Could the first week of the playoffs have been more exciting or what?
The fun doesn’t stop there as we head into the area round this week, highlighted by first-time playoff winners looking to keep the good times rolling.
Two games this week feature four teams that dropped from Class 6A to 5A during February’s realignment, and it appears the move has benefited all four.
In the 5A Division I bracket, Richland (10-1) faces No. 4 Denton Ryan (11-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium, and Justin Northwest (10-1) meets Colleyville Heritage (8-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.
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Northwest and Ryan played in District 5-6A the past two years with Keller ISD schools, Trophy Club Nelson and Denton Guyer.
Richland and Heritage had the “luxury” of playing in perhaps the toughest district in the state in 7-6A with Euless Trinity, Southlake Carroll and Coppell.
Richland, Northwest and Heritage had losing records in 2015, going a combined 9-22. This season, those teams have gone 28-5 and are in the 5A second round.
For Northwest and Richland, wins in the bi-district round were a long time coming. Both teams won with little time to spare.
Richland, in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, rallied in the second half and scored with 35 seconds to play to beat Fort Worth South Hills 42-35. It was the Rebels’ first playoff win since 1984.
Northwest rallied to beat Denton 31-29 with 16 seconds left as the Texans got their first playoff win in nine attempts.
Playing “up” a class the past two seasons against some of the toughest competition in the state looks to be working in these four teams’ favor this year.
Schedule paying off
We all know playing a brutal nondistrict schedule can help playoff hopes. Heritage played Trinity and Aledo in the first three weeks of the season.
Trinity and Aledo have combined to win eight UIL state football titles since 2005.
Heritage routed Fort Worth Arlington Heights 50-16 last week to get its first playoff win since 2012.
The Panthers were just one of two teams this season to hold a lead against Aledo before the Bearcats rallied late to win 41-36 in Week 1.
▪ Keller Timber Creek (7-4) is another first-time winner, getting it on its second attempt with a 54-51 shootout win against playoff regular Arlington Martin. Can the Falcons keep it going? They host No. 6 San Angelo Central (11-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in Class 6A Division I.
▪ Grapevine shut out Fort Worth Southwest 70-0 for its first playoff win since 2006. The Mustangs (10-1) get to play No. 1 Aledo (11-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Saginaw’s Rough Rider Stadium in 5A Division II.
▪ Also in 5A Division II, Fort Worth Dunbar beat Wyatt 25-19 for its first playoff win since 2001 when the Wildcats defeated Stephenville in the first round. Dunbar (5-6) plays Saginaw Boswell (7-4) at 7 p.m. Friday at Saginaw Chisholm Trail.