El Paso High School Football Area Round Playoff Preview and Predictions

Photo by Ace Acosta/El Paso Herald Post

All times are Mountain Time

Thursday, November 21st

Hanks Knights (6-4) vs. Wichita Falls Rider Raiders (7-4)

Class 5A II area round game

6 pm kickoff, 5:30 pm pregame show, Grande Communications Stadium, Midland, Texas

Broadcasters: Alex Nicolas and Tony Grijalva

Channels: Hanks https://www.towntalksportselpaso.com/hanks-knights/

Hanks won a bi-district game for the first time since 1995, earning them a date with the 5A DII semi-finalist from last season in Wichita Falls Rider.  Hanks calling card all season was a high flying passing attack, but it was their running game and stout defense that helped them overcome District 2-5A DII champion Austin in the bi-district round.  Quarterback Aaron Molina has thrown for 2,980 yards and 33 touchdowns, adding 872 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Of course, his favorite target is Mykal Blanco who is El Paso’s all-time leader in receiving yards and has 21 touchdown receptions on the season and is a threat in the return game via kickoffs or punts.  Rider returned 11 starters from their historic 2018 team, the Raiders are in the postseason for the 10th straight season.  Rider junior quarterback Jacob Rodriguez threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns in their bi-district championship win last week.  Rodriguez is one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in Region I.  Nick Darcus is a dangerous weapon Hanks will have to defend at wide receiver, he caught two touchdown passes last week from Rodriguez. Rider defensive tackle Emaurion Banks is 6’4 defensive lineman who spearheads deep unit with a productive defensive line.  Banks is a 3-star prospect with multiple offers from FBS Power Five conferences and is just a junior, the defensive line has more than 20.0 sacks ont eh season.  The quarterback matchup is a good one, Rider’s playoff experience might be the small difference.

Town Talk Sports El Paso Predicts….Rider by 18

Friday, November 22nd

Parkland Matadors (11-0) vs. Wichita Falls High Coyotes (4-7)

Class 5A DII area round game

6 pm, 5:30 pm pregame show, Grande Communications Stadium, Midland Texas

Broadcasters: Alex Nicolas and Tony Grijalva

ChannelsParkland https://www.towntalksportselpaso.com/parkland-matadors/

Parkland is in the area round for the fourth straight season and will try to keep their unbeaten streak in 2019 alive against Wichita High who is making their 44th playoff appearance in school history.  Parkland deploys a well-balanced attack on both sides of the ball, offensively senior quarterback Gabe Herrera has been a big difference maker since taking over as starter his junior year.   Herrera needs three more passing touchdowns to become El Paso’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns, leading a Parkland offense that averages 460.8 yards per game.  His top targets Donta Hayes and Jesse Sandoval are now seasoned veterans who should give Herrera a pair of 1,000-yard receivers by the end of the area round.  Parkland’s defense is a bit underrated and is filled with multiple playmakers.   Xavier Simmons, Joshua Montalvo, David Chavira, Tyler Wilkinson, and Jeremiah Norris lead a tough front seven.  While Anthony Quintero and Richard Hernandez highlight a stable of speed in the secondary.  Wichita Falls is in the area round for the first time since 2014 led by junior quarterback Zy Gravitt.  Gravitt has thrown for 2,051 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first season as a starter on varsity.  Gravitt has a strong arm and is improving each time he steps out on the field.  A pair of senior are his top targets in Zachariah Williams and Isaiah Johnson who have 14 receiving touchdowns combined.  Ryan Murdock is the Coyotes top defender with 108 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks.  Herrera’s experience and Parkland’s speed might be a little too much for Old High, but keep an eye on Gravitt and his ability to throw the rock.

