Previews and predictions for every regional final playoff game for Dallas-area 6A and 5A schools
SportsDayHS staff writers Greg Riddle, Joseph Hoyt, Tess DeMeyer and Sean Collins break down Round 4 football playoff games involving 6A and 5A Dallas-area teams, as well as give their predictions.
Editor’s note: Games below are listed in order of when they kick off. Find a full statewide schedule of regional final games here.
Friday, Jan. 1
Red Oak (9-2) vs. Mansfield Summit (7-4)
Red Oak vs. Mansfield Summit.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 11 a.m. Friday at Globe Life Park
Red Oak (9-2)
Coach: Michael Quintero (First season as head coach)
Regular season: Second in District 4-5A Division I
How they got here: Beat Justin Northwest (62-7 in bi-district), beat El Paso Del Valle (55-6 in area round), beat Lubbock Coronado (42-41 in double overtime in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— Red Oak has utilized two quarterbacks throughout the playoffs, with Joshua Ervin throwing eight touchdown passes and four-star recruit Chris Parson running for eight touchdowns in three games.
— Iverson Young has rushed for 480 yards in the playoffs, giving him 1,006 yards for the season, and Zach Sanders returned last week after missing the first two playoff games and ran for 70 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the second overtime in a 42-41 win over Lubbock Coronado.
— Oklahoma State signee Raymond Gay Jr. ranks second among area 5A players with 1,104 receiving yards, and he has scored 14 touchdowns on 69 receptions.
Red Oak will win if: Ervin and Gay continue to decimate the Summit defense. Ervin threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns in Red Oak’s 37-16 win over Summit in district play, and Gay had 12 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Mansfield Summit (7-4)
Coach: Channon Hall (Fifth season)
Regular season: Fourth in District 4-5A Div. I
How they got here: Beat Abilene Cooper (49-28 in bi-district), beat Amarillo Tascosa (31-28 in area round), beat Colleyville Heritage (34-31 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— Auburn signee Hal Presley has 38 catches for 981 yards, an average of 25.8 yards per catch, and he has 15 of Summit’s 20 touchdown receptions.
— Quarterback David Hopkins has a pair of 100-yard rushing games in the playoffs after having none in the regular season.
— Summit has excelled on special teams, with Jalon Rock returning three kickoffs for touchdowns and Sean Smith running back two punts for scores.
— Defensive lineman Kamren Washington, a Sam Houston State signee, had nine tackles and five tackles for loss in last week’s win over previously unbeaten Colleyville Heritage, and he has 82 tackles, 32 tackles for loss and 15 sacks for the season.
Mansfield Summit will win if: It continues the playoff magic that has made it the only No. 4 seed remaining in the 5A Division I or Division II playoffs.
Prediction: Red Oak 35, Mansfield Summit 27
Denton Ryan (12-0) vs. Highland Park (11-0)
Denton Ryan vs. Highland Park.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 3:15 p.m. Friday at Globe Life Park
Denton Ryan (12-0)
Coach: Dave Henigan (Seventh season)
Regular season: District 5-5A Division I champion
How they got here: Beat Bryan Adams (69-6 in bi-district), beat College Station (52-21 in area round), beat Longview (27-9 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— A team ranked No. 9 in the nation by MaxPreps has so many weapons, but its two star wide receivers, Texas signee Ja’Tavion Sanders and Oklahoma signee Billy Bowman Jr., always come up with big plays in big games. They have combined for 110 receptions for 1,863 yards and 26 touchdowns, and Sanders has 331 receiving yards and has scored four touchdowns in the last two games.
— Memphis signee Seth Henigan has thrown for 3,091 yards and 34 touchdowns, and he has four games with more than 300 yards.
— Denton Ryan has been without leading rusher Ke’Ori Hicks the last two games, but Kalib Hicks ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the area round vs. College Station, and Denton Ryan relied heavily on its passing game last week against Longview, as Henigan threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns to make up for a running game that produced just 69 yards.
Denton Ryan will win if: It can forget about the past and can handle the pressure of a rare close game. Ryan lost three straight state semifinals to Highland Park from 2016 to 2018, and Ryan’s only game this year that was decided by fewer than 14 points was a 23-20 victory over Denton Guyer in Week 2.
