2017 Quarterfinal/Regional Championship Previews


Six-man expert

State Quarter-Final/Regional Championship Previews
1A DI:
Region 1:
Happy (12-0) v McLean (11-1) – Saturday Dec. 2nd 5pm in Pampa

A big rematch of the week 11, District 1 title game in which Happy won 74-28. Happy only scored 94 points last week in their 94-46 win over Ropes…and that was a halftime game folks. There is no question the Cowboys can put up points…their only flaw is they are giving up a lot of points: 28.6 per game, which is the second most out of the remaining teams in the DI playoffs (Jonesboro is giving up 29.8). I don’t need to tell you about Colton McCarley, who is a dual-threat on offense and excellent PAT kicker. His supporting cast is really the key to Happy’s offensive excellence. Jayden Bressler and Jackson Davis might not get a lot of headlines, but they are key blockers and have great hands. The same goes for Dalton Gray, Jackson Davis and Craig Odom…I wouldn’t be surprised if all six don’t make all-state on offense one way or another. McLean is a tough, hard-nosed, battle you in the trenches type of physical team…and young. Their top player is likely sophomore running back Ben Crockett, who has rushed for 660 yards and 14 touchdowns in the Tigers two playoff games! In order for McLean to have a chance in this rematch, not only will Crockett have to have a huge game, but quarterback Cayden Mann as well. Happy’s pass defense seems to be their major weakness. Mann is capable of having a big game, he threw for 156 yards last week against Knox City. A cause for concern for the Tigers is the fact they will be playing without fullback Chism Henderson, who played valiantly last week, finishing the game with an injury he or his team was not aware of until after the game. It seems after getting hit on a peel back block in the third quarter, Henderson suffered broken ribs, a lacerated liver and a lacerated/ruptured spleen. His is currently still in the hospital recovering, with hopes of being released in time to attend the game and cheer on his teammates. If McLean can rally around their injured comrade, get a great performance out of both Crockett and Mann AND somehow slow down the Cowboy’s offense, the Tigers could pull off the biggest upset of the season. However, that is asking for a LOT to happen. I think McLean fights to the very last play and gets their licks on that Happy defense, but Happy advances to the Semifinals for a second straight year.

Players to watch:
Happy – Colton McCarley, Miguel Mata
McLean – Ben Crockett, Cayden Mann

Region 2:
Borden County (12-0) v Garden City (10-2) – Friday Dec. 1st 7:30pm in Forsan

The game I’m choosing to attend Friday night is this one, Borden County vs Garden City. The Coyotes’ defense seems impenetrable, as they have not given up a single point in the playoffs, outscoring opponents (Sterling City and Buena Vista) 112-0! They have racked up five straight shutouts (eight total on the season) and haven’t allowed a touchdown in six games. In that stretch, the only points they’ve surrendered was a week eight field goal they gave up to Klondike. Garden City as a team are the embodiment of their mascot the Bearkat: feisty, scrappy, and aggressive when prodded. Garden City has held their own against top teams Milford and Balmorhea and last week used that Bearkat fighting style to defeat a hungry Rankin team. The multi-back system keeps their backfield fresh, while simultaneously wearing down defenses. They have a great kicking game, both with PATs and kickoffs. Against Milford they recovered three onside kicks in a row to fight their way back. The question here is, can Garden City wear down the Borden County defense and make enough defensive stands to pull off the upset? Yes, they are more than capable of doing so, but I just don’t think it will happen. I expect a game much like last season, with Borden County jumping ahead early, Garden City fighting the whole game, and the Coyotes walking away the winners.

