O’Connor (7-3) at Southwest (5-5), 7:30 p.m.
Southwest lost 42-14 to District 28-5A champion Steele last Friday in its final regular-season game, and the road won’t get much easier. They’ll face 27-5A champion O’Connor, which returns several players who reached the state semifinals last year.
The returnees include quarterback Zach Galindo, who threw 31 touchdown passes last year and has 22 so far this season to go with 2,440 yards. His favorite target, Nate Phillips, has 817 reception yards. The ground attack is consistent, but not particularly explosive.
All in all, the Panthers are formidable. Their defense looked a tad vulnerable last Friday against Taft in a 42-31 win.
That’s where Southwest’s hope has to lie, along with the fact that it’s played this caliber of team before (Brennan and Steele). The Dragons know what they need to do.
Senior back Nathaniel Scott ran for 159 yards against the Knights. He can gain the tough yards, as well as produce breakaway runs.
Quarterback Bowen Crisp threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jon Cruz in the game. He’ll need a few more completions to keep pace with an O’Connor team that can both sustain drives and score quickly.
Southwest committed three turnovers against Steele. The Dragons can’t afford a repeat, as they’ll need to match scores with O’Connor and, hopefully, do a bit better.
Their defense has been inconsistent, but has had its moments – such as in a 14-9 win over Corpus Christi King two weeks ago and a shutout of South San. Southwest probably will need to keep O’Connor in the high 20s or low 30s in terms of point production to have a chance.Area round opponent:Winner plays Madison (8-3).
Warren (8-2) vs. East Central (5-5), 7:30 p.m. at Gustafson Stadium
Both teams appear to be playing their best football of the season.
East Central is as healthy as its been throughout 2013, and will need to be to win a game that shapes up as a shootout. Warren scored 55 points in its season finale last Friday against Clark. There is hope for the Hornets in the fact that the Warriors allowed 33.
Quarterback Jeremy Jones (1,016 passing yards) has emerged as a running threat in the last two weeks, to complement fellow Division I recruit Johnathan Jackson and Javion Polk, who returned from an injury last week. Jones also will need to have junior big-play receiver Wanya Ward (24 yards per catch), who also has been banged up, at his disposal, to stretch the field. He’ll also need to find both backs with screen passes out of the backfield.
Turnovers have been the Hornets’ Achilles heel this year. Avoiding those momentum killers will be a key.
Prior to the Clark game, Warren’s defense pitched a shutout against a solid Taft team. East Central blanked South San two weeks ago. So, both defenses are capable of getting stops at big times, which may be what’s required.
Warren has the edge offensively, with an offense that has scored more than 100 points in the last two weeks and produced 519 total yards against Clark. Warriors quarterback Jordan Sneed leads a relatively balanced attack. He has thrown for 2,007 yards with 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Other Warren players to watch are back Aedric Robinson, who has rushed for 855 yards, and receiver Sean Eddington, who averages 23 yards per catch. Area round opponent: Winner plays Judson (8-2) or Churchill (6-4).
Brackenridge (7-3) at Hays (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
District 28-4A runner-up Brackenridge’s hopes likely depend on whether Oklahoma State commit Ramon Richards is able to start at quarterback after sustaining a concussion two weeks ago.
No offense intended to sophomore Antonio Lopez, who has done an admirable job replacing Richards. He threw for 389 yards and has 521 for the season. However, he also threw three interceptions in last Friday’s 27-10 win over Highlands.
The key factor in Richards factor is that he’s a proven postseason winner. His combination of athleticism and leadership can be crucial to Brackenridge’s chances for advancement. Avoiding, or at least minimizing, turnovers will be important.
Hays is a playoff-tested opponent with home-field advantage. Like the Eagles, it reached the area round in 2012. The Rebels defeated Highlands 60-7 in the bi-district round last year and beat Burbank 61-7 Sept. 1. Brack defeated the rival Bulldogs 26-21 but, in fairness, that was the last game that Richards played, and he made an early exit.
The Rebels, who are the third seed from District 27-4A, have won their last five games since losing by three points to Kerrville Tivy Oct. 4. They’ve averaged 35.8 points in the streak, but have given up 28 points or more three times in that stretch – albeit to quality opponents.
Hays quarterback Jeff Jordan has thrown for 1,529 yards and 15 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Jordan is one of four Rebels ballcarriers who’ve rushed for more than 300 yards.