Town Talk Sports El Paso Predicts….Parkland by 8

Burges Mustangs (9-2) vs. Lubbock Cooper Pirates

Class 5A DII area round game

6 pm kickoff, 5:40 pm pregame show, Panther Stadium, Fort Stockton, Texas

Broadcasters: Michael Montes and Christian Molinar

Channels: Burges https://www.towntalksportselpaso.com/burges-mustangs/

Burges makes the area round for the second straight season and for the first time in school history the Mustangs won a district title and a bi-district title in the same season.  Cooper is a heavy 5A DII Region I favorite. Cooper made it to the regional quarterfinal last season and is poised to do the same in 2019, but they also have state championship aspirations in mind.  The Pirates have won eight in a row and employ several weapons who touch the ball.  Tyler Hairston is a familiar name to El Paso teams and is shifty runner out of the backfield.  Quarterback Cooper LaFebre has tons of weapons and uses them all in the passing game, another player to keep an eye on his Nehemiah Martinez. Cooper’s defense held high-flying offenses like Lubbock Coronado and Lubbock Monterey in check and shut out Fort Worth Wyatt in the bi-district round.  Cooper is ranked 6th in the state by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football for good reason.  Burges will have to play a perfect game and possess the athletes on their depth chart to give Cooper fits.  Running backs Tavorus Jones and Robert Hall headline the offense.  Jones has 998 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, Hall has run for 777 yards and 10 touchdowns.  The talented duo are underclassmen who are now experienced and have the speed and talent produce against Cooper. Quarterback Audwin Caldwell runs the show, and junior linebacker Alec Marenco plays a huge roll for a speedy and sound defensive unit that also features senior defensive back Chris Wilson.  Burges will have to control the line of scrimmage and time of possession, Cooper is one of the best teams in the state. 

Town Talk Sports El Paso Predicts….Cooper by 21

Canutillo Eagles (9-2) vs. Canyon Randall Raiders (4-7)

Class 5A DII bi-district area round

6 pm kickoff, 5:55 pregame show, Mustang Bowl, Andrews, Texas

Broadcasters: Eric Martinez

Channels: Canutillo https://www.towntalksportselpaso.com/canutillo-eagles/

Canutillo is back in the area round for the first time since 2016 and last beat Canyon Randall in the 2013 area round.  The Eagles have used an efficient and stingy offensive attacked, mixed with a sound defense that has them looking for their first third round appearance since 2014.  Joaquin Carrasco is averaging 145.5 rushing yards per game in his last six games, Carlos Amato has returned from injury is another weapon out of the backfield to watch.  Freshman LJ Martin is also another weapon who has scored five touchdowns in his first six games.  The Eagle defense is led by Josiah Holloway and Esteban Tavera.  Defensive back Kayn Perez is another top defense player who leads the team in tackles.  Randall plays a physical style of offense like Canutillo and returns 10 starters from a team that beat Parkland in the area round last year.  Quarterback Jakobe Norman leads a ball control style of offense but has good receiving options in Tavian Combs and Brandon Ellison.  Controlling the line of scrimmage is key, something Canutillo has done well all year long.  Randall is tough, but Canutillo keeps finding ways to win, and I think the Eagles have enough to do it again this week.

Town Talk Sports El Paso Predicts….Canutillo by 3

Saturday, November 23rd

Americas Trailblazers (10-1) vs. Arlington High Colts (8-3

Class 6A DII area round

1 pm kickoff, 12:30 pm pregame show, Grande Communications Stadium, Midland, Texas

Broadcasters: Alex Nicolas and Tony Grijalva

Channels: Americas https://www.towntalksportselpaso.com/americas-trail-blazers/

A two-point conversion pushed Americas into the area round to face a battle tested Arlington High out of District 4-6A.  Aaron Dumas ran for 345 yards and two touchdowns against Frenship as the Trailblazers had a time of possession of 21:54 in the second half of their bi-district championship game.  The Americas defense has been solid all year long and will face the best offense they have faced to date.  Dylan Kemp leads the state in sacks and Derek Saldivar and FBS prospect Evan Chislom each have five interceptions.  Arlington has a versatile quarterback in Kris Sims, and a workhorse running back in BJ Rogers who ran for 196 yards on state ranked Arlington Lamar and has run for 1,000-yards in a season.  Charles Brown is a big-time weapon at wide receiver and has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark.  Arlington also has a four-star defensive back in Jahari Rogers who is committed to Florida.  Rogers played quarterback last year to the Colts and is now a full-time defender.  The Blazers will have to protect the ball and avoid self-inflicted wounds that give Arlington momentum.  The Blazers match up well in certain areas, can they execute for 48 minutes well will be the key.

Town Talk Sports El Paso Predicts… Arlington by 3

Other games

Clint (7-3) vs. Springtown (10-1)

Thursday, 6 pm, Andrews, Texas

Clint made history last week, and has been solid all year long. I think they can keep it close early on, but Springtown is a state title contender.

TownTalk Sports El Paso Predicts….Springtown by 10

Mountain View (8-3) vs. Decatur (11-0)

Thursday, 6 pm, Odessa, Texas

District 1-4A has had a banner year, and Mountain View is a big part of it.  Running back Hector Nevarez will have to produce in a huge way. 

TownTalk Sports El Paso Predicts…..Decatur by 20

Last week prediction record: 10-2

Season record: 117-31