Players to Watch:
Borden County – Trace Richey, Nick Proulx
Garden City – Trent McMillan, Amando Alegria, Cesar Chavez

Region 3:
May (12-0) v Jonesboro (11-1) – Friday Dec. 1st 7pm in Dublin

The big game this week has got to be May vs Jonesboro for the Region 3 crown. This game can go either way! Both have excellent coaches: Craig Steele (May) and Eddie Gallegos (Jonesboro). Both teams have rich playoff history (and recent success). Jonesboro having been state runners up last year and May having been state runners up in 2013 and 2014. Both possess a great running game with multiple backs; Jonesboro behind Wyatt Young, Ethan Lilljedahl and Andy Sarmiento; May with Preston Johnston, Dalton Self and Wyatt Mote. Both schools’ top player in my opinion are named Wyatt; Wyatt Young, Jonesboro’s RB and Wyatt Mote, May’s QB. Last week both faced tough top-ten ranked opponents. May handled Zephyr, gradually pulling away in a game that was close early for a 65-20 win. Jonesboro was tied up with Bryson 28-28 at halftime and battled back and forth. The game was tied at 50 early in the 4th quarter and the Eagles dug deep and out scored Bryson 22-8 in the final minutes to win 72-28. I think that Jonesboro’s schedule has been a little tougher than May’s this season and that may lend the edge to the Eagles this late in the season. May’s passing game with Mote is better, but I feel Jonesboro’s running game is better with Young being the premier back, and with two teams that love to run, I’m going to go with the one I feel has the edge there and that is Jonesboro. I think Wyatt Young will have a huge game both offensively and defensively and the Eagles soar to victory.

Players to Watch:
Jonesboro – Wyatt Young, Ethan Lilljedahl
May – Wyatt Mote, Dalton Self

Region 4:
Union Hill (11-0) v Tioga (10-1) – Friday Dec. 1st 7:30pm at Prairiland HS in Pattonville
Union Hill handily defeated a very talented Coolidge team last week via the mercy rule, 64-14, while Tioga fought tooth-and-nail with Blum to pull out an eight-point victory 60-52. As I stated last week, Tioga is a run-based offense with time control on the brain. Union Hill loves to run as well; they are fast and will strike quick. Tioga’s defense has been impressive this season, only allowing an average of 14 points a game. Last week they struggled with Blum, giving up a season-high 52 points. In that game, Tioga was forced to throw the ball more than normal, going 12-15, for a season high 172 yards and four touchdowns. As usual RB Cade Kimbrell ate up the bulk of their carries, ending the game with 33 totes and managing to grind out 169 yards with three touchdowns. Contrast that to the game Union Hill’s super sophomore running back Gabe Nelson had against a tough Coolidge. Nelson rushed for 350 yards and six touchdowns on 16 carries… that’s just under 22 yards a carry. The contrast of offensive rushing game styles will be obvious. I suspect Tioga will try to do what they did last week and mix in a little more passing into their game plan. However, Union Hill will do what they have done all year: feed the ball to Nelson and if he gets bottled up give it to Colt Mallory. Tioga has had a great season, their last in six-man football most likely for a long time, but I think it ends this week at the hands of Gabe Nelson and company.

Players to Watch:
Union Hill – Gabe Nelson, Colt Mallory
Tioga – Cade Kimbrell, Kaleb Scott

Region 1:
Valley (11-1) v Follett (8-3) – Friday Dec. 1st 7pm in Pampa
In my opinion this is could be the best game in Division 2 this week. A battle of Panhandle Powerhouses…Valley vs Follett. These two faced off against each other back in week two and Valley won a tight game, 44-20. This is also a rematch of last year’s region 1 championship game in which Valley won a scorefest, 94-62. Last week Valley handled Whitharral, going home early thanks to a 54-6 45-ing in the third quarter. Follett had a bit more trouble with Petersburg. The Panthers trailed for a part of the game and were down 52-38 in the third quarter, but fought back and after six lead changes in the final quarter, pushed ahead to win by 10 points, 84-74. Like some of the other games this week, both teams have similar styles. Both the Patriots and the Panthers can run or throw the ball equally effective. Defensively, Valley seems to have the obvious advantage, as they allow 19 points per game to Follett’s 33. This game is a hard one to judge, either team could pull it out. However, I like Valley due to their defense. In their win last week, Follett gave up over 600 yards of offense and in a game that looks to be a pick ’em, I’m going with the better defense at this late stage in the season. I’m going with Valley.

