I’m running out of fantasy football stuff to write about for these intros, but I’m super psyched for the start of the Texas high school football playoffs. So for this week, and this week only, we’re going to venture away from the world of fantasy football and I’m going to use this space to talk about the Austin-area teams with the best chance at winning state.
If you don’t care about this, just scroll down to the bottom for my weekly start/sit picks. But this is a high school football site, first and foremost, and as the Austin-based reporter, I want to share my thoughts. So here we go:
In Class 6A, Westlake (10-0) has as good a shot as any. The Chaps finished off their first perfect season in 17 years and lucked into the Div. II bracket, where they won’t face a state-ranked team until the state championship.
One should never count out Lake Travis (8-2) and its six state championships, but the Cavaliers lost to the only state-ranked teams they played (Converse Judson, Westlake) and will likely have a second round rematch with Judson, who beat them 62-42 in the season opener.
Cedar Ridge (9-1) won its third straight district title but failed to get past the second round the last two years. Its chances will be better this time, however, as it won’t face a single team who got a vote in the AP poll until round four. San Marcos (9-1) is going into the playoffs with a ton of confidence after winning its first district championship since 2003, but the Rattlers will likely have a tough second round matchup against undefeated Spring Westfield.
Cedar Park (9-1), who won state in 2012 and 2015, is usually Austin’s best team in Class 5A. The Timberwolves showed an incredible amount of resolve by winning a difficult District 19-5A without senior star quarterback Mak Sexton, who broke his femur against Georgetown. It was always a state-or-bust season for them, but that was under the assumption Sexton would play all year. Can they do it without him?
Hutto (9-1) finished runner-up to Cedar Park in 19-5A and has one of the most explosive offenses in the state. Don’t be surprised if junior quarterback Chase Griffin leads the Hippos on a deep run. Georgetown (8-2) might be the best third-place team in all of Texas. The Eagles’ two losses came by a combined three points to Hutto on a field goal at the buzzer and Cedar Park on a touchdown pass with 37 seconds left. They’re definitely a sleeper.
Dripping Springs (10-0) won’t sneak up on anybody this season. After reaching the regional finals in 2016, the Tigers play a dangerous Austin LBJ squad in the first round and will likely matchup with Corpus Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial in the third. The Tigers are dealing with some injuries, so health will be a crucial factor.
McCallum (10-0) became the first Austin ISD school to go undefeated since Reagan in 1990. I’m skeptical of the Knights because they beat only two teams with more than three wins all year. But McCallum received a friendly playoff draw and won’t face a serious state championship contender until the fourth round.
Canyon Lake (8-2), Wimberley (9-1) and Liberty Hill (7-2) all have a chance to go far in Class 4A. Canyon Lake went undefeated in district for the first time in school history and will ride that winning streak into a tough bi-district matchup with Gatesville. A win there would likely lead to games against Pleasanton (9-1) and state-ranked Waco La Vega (10-0).
Wimberley won its first district title since 2013 and has a wealth of seniors. Its bi-district game against Carrizo Springs (3-7) should be a walkover but it’ll get tougher after that with Raymondville (9-1) and Pearsall (10-0) likely waiting in the next two rounds, and either Cuero (9-0), Crystal City (8-2), Rio Hondo (8-1) or Geronimo Navarro (9-1) coming up in the regional finals. This will be Liberty Hill’s first playoff appearance under new coach Jeff Walker.
The Panthers were always a tough out under former coach Jerry Vance, and with that old-school Slot-T offense still in place, they’ll be one of the most physically teams in the bracket. Mason (10-0) is a team that we could easily see in Arlington. The Punchers are No. 2 in the Class 2A AP Poll and have given up four points per game.
Who do I think will win state? I got Lake Travis in 6A DI, Westlake in 6A DII, Cedar Park in 5A DI, Hutto in 5A DII, Canyon Lake in 4A DI, Wimberley in 4A DII and Mason in 2A DI. But I’m an unabashed homer who should never be taken seriously.
And with that…
… ON WITH THE PICKS
START: Alex Smith, Kansas City – If you’re in one of those dilemmas where you drafted an elite QB, but also picked up Smith and have him riding the pine, this might be a good week to give Smith his chance. He’s got the Giants, who are giving up the most touchdowns and fantasy points to opposing QBs.
SIT: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee – Mariota had his best rushing output of the season with 51 yards last week but his opponent this Sunday, Pittsburgh, does not mess around with running QBs. The Steelers have allowed the third-least rushing yards to opposing QBs and the third-least fantasy points. This is not a good matchup for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
START: Latavius Murray, Minnesota – Murray has been getting plenty of work along with Jerrick McKinnon since the injury to Dalvin Cook. Murray went for 113 yards and a TD week 7 and had 68 yards with a score on Sunday. This week he goes against a LA Ram defense that is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to RBs and 4.5 yards per carry.
SIT: Lamar Miller, Houston – I don’t like Miller’s chances this week. He actually had his highest yard-per-carry averages the last two weeks, but I don’t see that keeping up. Without Deshaun Watson to keep defenses honest, Miller will struggle against Arizona’s top 10 rush defense.
START: Sterling Shepard, NYG – This is a guy I had enough confidence in to trade Larry Fitzgerald and Brandin Cooks. So far, looks like I was right. Shepard delivered with 11 catches for 142 yards in just his second game back from injury. This Sunday he plays a Kansas City defense giving up the most touchdowns and fantasy points to WRs.
SIT: Demaryius Thomas, Denver – Thomas scored TDs in back-to-back games after going almost a full season without one. That means he probably won’t score this Sunday, and might struggle to do much of anything against a Bengal defense giving up the second-least catches, fourth-least yards and fifth least fantasy points to WRs.
START: Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati – Denver has such good corners teams typically funnel more targets over the middle against them. That is why the Broncos are allowing the second-most fantasy points to TEs. This is a great chance for Kroft to get back on track after a lackluster one catch on six targets last week.
SIT: Delanie Walker, Tennessee – The Steelers won’t just be a bad matchup for Mariota. They’ll be a bad matchup for everyone on the Titans’ roster. Walker might struggle to get open against a defense allowing the third-least fantasy points to TEs.
START: Bengals – Denver is a mess offensively, and Cincinnati should take full advantage just like it did against Indianapolis three weeks ago when it got four sacks, an interception and a touchdown.
SIT: Bills – Got Buffalo here for a second straight week. The Bills will probably struggle against the Chargers just like they did last week when all they got was a fumble recovery against the Saints.
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