Now in the third week of the high school football playoffs, the fields of teams have steadily dwindled from 64 to 16 in Classes 6A through 2A.
Those few programs still with life had a little bonus football to go with their holiday week, but soon after the turkey and stuffing are consumed, it again will be back down to business.
Here’s a glance at the three area teams in action tonight in search of a spot in the regional finals.
Class 4A-II Region IV semifinal
Jarrell vs. Wimberley, 6 p.m., Leander ISD’s John Gupton Stadium
For just the second time in program history, Jarrell won multiple playoff games in a season thanks to its 35-21 disruption of Port Isabel in last week’s area round.
The Cougars got three touchdowns passing and another on the ground from quarterback Andrew Knebel as they led by 28 points going into the fourth quarter in advancing to the third round for the first time since 2000.
A win against Wimberley (12-0) would give Jarrell (6-6) its first regional-final berth in school history.
“It was awesome. These kids and really the community, too, they’re so excited. It’s been fun watching them,” said second-year Jarrell head coach Marty Murr, whose team downed Devine 32-14 in the opening round for Jarrell’s first postseason win in seven years.
“I really think just having 25 seniors is big because every week you’re really facing maybe this is your last game if you don’t play well, and so far they’ve answered the call,” Murr continued.
One of those seniors is Knebel (167-of-326, 2,736 yards 31 TDs), a three-year starter under center for the Cougars who has had big games in each of the playoff victories.
His 14-for-20 showing last week accounted for 297 yards through the air as he found senior Jalani Price on a 72-yard TD and also delivered scoring throws to senior Dakarai Barnes and junior Mason Dotson.
Price finished with six catches for 181 yards to lead a deep group of Jarrell pass-catchers.
Knebel also threw for 160 yards and two scores and rushed for 102 yards — including a game-icing 73-yard TD scamper late — during the bi-district win over the Warhorses.
Knebel’s decision-making and experience in operating Jarrell’s spread scheme have given the Cougars a steady hand on offense throughout the year.
“He understands the game plan and what we’re trying to do,” Murr said. “He gets rid of the ball so fast, that’s the biggest thing — he just gets rid of it fast. Your chances of getting sacked are almost zero when you get rid of the ball fast and he does that and his accuracy is really good. This year, he’s really kind of stepped to a next level of playing.”
Now facing Knebel and the rest of the Cougars are the undefeated Texans, who won District 13-4A-II, which they share with Jarrell and the remaining three teams in 4A-II Region IV. Lago Vista, which placed one spot ahead of Jarrell in third, will take on league runner-up Geronimo Navarro in the region’s other match.
Wimberley, which has five shutouts on the year, including three in a row (with playoff wins of 81-0 over San Antonio Young Men’s Leadership Academy and 48-0 over Orange Grove, respectively), defeated Jarrell 73-14 when they met Oct. 7.
“They’re a really good football team,” Murr said. “Coming into the season, I thought they were probably the best team in the region, so we have a chance to go make a little history, see if we can get it done.”
Murr said the Cougars feel like they have much room for improvement from their previous meeting with the Texans, who average 43.8 points per game and give up just 11.3.
“Our kids, they felt like they really didn’t play well that game,” the coach said. “We’ve been talking about it all year — hopefully we’ll play long enough to get to play them again. So we’re going to get our wish now whether we like it or not, we’re going to get it. Since that game, we’ve played pretty well and so I think losing that game made us better, to be honest. It was kind of a turning point for us.”
The Cougars, who put up 33.9 points per game, have won four of their last five and their six victories are the most in a season since 2015.
Other offensive weapons to keep an eye on for Jarrell include running back JaMarion Nibblett (697 yards rushing, 11 TDs) and receiver Jacques Spradley (44 catches, 797 yards, 12 TDs), among others, while Sammy Guerrero, Dylan Pursley and Brayden Bolyard — who each notched three tackles for loss last week — are disruptors on defense.
“I think we have to try and stop the run, defensively. I don’t know if we can stop it but if we can contain the run game and make them throw the ball, that will be big,” Murr said. “And then offensively we have to win some battles up front.”
Class 3A-I Region III semifinal
Cameron Yoe vs. Columbus, 7 p.m., Bastrop Memorial Stadium,
As the month of November winds down, it’s no surprise that Cameron Yoe appears to be rounding into form. The Yoemen are quite used to playing ball this time of year.
Yoe’s 42-19 handling of Orangefield last week followed a 39-28 triumph over Yoakum in bi-district and sent it to the third round for the third time in the last five years.
The Yoemen, too, aren’t far removed from their five title-game runs in six seasons from 2010-2015, during which they won three straight championships (2012-2014) in head coach Rick Rhoades’ first stint in Cameron.
“The whole thing is we’re in a part of the season right now where you want to be playing your best football and I think we, obviously, are doing that,” said Rhoades, who guided Yoe to an 82-17 record from 2009 to 2015 before leaving for five seasons and then returning in 2021, when the Yoemen finished 4-7 and narrowly lost to Hallettsville in the first round.
Yoe (9-3) this year used a balanced offense led by junior quarterback Braylan Drake (181-of-273, 2,375 yards, 31 TDs) and a high-flying defense anchored by junior defensive back Ja’Quorius Hardman (team-high 166 tackles, 13.8 per game) to finish second in the highly competitive District 11-3A-I, which featured two defending state champs in Lorena and Franklin.
The Yoemen beat Lorena 48-44 in late September and have won six of seven since then, including last week’s dispatching of Orangefield during which Drake threw four touchdown passes — three to Charlie Mayer — and ran for another for an offense that piled up 378 yards.