Highland Park (11-0)
Coach: Randy Allen (22nd season)
Regular season: District 7-5A Division I champion
How they got here: Beat New Caney (56-21 in bi-district), beat Frisco Independence (42-20 in area round), beat Frisco Lone Star (30-20 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— Hawaii pledge Brayden Schager has thrown for 2,827 yards and 24 touchdowns and also has eight touchdown runs in his first year as Highland Park’s starting quarterback.
— The nation’s 24th-ranked team has five receivers with more than 350 yards, led by Will Pettijohn, who has 29 catches for 603 yards and eight touchdowns.
— Highland Park averages 175 rushing yards per game, and Anthony Ghobriel and Brooks Bond have combined to rush for 1,191 yards and 25 touchdowns.
— Highland Park has a tenacious pass rush, and defensive linemen Jack Curtis, Cameron Laurie and Isaiah Pedack have combined for 23 sacks, 41 tackles for loss and 75 quarterback pressures.
Highland Park will win if: Its defense can slow down a Denton Ryan offense that averages 47.3 points. Highland Park’s defense allows just 16.9 points per game, and the Scots haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game since a season-opening 42-36 win over Coppell.
Prediction: Denton Ryan 28, Highland Park 21
Aledo (10-1) vs. Lovejoy (13-0)
Aledo vs. Lovejoy.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Globe Life Park
Coach: Chris Ross (First season)
Regular season: District 7-5A Division II champion
How they got here: Beat Greenville (45-30 in bi-district), beat Everman (49-21 in area round), beat Mansfield Timberview (64-50 in regional semifinal)
Players to watch: Quarterback Ralph Rucker is one of two area 5A quarterbacks to surpass 3,000 passing yards heading into this week of the season. The senior racked up 364 yards while throwing for eight touchdowns in a win over Mansfield Timberview last week. His favorite target, Reid Westervelt, is the leading receiver among area 5A teams and has reeled in 29 touchdowns this season. Senior receiver Luke Mayfield is another offensive weapon to keep an eye on, as he’s averaging more than 15 yards a catch. On defense, watch out for linebackers Dillion Magee and Philip Joest, who 22 tackles in the Leopards’ first-round playoff win over Everman.
Lovejoy will win if: Rucker and Westervelt bring the spark they had in the regional semifinals and the defense limits Aledo quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi’s options by zeroing in on wide receiver JoJo Earle.
Coach: Tim Buchanan. He returned last season as the head coach, a position he held from 1993-2014 before becoming the Aledo ISD athletic director.
Regular season: District 5-5A Division II champion. The only loss was 27-17 to Cedar Hill in Week 3.
How they got here: Beat Hillcrest (77-6 in bi-district), beat North Forney (49-24 in area round), beat Frisco (45-27 in regional semifinal)
Players to watch: Demarco Roberts is a workhorse who can do it all. The Lamar University commit plays cornerback and is the team’s leading rusher with 1,188 yards and 20 touchdowns on 138 carries. Six of Aledo’s receivers have caught at least one touchdown pass, and Alabama signee Jo Jo Earle leads the pack with five. The senior is ranked the No. 11 wide receiver in the Class of 2021 and was a member of the 2018 and 2019 state title winning teams.
Aledo will win if: The Bearcats jump to an early lead and shut down a second-half Lovejoy comeback. The Leopards scored 35 consecutive points against Mansfield Timberview after trailing 36-22 in the second quarter.
Prediction: Aledo 39, Lovejoy 31
Saturday, Jan. 2
Euless Trinity (10-1) vs. Southlake Carroll (10-1)
Euless Trinity vs. Southlake Carroll.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 11 a.m. Saturday, Globe Life Park
Euless Trinity (10-1)
Coach: Chris Jensen (sixth season)
Regular season: District 3-6A champion. The team’s only loss of the season came to Prosper, a Div. II regional finalist.
How they got here: Beat Keller Timber Creek (44-20 in bi-district), beat Midland Lee (56-49 in area round), beat Allen (49-45 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch: When it comes to Trinity, you have to start with Ollie Gordon. The junior running back missed three games this season and is still closing in on 2,000 yards rushing. Last week was a big reason why. Gordon rushed 49 times for 455 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-45 win over undefeated Allen. Gordon was quick to thank others, including his offensive line and fullback Joseph Luna, a senior who delivered many key blocks. On defense, Trinity linebackers Sateki Wolfgramm and Siosifa Leota are two fast, hard-hitting players.
