High School Football

Road to Arlington: State championship previews for Wednesday’s games

It’s finally time for UIL state championships at AT&T Stadium. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Michael Prengler)
It’s finally time for UIL state championships at AT&T Stadium. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Michael Prengler) Special to the Star-Telegram/Mic

Wasn’t it just August 1st? It feels like yesterday that the high school football season was only beginning.

Well, 16 weeks later and here we are, UIL State Championship week.

The first three of 12 games get underway on Wednesday at AT&T Stadium with the Class 1A Division I game kicking off at 11 a.m. The Class 2A Division I game will conclude the day with a 7 p.m. start.

Class 1A (Six-Man) Division I, 11 a.m. Wednesday

Gail Borden County (Gail, Texas)

Overall record: 14-0

Head coach: Trey Richey

Defeated: Sterling, 60-0; Imperial Buena Vista, 52-0; Garden City, 74-24; Happy, 70-38

State championships: 4- 2016, 2009, 2008, 1997

The Coyotes: It’s a rematch of last year’s state title game when Borden County beat Jonesboro 60-12. It was the first year the six-man championships were hosted at AT&T Stadium. This season, the Coyotes defense has been lights out, holding opponents to 8.0 points per game while posting eight shutouts. The offense is averaging 60 points per game.

Players to Watch

Trace Richey, Sr., RB, DE: All-State Defensive MVP in 2016.

Nick Proulx, Sr., RB, FS: 230 yards rushing and 5 TDs vs. Happy.

Braxton Barnes, Sr., OL, DL, 6-4, 285.

Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Texas)

Overall record: 13-1

Head coach: Eddie Gallegos

Defeated: Lometa, 64-14; Bryson, 72-58; May, 57-50; Tioga, 83-56

State championships: 0- Didn’t reach a state final prior to 2016

The Eagles: Jonesboro has scored 70 or more points six times this season, double that of Borden County. The Eagles are averaging 63 points per game. Last week, they scored a season-best 83 points vs. Tioga, their most points since Oct. 25, 2013.

Players to Watch

Wyatt Young, Sr., QB, CB: 2,501 yards rushing, 44 TDs, 13 100-yard games, 176 tackles, 7 INTs in 2017.

Andy Sarmiento, Sr., DE, RB: 999 total yards, 18 TDs, 110 tackles, 25 for loss, 6 FR in 2017.

Ethan Lilljedahl, Jr., CB, QB: 1,549 total yards, 34 TDs, 100 tackles, 5 INTs in 2017.

Class 1A (Six-Man) Division II, 2 p.m. Wednesday

Strawn (Strawn, Texas)

Record: 14-0

Head coach: Dewaine Lee

Defeated: Brookesmith, 60-0; Crowell, 52-0; Aspermont, 54-6; Milford 102-71

State championships: 2- 2008, 2003

The Greyhounds: Strawn is back in the state title game for the first time since 2009 and could return next year with just three seniors on its roster. The Greyhounds, who average 64 points per game, scored a season-high 102 points vs. Milford, their most points since Nov. 7, 2014. The defense has been just as good, holding opponents to 15 points per game.

Players to Watch

K-Lani Nava, Sr., K: Believed to be the first female kicker in UIL state championship history.

Carlos Villanueva, Jr., RB: 245 total yards, 1 passing TD, 57-yard kickoff return for a TD, 1 INT vs. Milford.

Julian Fraga, Jr., RB: 8 carries, 268 yards, 3 TDs vs. Milford.

Tanner Hodgkins, Soph., RB, DE: Scored 6 TDs vs. Milford.

Balmorhea (Balmorhea, Texas)

Record: 13-0

Head coach: Vance Jones

Defeated: Wellman-Union, 78-15; Blackwell, 61-16; Ackerly Sands, 46-0; Turkey Valley, 96-66

State championships: 0- Didn’t reach a state final prior to 2016

The Bears: Balmorhea lost to Richland Springs 96-50 in last year’s state title game, its first appearance in program history. This year, Balmorhea is averaging 67 points per game while allowing 15 on defense. The Bears have scored 60 or more points 11 times with a season-high 96 points vs. Turkey Valley.

Players to Watch

Kyle Garcia, Sr., RB: 26 carries, 305 yards, 3 TDs vs. Turkey Valley.

Marcos Mendoza, Jr., RB, LB: 192 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 3 FF vs. Turkey Valley.

Aaron Mendoza, Soph., LB: 20-yard fumble return for a TD vs. Turkey Valley.

Class 2A Division I, 7 p.m. Wednesday

Mart (Mart, Texas)

Record: 14-1

Head coach: Kevin Hoffman

Defeated: Goldthwaite, 62-3; Windthorst, 58-6; De Leon, 47-7; Crawford, 47-6; Stratford, 33-13

State championships: 5- 2010, 2006, 1999, 1969, 1957

The Panthers: Mart has one of the best defenses in the state this year, only allowing 9.6 points per game. The Panthers have held five playoff opponents to 7.0 points per game. As a team, the offense has accounted for over 7,000 yards, 5,000 coming on the ground.

Players to Watch

Jace Terry, Sr., QB: 3,000 total yards and 48 TDs in 2017.

Zamar Kirven, Sr., LB: 124 tackles, 29 for loss, 3 INTs, 4 FF, 3 FR in 2017.

Cooper Baize, Sr., LB: 174 tackles, 17 for loss, 3 sacks in 2017.

Tyrek Horne, Jr., RB: 2,023 yards rushing and 26 TDs in 2017.

Shatydrick Bailey, Jr., RB: 29 total TDs in 2017.

Refugio (Refugio, Texas)

Record: 13-1

Head coach: Jason Herring

Defeated: Ben Bolt, 57-0; Thorndale, 47-13; Holland, 70-29; Mason, 38-14; San Augustine, 63-21

State championships: 4- 2016, 2011, 1982, 1970

The Bobcats: Refugio has been a state power the past seven years. The Bobcats are the defending state champs and are making their third straight and fifth overall state finals appearance since 2011. Refugio, which beat Crawford 23-20 in last year’s state title game, is allowing 13.5 points per game on defense.

Players to Watch

Jacobe Avery, Sr., RB, LB: Offensive MVP in last year’s state title game.

Daryon Ramirez, Sr., RB: Rushed for 235 of team’s 467 yards vs. San Augustine.

Armonie Brown, Jr., DL, OL: Offer from Syracuse.

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