year and will get to play for a State Championship as a result. Cedar Hill had been looking forward to its opportunity to eliminate Denton Guyer from the playoffs all year, but now it’s time to shift focus to the State Championship Game.

Kaidon Salter completed 19 of his 25 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. The Tennessee signee pulled off a first half hat trick with a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown. Salter added 120 yards on the ground and the eight receiving yards on the touchdown reception. Anthony Thomas IV led the receivers with seven catches for 67 yards and a score. Cedar Hill advances to face the Katy Tigers in the 6A DII State Championship Game.

Player of the Week

My player of the week is Cedar Hill quarterback Kaidon Salter! I listed his stats above but what impressed me the most about Salter’s performance was his poise after falling down 10-7 in the 1st quarter and losing a fumble to give Denton Guyer the ball back with momentum. A big shout out should also go to the Cedar Hill defense for coming away with three interceptions. Salter’s last game at Cedar Hill will be in the State Championship Game, and something tells me he’s been ready for this moment his whole life.

Team of the Week

My team of the week is the Southlake Carroll Dragons! Southlake Carroll is back in the State Championship Game for the first time since 2011 and the defense is a big reason why. After letting up 27 first half points, the Dragon defense didn’t allow a point in the second half- including multiple stops in the red zone. On offense, it was the underclassmen that made the difference in the game. Sophomore Allen and juniors Ewers and Samson accounted for most of the Dragons offense. That group will face a tough test against Westlake in the State Championship Game.

Games to Watch

Friday, January 15

Aledo vs Crosby- 5A DII State Championship Game

The 5A DII State Championship Game will kick off at 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon from AT&T Stadium. Aledo is looking for its record setting 10th State Championship. The Bearcats are led on offense by running back Demarco Roberts and receiver JoJo Earle. Those two will need to have a big game for Aledo to add another State Championship to the trophy case.

The Bearcats took down Wichita Falls Rider 55-28 to make it back to the State Championship Game. Roberts rushed for 155 yards and four scores while Earle added 52 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Crosby defeated Liberty Hill 62-61 in overtime to make it to the State Championship Game. Liberty Hill fumbled a two-point conversion in overtime to lose the game. Crosby started the season with an 0-2 record but are 12-1 since the opening two games. Deniquez Dunn and Reggie Branch are the names to watch on the Crosby offense as both have put up big numbers this season.

Aledo will be overwhelming favorites to win this game. Crosby has excelled as an underdog throughout the playoffs with impressive wins over Texas High, Fort Bend Marshall and Huntsville- all ranked in the top five. The Cougars could outperform expectations once again in the State Championship Game. I think this game will be closer than many might think- but Aledo will come away with its 10th State Championship.

Denton Ryan vs Cedar Park- 5A DI State Championship Game

The Friday night cap will be the 5A DI State Championship Game between Denton Ryan and Cedar Park with a 7 p.m. kick off. Both teams are undefeated with Denton Ryan coming in with a 14-0 record and Cedar Park with a 13-0 record.

Denton Ryan has long been a favorite to win the 5A DI State Championship, and it’s easy to see why. Nearly all of the Raiders key playmakers are playing college ball. Quarterback Seth Henigan is heading to Memphis to begin his college career with the Tigers next week. Ja’Tavion Sanders will play for Texas while Billy Bowman Jr. will head north to Norman to play for the Sooners. Linebacker DJ Arkansas is headed to Rice and safety Ty Marsh has a handful of offers and will sign in February. Denton Ryan is battle tested with playoff wins over Highland Park, Longview and Mansfield Summit. The Raiders also beat 6A opponents Arlington Martin and Denton Guyer to start the season. There won’t be much Cedar Park can throw at Denton Ryan that the Raiders haven’t already seen.

Cedar Park has impressive playoff wins over Richmond Foster and Manvel. The Timberwolves beat Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial 61-28 to advance to the State Championship Game. Quarterback Ryder Hernandez has had a phenomenal season, passing for well over 4,000 yards and 58 touchdowns. The Cedar Park offense knows how to score points- and fast. If Denton Ryan can shut down the passing game, it will be a long night for Cedar Park. If not, we could be in for a shootout. I am taking Denton Ryan in this game by two scores, but don’t be surprised if Cedar Park takes this game down to the final possession.