Brackenridge, which has won four in a row, will need a big game from running back Trey Mathis, to give Richards (or Lopez) time to locate the Eagles’ bevy of receivers. Brack’s big-play capability could be a game changer. Area round opponent: Winner plays Rouse (8-3).
Harlandale (8-2) at Gregory-Portland (4-6), 7:30 p.m.
The hopes will be high on Harlandale’s side of the field as a veteran Indians team faces a Gregory-Portland squad that carries a five-game losing streak into the postseason.
The Indians have won three of their last four, but have been grinding out wins, rather than blowing opponents away, as they did early in the season. So that tempers the enthusiasm a bit.
It’s wise not to underestimate a G-P team that plays in a very tough district (30-4A) represents a program which regularly does well in the playoffs. And then there’s the fact that the Wildcats won the coin flip and have home-field advantage.
Still, the Wildcats have allowed 55 or more points in four of the last five games. As long as senior back Nick Martinez is able to help keep the chains moving, it’s reasonable to expect that quarterback Brandon Ramon will find a way to notch a Harlandale win.Area round opponent: Winner plays Corpus Christi Ray (7-3) or Rio Grande City (4-6).
Kerrville Tivy (6-4) vs. Burbank (3-7), 7:30 p.m. at University of the Incarnate Word
Burbank has handled its injury setbacks admirably this year, but the hill ahead is getting steeper and steeper.
The Bulldogs lost 41-0 to Lanier last Saturday in their regular-season finale. The face a Tivy team that finished in a three-way tie for second place in tough District 27-4A.
The Antlers aren’t quite Manziel-caliber, but have a four-game winning streak intact. They’ve defeated their last two opponents by an average score of 52-15 and won the last three by 29 or more points.
Burbank quarterback J.P. Barrera is making his third start. Lanier had him under pressure throughout the game and the Bulldogs never established their passing attack. To make matters worse, they were without big-play receiver and kick returner Marcos Luna (20 yards a catch). Having good field position and moving the chains will be essential to give Jeremy Sanchez (780 rushing yards) room to run.
The Antlers’ current quarterback Jade Dyal has thrown for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Tyler Ahrens has logged 672 receiving yards. Adrian Medran has run for 756 yards. Area round opponent: Winner plays Cedar Park (10-1).
Lanier (4-6) at Alamo Heights (7-3), 7:30 p.m.
Since District 28-4A season began, Lanier has met its challenges head on and fared admirably well. Don’t be surprised if they’re competitive against a storied Alamo Heights program.
The Mules, who shared second place in District 27-5A, will be favored, of course. They’ve scored 40 or more points in five games, led by quarterback Dalton Banks (2,394 passing yards).
Alamo Heights isn’t one-dimensional, either. Back Byron Proctor has gained 917 yards.
Lanier was steeled by playing four playoff qualifiers during its district season.
The dual running threat of Joe Orta and Julian Castillo has lent balance, and breakaway potential, to the offense. Senior quarterback Nicholas Garcia has been consistent and can move the chains through the air. Rodrigo Garcia and Steven Horton can make plays downfield.
The Voks should be able to score on Alamo Heights. They’ll probably need at least 28 points to make a strong challenge.Area round opponent: Winner plays Austin Vandegrift (9-2).
Sam Houston (2-8) at Navarro (9-1), 7:30 p.m.
Navarro entered its last regular-season game needing a win over Canyon Lake to hold second place. The Panthers won 62-0.
Sam Houston rose to the occasion a week ago, also. The Hurricanes won their only District 28-3A game, blanking Poteet 39-0 to earn the fourth seed.
They were shut out a week earlier by exactly the same score. The opponent was district-champ La Vernia, which compares well to Navarro.
Sophomore lefty quarterback Raymonte Prime has been banged up. Sam Houston will need a big game from him to advance.
When senior back Erin Mack gains more than 100 yards, the Hurricanes’ offense is effective. They have plenty of speed and available receivers, so the potential to put Navarro in the hole with a quick touchdown or catch up exists.
Coming off the shutout, Sam Houston will need to play its best defensive game.
Navarro put up 585 total yards against Canyon Lake. Backs Luke Jaroszewski (1,142 rushing yards) and Jay Leal are the key to the Panthers’ offense. Desmond Smith had more than 100 receiving yards last Friday.
The Hurricanes played a murderous schedule, so there will be no surprises, in terms of the intensity needed to win.Area round opponent: Winner plays Columbus (6-3) or Cuero (6-3).