GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 3 Allen (Allen, Texas) 11-0 vs. No. 8 Euless Trinity (Euless, Texas) 11-0 at Cowboys Stadium, 2 p.m., Saturday
The state playoffs in Texas take to the bigger stages this weekend, none bigger than Cowboys Stadium and no game bigger than Allen versus Euless Trinity in Class 5A Division I.
It might seem odd to outsiders that such a matchup between two such highly-ranked teams would be taking place in essentially the second round of the playoffs, but these are high school playoffs where true seedings in many states are impractical due to travel.
When these two met last year, Euless Trinity was No. 1 in the FAB 50, while Allen was unranked nationally due to suffering a loss to Hebron (Lewisville, Texas). Trinity won 37-35 before a throng of 40,000 in Cowboys Stadium.
Neither team is No. 1 in the FAB 50 heading into this week’s game, but both are in the top 10. The winning team, especially if that team goes on to win the title in the toughest division in the state, would also have a chance to climb to the top spot if current No. 1 Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) were to suffer an upset.
Allen was the preseason No. 1 by many in Texas and has become accustomed to falling behind in games and then roaring back in the second half. The Eagles did it again in last week’s 30-17 playoff triumph over Central (Keller, Texas). One of the reasons they are so hard to put away is a balanced, high-scoring offense featuring quarterback Alec Morris (committed to Alabama) and running back Jonathan Williams (committed to Arkansas).
Trinity has had more easy wins, but the Trojans also may not have played as strong a schedule. In its 55-36 victory last week over Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas), running back Joel Kimpela rushed for 269 yards and scored five touchdowns. The only close game of the season was a 38-35 victory in September over Heritage (Colleyville, Texas).
PLAYER TO WATCH
Wes Brown, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
When you are on the same team as Stefon Diggs, the No. 10 player in the ESPNU 150, it’s sometimes hard to be noticed as a star yourself but Brown sure did a good job of that last weekend and could be primed to have another huge outing in this week’s championship game of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC).
The 6-foot, 200-pound senior running back recorded his most productive outing in a 47-7 romp over St. John's (Washington, D.C.) in the semifinals of the WCAC playoffs. Brown ran 14 times for 226 yards and four touchdowns for the No. 6 ranked team in the FAB 50.
On the season, Brown has carried 139 times for 1,225 yards and 19 scores. While Diggs has lived up to his billing with a series of explosive outings, Brown has been right behind him. He’s received more than 20 college scholarship offers himself, most from Big East schools, and is the No. 11 prospect in Maryland according to ESPNU.
If Diggs, Brown and the rest of the Falcons get a win on Saturday against Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) they would close a 12-0 season that also will guarantee them no worse than a No. 6 final national ranking. Not many Maryland teams have ever been better.
No. 16 Bellevue (Bellevue, Wash.) 11-0 at Lakes (Lakewood, Wash.) 11-0, Friday
From a recruiting angle and for what the team has done so far this season, Lakes may be ready to make a major splash on the national stage in this Class 3A state quarterfinal. The Lancers have averaged 53 points per game and among their best players is ESPNU 150 member Zach Banner, a 6-8, 305-pound tackle, and defensive back Cedric Dozier, committed to Cal. Others that have shined for coach Dave Miller are quarterback David Wood (1,900 yards, 27 touchdowns) and running back Levonte Littlejohn (1,014 yards).
The reason that Lakes is not higher than No. 16 in the West Region is that the schedule has been devoid of very many highly-ranked opponents. Plus, Bellevue last year played the Lancers and had little trouble in a 35-7 victory.
After last year’s win, Bellevue went on to capture its ninth state title in 11 years.
This year’s Bellevue team opened the season with a 31-21 win over Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.), a preseason top 10 team from California. The Wolverines then took on perennial Class 4A state powerhouse Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) and posted a 31-17 win.
Bellevue’s Wing-T offense is executed as perfectly as any offense in the nation. That unit is spearheaded by senior quarterback Tyler Hasty along with junior running backs John Nguyen and Myles Jack.
Upset alerts so far this season: 6-5
TEAM ON THE RISE?
Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.)
The Bluebirds are one of the highest scoring teams in the country and are closing in on a Kentucky record held by their 1998 team.
Highlands, which takes a 12-0 record against Covington Catholic (Park Hills, Ky.) into Friday’s third round of the Class 4A state playoffs, has scored 706 points for a sparkling 58.8 per game point average. In comparison, the 1998 Bluebirds' team scored a state record 801 points in 15 games.
The offense is led by 6-5, 235-pound quarterback Patrick Towles, a University of Kentucky recruit and participant in last summer’s Elite 11 camp as shown on ESPN.
With Towles at the helm, Highlands has scored more than 60 points in each of its past three games, and is now ranked No. 20 in the power-packed Southeast Region rankings. That region includes Florida, Georgia and the other Southeast Conference states plus North Carolina. The first 18 teams in that region are in the FAB 50.
In previous seasons, Kentucky teams were ranked in the Midwest Region and if that were true this season the Bluebirds would definitely be in the top 10. Still, a strong finish could earn Highlands a fifth straight state title, 21st overall playoff title and a spot in the final FAB 50.