“He’s an absolutely good athlete,” Rhoades said of Drake, a threat with his arm and legs. “He ran on our relays in track, so, obviously, he’s very fast. He is able to run it when there’s not anything there but he’s also very accurate when he throws the ball.”
Yoe’s quick pace and commitment to both parts of the offensive game helps Drake spread the ball around to his team’s plethora of playmakers, including Mayer (team-high 13 TD receptions), Trayjen Wilcox (58 catches, 757 yards, seven TDs) and Kardarius Bradley (144 carries, 954 yards, 13 TDs).
“That’s something that we really strive for. We want to be balanced with running and passing,” Rhoades said. “That’s something that I really believe in and what that does is it allows us to get a lot of people touches on the ball and I think that’s been part of our success all year long. To me it’s critical for us to be able to do that.”
Yoe now looks to solve a Columbus (11-1) team that has won four straight and averages 41.3 points while surrendering only 11.8 per game.
The Cardinals have won 44 games since head coach Matt Schobel took over in 2019, a figure that includes 11 postseason victories.
Columbus lost to Lorena in the third round last year but then dispatched the Leopards 24-21 in this year’s bi-district round before taking care of Diboll, 35-14, last week.
“They’re a good football team. They’re very efficient offensively. The coach’s son is the quarterback and he does a good job of running their offense,” Rhoades said. “I would say they’re probably about 70 percent run but when they throw the ball, they’re very efficient and they’ve been able to move the ball pretty well all year long. I think offensively, I don’t know if we’ve faced anybody that runs an offense as well as they do.”
Adam Schobel lines up under center for the Cardinals while receivers Colton Pitchford and Jordan Woods, along with running backs James Hurd and Tyrone Whitehead, also provide threats.
On defense, Rhoades said Columbus typically runs a 4-2 front, but also has shown a 3-4 look at times.
“All year long they’ve been in a 4-2 front except in the Hitchcock game when they played a 3-4, so we’re working both of those defenses,” the coach said. “I think we’ll be able to do some things offensively. It’s just a matter of execution, but they’re a good football team.”
The winner will play Franklin or Hitchcock.
Class 2A-II Region IV semifinal
Granger vs. Falls City, 7 p.m., Seguin’s Matador Stadium
Granger has posted back-to-back playoff wins by a combined difference of 82 points after last week’s 41-6 rout of D’Hanis, which followed a 60-13 deconstruction of Somerville in the opener.
Now on tap for the Lions (10-2) is familiar foe Falls City (8-4), which ended Granger’s season in the third round in 2019 and then again in the second round in 2020.
With an offense that has had no problems asserting its will as of late and a group of 10 seniors who remember those recent setbacks against the Beavers all too well, the Lions have no shortage of motivation for tonight’s match.
“The biggest thing is this team wanting to be different and take that further step,” said head coach Stephen Brosch, who has guided Granger to a 5-2 postseason mark since taking over in 2020. “We talk two to three rounds all the time, but we haven’t punched that ticket to that fourth round in a long time and this class, they’ve understood that, they’ve seen that and they’ve kind of focused on it all year and it’s in front of us now. It’s pretty simple, you win (tonight) and you do something that hasn’t been done in Granger since 2007 — punch a ticket to a regional final game. So they’re excited about the opportunity against a Falls City team that’s been there and done it. They’ve kind of been our arch nemesis for a while. They’ve bounced us a couple of times, so our kids are locked in. They know that Falls City will be extremely well-coached.”
The Beavers took care of Bremond (40-36) in the opener and Sabinal (29-20) last week on their march to the third round for an eighth straight year. Falls City is led on offense by freshman quarterback Braylon Johnson (1,398 yards rushing, 19 TDs; 779 yards passing, nine TDs) while senior Curt Ratliff (101 tackles) anchors the defense.
Granger, meanwhile, will look to establish the run — it has averaged 314 yards rushing per game, eclipsing the 300-yard threshold in each of its two playoff victories — starting with a senior-laden line that blocks for senior running back DJ McClelland, who staked his team to an early 21-0 edge last week after scoring on runs of 6 and 72 yards and also returning an interception for a touchdown.
McClelland has been a weapon who can score from anywhere on the field all year for the Lions, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams. His 1,626 yards and 25 touchdowns on 176 carries (9.2 yards per carry) lead the area and accompany team highs of 314 yards receiving and five scores on 17 receptions.
His interception return against the Cowboys was his second pick-six of the year, the other coming on a 73-yard dash Sept. 22 in a 35-6 win against Bruni during which McClelland also returned kickoffs for touchdowns of 85 and 82 yards.
Not to mention, it was his second straight week to return a kick for a TD — he brought one into the end zone from 70 yards out in a takeout of Goldthwaite the week before.
“There’s those kids that come along every once in a while that you talk about for a long time in your coaching career and he’s definitely one of them,” Brosch said of McClelland, who has tallied 35 total touchdowns this season. “Four-year starter on defense, three-year starter on offense, and he’s just a game-changer. When he’s on the field, you know good things can happen. It has a lot to do with his natural ability, but also the teammates that he has around him — the experience, the offensive line up front protecting him. But it’s a huge asset when he’s healthy, having him on the field. It makes things a lot easier in terms of what we can expect and what we can do.”
Granger’s win last week gave it at least 10 in a season for the second straight year. The Lions average 37.2 points per game while surrendering 16.8. Falls City is riding a seven-game winning streak and puts up 31.3 points on average and allows 23.9.
Brosch said two keys will be protecting the football on offense and being sound in their schemes on defense.
“We’re just excited. It’s a blessing to be playing Thanksgiving football,” he said. “There’s a lot of teams that wish they were in this position. Only 16 teams left in our division and we’re just excited for the opportunity to try to become one of the last eight standing.”
The winner will play Chilton or Burton.