Saturday, January 16

Cedar Hill vs Katy- 6A DII State Championship Game

This is familiar territory for these two teams. Cedar Hill and Katy faced off three times for a State Championship in the 2010’s and the Longhorns came away with two state titles. Now it’s Carlos Lynn’s turn to face the Tigers after coach Joey McGuire left Cedar Hill for Baylor.

Cedar Hill took down Denton Guyer 27-17 to advance to the State Championship Game. The Longhorns also have playoff wins over Rockwall-Heath and Tomball Memorial- and beat Aledo and DeSoto in the regular season. The Longhorns have a great leader in quarterback Kaidon Salter. If Cedar Hill beats Katy on Saturday, it will be because of Salter’s leadership and playmaking ability.

Katy comes into this game with a 13-1 record and the lone loss coming to a really good Katy Tompkins team 24-19. The Tigers ousted Shadow Creek 49-24 in the playoffs and haven’t played in a close game since the loss to Tompkins. Katy beat Clear Springs 28-13 to open the season and that’s the only other relatively close score on the schedule for the Tigers. Cedar Hill has played the tougher schedule, but Katy has blown out the opponents it was supposed to. The Tigers made the State Championship Game by way of a 63-7 win over Buda Hays Consolidated.

Katy is favored to win this game thanks to a physical rushing attack and an outstanding defense. I know how much Salter and the Longhorns love to be underdogs. Defensive backs Hunter Washington and Bobby Taylor are two of the best in the state at the position- but they’ll have their hands full with Salter and his receivers. The rushing attack features brothers Seth and Jalen Davis. Seth is just a sophomore. Those two run behind a really good offensive line. The Tigers broke in a new quarterback this year and have only improved as the season has gone on.

Everyone knows how much I love Kaidon Salter’s game. His ability to improvise and extend broken plays is up there with the best of them. Javien Clemmer has sure hands and ability to get open- which is important on broken plays. Brian Rainey is a playmaker in the passing game as well. I expect this to be a highly competitive and close game. I will take Kaidon Salter in those games every chance I get. I am taking Cedar Hill by a field goal over Katy.

Southlake Carroll vs Austin Westlake- 6A DI State Championship Game

Destiny has arrived. Carroll and Westlake were scheduled to open the season at AT&T Stadium before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of high school football this season. Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers told me it was destiny that these two teams would meet in the State Championship. Westlake coach Todd Dodge won a State Championship with his son, Riley, the quarterback at Southlake Carroll. Now Todd and Riley will face one another for a State Championship.

Southlake Carroll comes into the State Championship Game with a 12-1 record. The loss came against Rockwall back in October. It’s been 11 straight wins for the Dragons since that loss. Southlake Carroll survived a scare from Arlington Martin 30-26 on Christmas Eve and beat Trinity 59-35 the following week to set up a show down with Duncanville last weekend. The Panthers had ousted Southlake Carroll in both of Riley Dodge’s seasons at the helm- but Carroll got the better of Duncanville 34-27 without Dodge on the sidelines on Saturday afternoon.

Austin Westlake was also an underdog last weekend against Galena Park North Shore. The Mustangs are two-time defending State Champions- at least until a new State Champion is crowned on Saturday. The Westlake defense only allowed 13 points in district play but gave up 21 points to North Shore’s explosive offense in a 24-21 win. The 21-point outing was North Shore’s lowest scoring output of the season. The Westlake defense is among the best in the state. Duncanville’s defense is in that category and Carroll scored 34 points on the Panthers defense. Westlake quarterback Cade Klubnik is also a highly rated quarterback and leads one of the most explosive offenses in the state.

Southlake Carroll has championship pedigree as a program. So does Austin Westlake. The difference is, many of the current players for Westlake won a State Championship last season in 6A DII. This current Westlake team has championship pedigree, which is something Carroll doesn’t have. This should be a great game, but I like Westlake to ride its defense to another State Championship. I am taking Westlake by a touchdown over Carroll.

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