MISSOURI CITY – Fort Bend Marshall’s undefeated (13-0) Buffalos have been waiting a long time to kick in the door that leads to the state football semifinals. However, Mother Nature has ensured that, if the Buffs’ can prevail over Huntsville in this week’s Region III-5A Division II championship, they’ll be able to enjoy the win one day sooner.
The Buffs’ battle with the Hornets is still set for Cy-Fair ISD’s CFFCU Stadium, but the heavy rain forecasted for Friday wouldn’t be good football weather – so they’re playing Thursday at 8 p.m.
Marshall fell to College Station in the Region III final in 2016 and 2017, one win short of the UIL state championship bracket’s final four. As the Buffs’ size up their next opponent, one they’ve never faced before, they find some things in common. Opponents, for one: in 2018, both have beaten Port Neches-Groves (a 53-14 loser to Marshall last week and a 31-14 loser to Huntsville in September) and Manvel. The Buffs came of age with a Sept. 21 double-overtime win, 52-51 over the Mavericks, and Huntsville crushed them 34-10 at NRG Stadium two weeks ago.
The Buffs and Hornets are also jointly familiar with College Station. The Cougars dealt 12-1 Huntsville its only defeat, in pre-district – and Marshall knows them all too well. (College Station, by the way, fell out of the 5A Division I playoff bracket in the second round.)
Huntsville got the attention of high school football fans all over Texas when they knocked out Manvel decisively. They held the Mavs to only 42 rushing yards and shut them out in the second half. It was the capper of an 8-game streak of defensive dominance. The Hornets allowed only 4.75 points per game and pitched three shutouts over their last six district games plus their playoff games against Nacogdoches and Manvel.
Last week, Huntsville’s 35-34 win over the other Mavericks from the other Marshall – the town east of Longview and just north of Interstate 20 – was a heartstopper, and both defenses came away with burn marks. After they trailed 21-7 at halftime, the Hornets survived, thanks to five interceptions and a failed two-point conversion attempt by Marshall in the final minute. High drama, indeed.
Speaking of drama, if there’s something to worry about for Fort Bend Marshall other than Huntsville, it’s that they haven’t had any in a long time. Drama and the Buffs haven’t crossed paths since the breakthrough win over Manvel 83 days ago. They’ve dropped 50+ points on all but one of their last nine opponents, and their smallest margin of victory was 18 vs. A&M Consolidated in the second round; the next closest game was 61-27 vs. Willowridge. They haven’t faced any second-half or even second-quarter stress since autumn officially began.
Marshall won a playoff game in round three last year in CFFCU Stadium (formerly known as the Berry Center) vs. Hutto, and after neutral site games in Tomball and Baytown the last two weeks, this will be a relatively short trip to a familiar venue. Next week, the survivor of the Marshall-Huntsville matchup draws either the Port Lavaca Calhoun Sandcrabs or the Corpus Christi Calallen Wildcats in a state semi-final battle – and possibly embark on a longer trip. With an extra day to prepare, thanks to Mother Nature.