It’s been a while since San Antonio had a lot of football playoff success. Only Steele in 2010 has won a UIL state championship, and only one team, Steele in 2016, has gotten to Arlington in the last four seasons. Last year, no one even made the state semifinals, the first time since 1987, when Ronald Reagan was dealing with the stock market crash, that the area didn’t have a single UIL semifinalist. In fact, only three teams made the quarterfinals last year. This year, six are still alive, and after talking to a lot of coaches, both still in the playoffs and those already out, one common theme has developed:
This week is an opportunity for the area to get back on par with Houston and DFW, or fall further behind.
That is an extremely bold statement. Not just because holding down command-B on your keyboard makes the bold font, but because the area has a chance to show that it is ready to compete with the state. Or it could fall farther behind everyone else.
Of the six matchups this week, four involve teams who have met at least once in the last 15 months. Three are rematches from last year’s playoffs, two of which are matchups that have happened at least four straight years, and one is a district rematch. Geronimo Navarro lost to Cuero 43-7 in the regular season, and has lost four of five playoff meetings with the Gobblers the last five seasons. Falls City and Burton play for the fourth straight year, with Burton winning the last two and having one of the best running backs in the nation in De’Monderick Winters (he had eight touchdowns in last year’s game). Liberty Hill faces La Vernia after playing in the regular season the previous two years, and Liberty Hill was the preseason favorite to reach Arlington.
The headliner is Judson versus Lake Travis at the Alamodome. Both teams blew double-digit leads in their second round matchup last year, but Lake Travis took advantage of late mistakes and beat the Rockets on the way to a state final. This year’s game looks similar in that it is a 50-50 game. Neither team is likely to blow out the other, and it could be a stalemate that is determined by who makes a mistake at the worst time. Judson has won a lot of playoff games since its last championship in 2002, but it hasn't beaten a quality non-area team in the playoffs in years.
After surveying at least a dozen area coaches, everyone mentioned that this is a big weekend for the area. This is a chance for teams like Brandeis (vs Westlake without QB Taylor Anderson), La Vernia, Falls City, Cuero and Navarro to make statements that the Alamo City area is back and ready to compete. Many people have Judson picked to win it all, but can it slow down Hudson Card and Garrett Wilson? Can it win the big playoff game that it hasn't been able to do in a while?
And most experts thought Wagner was a shoe-in for the state semifinals after dropping to 5A and playing Judson close in week two. But, the biggest question is can it win a close game? Charles Bruce has done a great job, and the team has blown out 12 opponents. But, what happens if it gets someone it can't blow out? It faces Mission Veterans Memorial on Saturday morning at the Alamodome (get your coffee and doughnuts ready). At first glance, it would seem the Thunderbirds are a huge favorite. But, they haven’t faced a running quarterback like Landry Gilpan since they played Judson. Gilpan combined for over 700 all-purpose yards last week in his team's win. His 40-yard dash time is as fast as a Porsche. If Wagner can't contain him, the Patriots could pull off the upset.
If the area goes 0-6, or even 1-5, that isn’t good. It would make those in other areas of the state laugh because a major city can't get someone to the semifinals, and it gets tiring watching others win state titles when the Alamo City is on the couch watching TV or playing fantasy sports. We will learn a lot about the area over the next 72 hours.
Next weekend will also be a big weekend for Region IV. Last year, the region went 2-8 in the state semis against Region III.
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