Coaches and players will tell you that winning and losing comes down just a handful of plays.
When you get deeper into the postseason, execution makes all the difference. Take Southlake Carroll’s 28-24 victory over Arlington. The Dragons’ ability to get a stop inside the final 90 seconds allowed them to keep playing into the fourth round of the playoffs.
Then look at Euless Trinity in its 34-23 over Midland Lee. The Trojans scored three times in the second half and limited Lee to only six points. That’s why the Trojans are still playing.
However, Colleyville Heritage’s mind-blowing 80-62 loss to Lubbock Coronado was the opposite. In the understatement of the year, the Panthers defense couldn’t keep the Mustangs out of the end zone.
The hidden key to that loss is that this team had two breakdowns in the Coronado red zone. When that happens against a team as prolific as the Mustangs, you’re going to get burned. And that’s why this team turned in its pads on Monday.
When you get into these final four weeks of the season, there is a truth. Everybody is good. It’s about if you’re the better one on that day.
The Texas high school football playoffs are cruel. Regardless of the margin, the finality of the season being over after months and months of work is sobering. Once the emotions fade, it won’t take long for the energy and drive for the following season begins. Offseason fuels hope.
In one of the best postseason showings in the history of Northeast Tarrant County, we still have three teams playing into the fourth week of the postseason between Carroll, Trinity and Richland. We started with 12.
As a bonus, we’re going to make some selections in the other Class 6A and 5A regional finals.
Last week: 3-1
Season: 112-30 (.788)
Euless Trinity (11-2) vs. Allen (13-0); 1 p.m. Saturday, Apogee Stadium (UNT), Denton; Class 6A Division I Region I Final: This a rematch of the 2016 bi-district meeting in Allen. The Trojans were in this game until Allen was able to pull away at the end, 34-25. I look at Allen and see a team that hasn’t changed the way it does business. The Eagles are good. Do they dominate? Not every time. The Trojans have won 10 consecutive games and are peaking. It’s a matter of taking care of the football and not committing the killer mistake. If they get Courage Keihn established early, then they will definitely have a shot. You can check out this game on TXA 21 if you don’t feel like hiking up to Denton. This is probably going to be one where I’ll kick myself because I’m going to stay with the safe pick.
Prediction: Allen 34, Euless Trinity 31
Richland (11-2) vs. Aledo (13-0); 2 p.m. Saturday, Ford Center (The Star), Frisco; Class 5A Division II Region I Final: Can you imagine what the vibe is like in North Richland Hills? This is history we’re witnessing. Richland is playing a second game in December. It’s playing for the right to win a regional championship. It’s also playing the No. 1 team in the state. The Rebels should feel like they are playing with house money, because they are not expected to win. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Richland’s defense. Aledo is averaging 400-plus rushing yards per game in the postseason. Richland is also the third 8-5A team to play the Bearcats. Colleyville Heritage and Grapevine are the others. Rebel quarterback Drew Trent is going to have to make some plays.
Prediction: Aledo 38, Richland 22
Carroll (10-3) vs. Waco Midway (13-0); 6 p.m. Saturday, McLane Stadium, Waco; Class 6A Division II Region I Final: The Dragons have seen the growth in quarterback Will Bowers during this postseason run. His decisions have been solid. The defense has been able to come up with big stops. But the pressure on this unit is real, because Waco Midway is just a juggernaut. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai is committed to Oklahoma and thrown for 3,605 yards and 46 touchdowns. The offense averages 508 yards per game. Carroll has to play defense twice: the normal style and then having its offense grind the clock and keep Midway’s offense off the field. If Carroll that doesn’t make that happen, the season is over.
Prediction: Waco Midway 43, Carroll 30
Mansfield Lake Ridge (12-1) vs. Highland Park (12-1); 7:30 p.m. Friday, AT&T Stadium, Arlington; Class 5A Division I Region II Final: The Scots have been barreling through the postseason. Of course, they’re being run by quarterback John Stephen Jones, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ grandson. Lake Ridge has been winning. But the Eagles have been a little shaky. Catch this one on TXA 21 if you can’t score a ticket.
Prediction: Highland Park 36, Mansfield Lake Ridge 28
Lubbock Coronado (13-0) vs. Denton Ryan (13-0); 2 p.m. Saturday; Wildcat Stadium (Abilene Christian University), Abilene; Class 5A Division I Region I Final: Coaches usually get funky about agreeing to playing at certain locations. That’s why I was a little surprised Ryan head coach Dave Henigan would agree to play this game at Abilene Christian a week after Coronado scored 80 points there. But if you like your team and don’t care about that stuff, then you just go play wherever. Ryan’s challenge is to get some defensive pressure on Coronado quarterback Qua Gray.
Prediction: Denton Ryan 45, Lubbock Coronado 40
Frisco Lone Star (12-1) vs. Mansfield Legacy (11-2); 2 p.m. Saturday; Ford Stadium (SMU), University Park; Class 5A Division II Region I Final: The Richland-Aledo winner meets the winner of this game in the state semifinals. For yours truly, this is the most intriguing matchup on the card. Legacy’s defense is solid led by national defensive back recruit Jalen Catalon. Catalon has ignited this offense since he doubles at quarterback. Lone Star has become a great program quickly. Its defense has already pitched four shutouts and not allowed a postseason opponent to score more than 16 points. The Rangers also have a solid QB in Illinois commit M.J. Rivers, who is over 2,600 yards passing and closing in on 1,000 yards rushing.
Prediction: Frisco Lone Star 35, Mansfield Legacy 24
Let’s win them all!