Euless Trinity will win if: Ollie Gordon dominates, once again, and the defense can force a turnover or two.
Southlake Carroll (10-1)
Coach: Riley Dodge (third season)
Regular season: District 4-6A champion. The team’s only loss was a 44-42 defeat to Rockwall.
How they got here: Beat Haltom (49-14 in bi-district), beat Odessa Permian (38-7 in area round), beat Arlington Martin (30-26 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch: One of the biggest questions surrounding the Texas high school football playoffs was whether quarterback Quinn Ewers, the top-ranked recruit in the country in 2022, would return from injury this season. Last weekend — six weeks after a sports hernia surgery — he did, providing a boost in Carroll’s 30-26 win over Arlington Martin. He threw for three touchdowns and looked comfortable despite many big hits from the Martin defense. Receivers Brady Boyd, a Minnesota signee, and junior Landon Samson were terrific. On defense, keep an eye on senior defensive back Cinque Williams, who also returns kicks.
Southlake Carroll will win if: the Dragons can protect Ewers and slow down Trinity running back Ollie Gordon.
Prediction: Southlake Carroll 38, Euless Trinity 35
Denton Guyer (10-2) vs. Prosper (8-3)
Denton Guyer vs. Prosper.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 1 p.m. Saturday, McKinney ISD Stadium
Denton Guyer (10-2)
Coach: Rodney Webb (first season)
Regular season: District 5-6A runner-up. The team’s only district loss of the season came to the district champs, Allen. It also lost to Denton Ryan.
How they got here: Beat Coppell (52-24 in bi-district), beat Arlington (38-31 in area), beat Abilene (38-21 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch: Denton Guyer holds a well-rounded offense and has two runners that can be devastating if they aren’t contained. Running back Byron Phillips has nearly 1,300 yards on the season to pair with his 22 touchdowns, while quarterback Eli Stowers has 903 rushing yards of his own while passing for 2,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. The quarterback was influential in Denton Guyer’s 24-23 win over Prosper on Oct. 30, rushing for three touchdowns and passing for 181 yards. Stowers, a Texas A&M signee, was key to Guyer’s run to the 2019 6A Div. II title game, but was hurt during the championship game against Austin Westlake. His success elevates Guyer’s overall ceiling.
Denton Guyer will win if: Stowers is able to keep Prosper guessing on runs and passes with a hot start.
Coach: Brandon Schmidt (sixth season)
Regular season: Finished third in district 5-6A, with its three losses coming to Allen, Denton Braswell and Denton Guyer.
How they got here: Beat Flower Mound Marcus (38-19 in bi-district), beat Arlington Bowie (28-7 in area), beat Northwest Eaton (27-17 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch: Prosper’s pass-heavy offense is led by Jackson Berry, who has just over 2,400 yards through the air with 21 touchdown passes. Berry made a dent in the Denton Guyer defense on Oct. 30, rushing for 22 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Cameron Harpole is Berry’s most dangerous weapon. His 13 touchdowns and 816 yards leads Prosper in both categories. What makes Berry so lethal is how much pressure he puts on opposing linebackers with his ability to run the ball. Berry, along with his passing totals, has the most rushing touchdowns for Prosper with 13 scores.
Prosper will win if: Its defense can limit Guyer to 20 or less points like it has with each of its previous three opponents.
Prediction: Denton Guyer 35, Prosper 31
Cedar Hill (10-1) vs. Rockwall-Heath (10-2)
Cedar Hill vs. Rockwall-Heath.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Globe Life Park
Cedar Hill (10-1)
Coach: Carlos Lynn
Regular season: The No. 1 seed from the zoned District 11-6A in the 6A Div. II playoff bracket. The only loss was 28-14 to Duncanville in Week 6.
How they got here: Beat Bryan (27-0 in bi-district), beat Tyler Legacy (45-0 in area round), beat Tomball Memorial (38-21 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch: Cedar Hill ranks second in passing defense and third in scoring defense among area 6A teams thanks to a stout defensive line led by Texas Tech signee Charles Esters, who has 12 sacks on the season. Also look out for linebackers Jaheim Lowe, Demari Ward and Stefan Ingram. The trio has accounted for 128 tackles this season.