Players to Watch:
Valley – Dax Allen, Parker Carson
Follett – Christian Barber, Fabian Gordillo

Region 2:
Balmorhea (11-0) v Sands (10-2) – Friday Dec. 1st 7pm in Rankin
Balmorhea fought off a scrappy Blackwell team with a huge second quarter to win via the mercy rule at halftime 61-16. Sands likewise battled a feisty Jayton squad, also winning by the mercy rule 60-12. I was very impressed with what I saw last week when I watched Balmorhea play. In the first quarter, Blackwell had some sustained drives and played with them score for score, but they adjusted quickly and that didn’t last long, as the Bears defense dominated the second quarter and their running backs went untouched by the Blackwell defenders all night. They are solid up front, both on offense and defense. Sands has a great one-two punch in running back Hunter Reese and quarterback Landon Morrow, but my questions going into this game are can their offensive line hold up against the Bears defensive front and can they stop Balmorhea’s offense? They will have to do both if they want to make this a competitive game. I think Balmorhea is just on another level…Sands will have some successful drives early much like Blackwell did, but Balmorhea will adjust and surge ahead again this week to advance on to the Semifinals.

Players to Watch:
Balmorhea – Marcos Mendoza, Kyle Garcia
Sands – Hunter Reese, Landon Morrow

Region 3:
Strawn (12-0) v Aspermont (9-3) – Friday Dec. 1st 7:30pm in Hermleigh

Strawn just keeps rolling through opponents. They are just like Borden County over in Division 1…they have not been scored on in the playoffs, outscoring their two opponents (Brookesmith and Crowell) 112-0. They are only allowing 6 points a game this season on average! Aspermont is one of those sneaky good teams, with great players, well-coached and well-rounded…the type of team you expect to show up and compete with anyone every week. The Hornets three loses all came within the first five weeks of the season to Division 1 opponents, two of which were playoff teams (Sterling City and Spur). They have since won seven-straight and have become better each week. All that being said, it would be a big upset if they won this week. Aspermont has had a great season, but it will likely end at the hands of the Greyhounds on Friday night. Strawn is my pick to represent the east in the state title game and I see no reason to change that now after the whopping they laid on Crowell last week.

Players to Watch:
Strawn – Carlos Villanueva, JW Montgomery
Aspermont – Rowdy Bradley, Karter Morris

Region 4:
Milford (12-0) v Iredell (10-2) – Friday Dec. 1st 7:30pm in McGregor
Milford’s 45-point slaughter rule victory over Richland Springs was the talk of the six-man world last week, but maybe more impressive was Iredell’s slaughter rule win over Oakwood, which prevented a district 15 rematch that many were expecting for the Region Four title. Iredell is the best team no one is talking about. They are one of the most disciplined teams in the playoffs as far as blocking, hitting the holes, following blockers, staying at home on defense, wrapping up and taking proper pursuit angles. Morgan Whitfield is an excellent runner for the Dragons and QB Adrian Benitez is an accurate thrower that keeps defenses honest. What I like maybe the most is that Iredell likes to run the old school tight balanced line, wingback right offense. Man do they run it well! The problem for the Dragons is they are going up against the hot team…the Milford Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have Taron Smith, and we all know how good he is, but like I said last week, the players around him are great and top-to-bottom this is probably the most talented team in all of class 1A. Corbin Schrotke may be the unsung hero of last week’s win over Richland Springs. He had a team-high 16 tackles and a fumble recovery. In addition to those two, Rickey Pendleton, James McIntyre, Jasean Brooks and kicker Lowisley Ojeda are all all-state caliber players. The question I have about this game is will Milford still be riding high from their victory over Richland Springs, looking ahead to a possible matchup with powerful Strawn and completely look past Iredell? If that is the case, this will be a barnburner and Iredell stands a great chance at pulling off the upset. Honestly, I think there will be a little bit of that for Milford and this game will be competitive, but Taron Smith and company seem to be on a mission. I think both teams turn in solid performances and Milford moves on to face Strawn to see who’s the Big Dog in the East.

Players to Watch:
Milford – Taron Smith, Corbin Schrotke
Iredell – Morgan Whitfield, Colton Fowler
It's fair to say the common denominator in all of these final teams is defense. Overlooked by many 6man programs the numbers don't lie the best defenses in the state are the teams that are left.