4A-I preview: Rushing, defense reign in Reg. 1


Overview: With much of Region I extending from the Texas panhandle down to El Paso, where teams aren’t as strong (at least according to perception), the top-tier teams are easier to pencil in later in the bracket than in other regions with more dark horse teams.

With much of the west included the region, many teams play a bruising style of football that will leave their opponents more than a little sore the next day. Denton Ryan (10-0), Waco Midway (7-2) and Wolfforth Frenship (10-0) run the ball and then rely on their defenses to hold the lead. But the region has a few spread teams that could push the favorites as well. Fort Worth Southwest (9-1) is on a nine-game winning streak and can pass the ball with the best of them, as can Birdville (8-2).

Favorite: Denton Ryan. The Raiders have more FBS commits than the rest of the region combined, and most of those play on their vaunted defense. Mario Edwards is the top-ranked recruit in the nation and has two BCS-caliber linebackers behind him. Points will come at a premium against Ryan. The question, like last year, is whether Ryan's offense can give its defense a lead to protect.

Watch out for: Fort Worth Southwest. Because all nine of its victories came against other Fort Worth schools, Southwest enters the playoffs as something of an unknown. What we do know is that its offense has the ability to put up big numbers in any game, as evident by its 66-point eruption against Fort Worth Arlington Heights. Its offense alone is cause for concern for opponents.

Can’t wait to see: Birdville vs. Fort Worth Arlington Heights (7 p.m. Thursday, Justin's Northwest ISD Stadium). Birdville will get tested right off the bat against an Arlington Heights (8-2) team that finished second in District 6-4A. The last time Arlington Heights faced a team with a stellar passing game, it turned into a historic night for the opposition (Southwest). Whichever team wins this one could end up making a run.

We hope to see: Waco Midway vs. Denton Ryan. These teams played a classic defensive duel at Cowboys Stadium last year that Ryan won en route to an appearance in the state title game. With Ryan’s offense ailing and Midway picking up steam late in the year, a rematch, which would occur in the third round, might be an even better game than last year.

Talent pool (FBS recruits): Wolfforth Frenship: WR Chad Quisenberry (uncommitted); Wichita Falls Rider: DT Dylan McDorman (North Texas); Fort Worth Arlington Heights: LB Nate Guidry (uncommitted); Denton Ryan: DE Mario Edwards (Florida State), LB Alex De La Torre (Texas), LB Jordan Richmond (Texas A&M), DB Trey Mohair (UTSA), OL Jordan Williams (Missouri), DE Dominique Banks (Baylor), WR Sam Johnson (uncommitted), OL Tevin McCray (uncommitted); Waco Midway: DB Shakiel Randolph (SMU).