On offense, quarterback Kaidon Salter is a playmaker who lives up to the hype. The Tennessee signee leads the Longhorns on the ground and through the air with 2,143 passing and 841 rushing yards. He’s got the speed to escape pass rushers and the arm strength to make deep throws anywhere on the field.
Cedar Hill will win if: The defense can slow down a Rockwall-Heath offense that’s averaging more than 50 points and 539 yards a game.
Coach: Mike Spradlin (second season)
Regular season: District 10-6A second place
How they got here: beat Garland (42-14 in bi-district), beat Temple (56-28 in arena), beat Cypress Bridgeland (48-24 in regional semifinal)
Players to watch: Rockwall-Heath is one of only two area 6A teams with two 1,000-yard rushers. Running backs Preston Landis and Zach Evans (who suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago) both surpassed the mark, and each is averaging around six yards per carry. Combine that ground game with quarterback Josh Hoover, who is second among area passers with 3,333 yards and 35 touchdowns this season, and the Hawks have got the leading offense in the area. They’re averaging more than 50 points per game, and none of their previous playoff opponents have held Rockwall-Heath to less than six touchdowns. On defense, middle linebacker Grady Brewer has 175 tackles this season and is averaging 14 per game.
Rockwall-Heath will win if: The Hawks continue their streak of scoring 40-plus points in playoff games and pressure Cedar Hill quarterback Kaidon Salter into making ill-timed passes that result in picks.
Prediction: Cedar Hill 42, Rockwall-Heath 35
Duncanville (9-1) vs. DeSoto (9-1)
Duncanville vs. DeSoto.(SportsDay Staff)
Game info: 7:30 Saturday at Arlington’s Globe Life Park
Coach: Reginald Samples (sixth season)
Regular season: The No. 1 seed from the zoned District 11-6A in the 6A Div. I playoff bracket
How they got here: Beat Killeen Harker Heights (60-14 in bi-district), beat Skyline (49-14 in area round), beat Spring Westfield (56-0 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— With a defense led by Alabama signee Kendrick Blackshire at linebacker and SMU signee Jadarius Thursby at safety, Duncanville ranks No. 1 in the area in run defense (68 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.9 points per game) among 6A teams.
— Three-star senior quarterback Grayson James has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in his first season at Duncanville, and 10 of those TD passes have come in three playoff games. His top target has been SMU signee Roderick Daniels Jr., who has 50 catches for 856 yards and 12 touchdowns.
— A team ranked No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps has averaged 223 rushing yards per game, led by running back Malachi Medlock, who has run for 925 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
Duncanville will win if: Its defense continues to dominate in the second half. Duncanville has allowed a total of 27 points after halftime during its eight-game winning streak, an average of 3.4 points per game.
Coach: Claude Mathis (Second season after returning to the school that he was the head coach at from 2008 to 2014. Mathis was the running backs coach at SMU, then the head coach at Marshall High School, before returning to DeSoto in 2019.)
Regular season: The No. 2 seed from the zoned District 11-6A in the 6A Div. I playoff bracket
How they got here: Beat Killeen Shoemaker (57-32 in bi-district), beat Rockwall (30-27 in area round), beat Spring (27-21 in regional semifinals)
Players to watch:
— DeSoto is so hard to defend because it has three of the best receivers in the Dallas area: Texas Tech signee Jerand Bradley, Arkansas signee Jaedon Wilson and sophomore Johntay Cook II (15 college offers). They have combined for 122 catches for 2,059 yards and 30 touchdowns.
— Illinois signee Samari Collier has thrown 29 touchdown passes and leads DeSoto with six rushing touchdowns. He has 12 touchdown passes in three playoff games, including four last week.
— DeSoto, ranked No. 21 in the nation by MaxPreps, has gotten a combined 36 sacks and 50 tackles for loss from the trio of Texas signee Byron Murphy II, Texas A&M signee Shemar Turner and Waymon Smith.
DeSoto will win if: It can win the turnover battle. DeSoto was plus-4 in that category in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but it was a minus-3 against Spring last week and had to rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit to win 27-21.