Class 4A And 3A State Semifinals: Who Keeps Going On The Journey To AT&T Stadium?

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Photo: Jay Crain/

48 minutes separates 20 teams from punching a ticket to AT&T Stadium next week for the championship games and there are great games all across the state.

From state semifinal rematches to teams trying to make history, Class 4A and 3A have some great games on tap this weekend with the action getting set to start Thursday night into Friday.

Who will be heading to AT&T Stadium next week? Let’s take a look and find out.

Class 4A, Division I

1. NR Stephenville (12-2) vs. AP No. 7 Kennedale (13-1) 5 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium (Arlington)
Stephenville and Kennedale will face off Friday afternoon with the winner earning the right to come back to AT&T Stadium to play for a state title. This matchup provides a stark contrast in styles.

For three consecutive weeks, Nowak has been a force for Stephenville, helping down Pampa, Argyle and Wichita Falls Hirschi in short order. Gordon Deloach/TexasHSFootball

For Stephenville, they’ve kept plugging right along on offense led by senior quarterback Easton Jones. They found themselves in a tough battle with Wichita Falls Hirschi, but were able to come away with a 31-21 victory. Another player to watch for the Yellowjackets will be running back Krece Nowak, whose rushed for nearly 1,800 yards this season.

On the other side, Kennedale may be one of the fastest teams in Class 4A. Their Wing-T offense has proven to be a tough matchup all year long and the two-headed force of running backs Jaden Knowles and De’shaun Kirven are big parts of that. The Wildcat duo have rushed for nearly 3,900 yards and 69 touchdowns this year and will continue to be big parts of the gameplan this week.

2. AP No. 1 Carthage (14-0) vs. AP No. 4 Waco La Vega (14-0) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ford Center (Frisco)

Both of these teams were expected to be here. Now, both Carthage and Waco La Vega face off in what should be a physical battle.

Charlton Gladden/TexasHSFootball

The Carthage Bulldogs enter this game as the defending state champions and led by none-other than Texas commit Keaontay Ingram at running back. The Bulldogs are also a strong group offensively with quarterback Gunner Capps running the show. They took down fierce rival Henderson last week and will head to The Star one win away from a chance to defend their title.

Meanwhile, the Pirates have one of the most physical defenses in the state but will have an opportunity to go face to face with a team that they beat two years ago en route to the state title. Waco La Vega was able to get past district foe Liberty Hill and look for Willie Williams and his squad to be ready to go in what could be the most physical matchup of the weekend.

Class 4A, Division II

3. AP No. 9 Graham (14-0) vs. AP No. 8 Texarkana Pleasant Grove (14-0) 7 p.m.  Thursday at Ford Center (Frisco)

Both semifinals in Class 4A Division II feature explosive offenses versus physical defenses. The first features a battle of West versus East as Graham takes on Texarkana Pleasant Grove.

The Graham Steers celebrate their win over the Bushland Falcons in the Class 4A Division II Region I Finals. (Jay Crain/TexasHSFootball)

The Steers are led by quarterback Tucker Horn, who has simply lit up offenses this season by throwing for ____ yards and ___ touchdowns. As one of the most explosive teams in West Texas, Graham will have to find a way to slow down a tough Hawks defense that’s one of the fastest in the state.

Texas Tech commit Xavier Benson leads the way for a defense that has led the Hawks to some big wins against Gilmer in the regular season as well as Melissa last week. On offense, Pleasant Grove will ground and pound their way to victory and have a number of players that can get the job done. The question is: Will it be enough going up against one of the most explosive offenses they’ve faced all season?

4. AP No. 2 West Orange-Stark (12-0) vs. NR Wimberley (13-1) 7:30 p.m. at Legacy Stadium (Katy)

The other semifinal features a defending state champion that’s also a 39-game winning steak and a team coming off a win over a Region IV favorite.

Photo: Darin Reeser/TexasHSFootball

West Orange-Stark bases their success of their defense, which pitched another shutout against Salado to win yet another regional title. The Chain Gang Defense only gave up five first downs but now face one of their toughest tests yet against a red-hot Texans team that scored 20 points in a five minute-stretch to shock Cuero.

Quarterback JoJo Weeks leads the Wimberley offense that’s been efficient and has stepped up with big plays time after time in the postseason. Can the Texans break through against a fast, physical defense to get back to Arlington? We’ll find out Friday at Legacy Stadium in Katy.

Class 3A, Division I

5. No. 12 Brock (12-2) vs. NR Kemp (13-1), 7 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium (Arlington)

The Brock Eagles aren’t that far removed from winning a state title but they’ll have their chance to book a return trip to Arlington against a Kemp team that not many expected to be here.

The Kemp Yellowjackets celebrate their regional final win over Grandview. Sherry Milliken/TexasHSFootball

After losing their final game of the regular season, the Eagles have been rolling since then. Brock defeated Comanche 34-7 thanks to a strong second half from Dawson Littlejohn. The senior running back will be key going up against a Yellowjacket defense that put together one of their strongest defensive effots of the year.

Kemp got payback for their regular season loss in district play to Grandview with a 13-10 victory in a defensive struggle. The Yellowjackets remain one of the best stories left in the postseason but can they get enough offense to keep up with Brock? We’ll find out Thursday as they kick off the action at AT&T Stadium.

6. NR Rockdale (11-3) vs. No. 6 Yoakum (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium (Cypress)

This matchup features two very talented teams but with different paths to get here. Yoakum was here just last season en route to the state title game while Rockdale makes their first appearance since 1957.

Rockdale ATH JaQualyn Crawford (James Ellis/TexasHSFootball)

The Tigers put on a great performance last weekend in the regional finals when they took down Teague. Quarterback Torry Locklin and star athlete and Oklahoma commit JaQualyn Crawford will lead the way for a talented group on the brink of history.

They face their toughest test of the year facing the Yoakum Bulldogs, who dominated Goliad last Saturday night in Austin. Jordan Moore was a star at DKR and he’ll be a big part of the Bulldogs looking for redemption after falling in the state title game to Mineola a year ago.

Class 3A, Division II

7. No. 5 Canadian (14-0) vs. No. 1 Gunter (14-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Lion Stadium (Vernon)

This game features a rematch of the state semifinal a year ago. Gunter won that matchup en route to the state title but they face a Wildcat team who still has last year’s game firmly on their minds.

Blake Wood/TexasHSFootball

“I felt certain that they would be in the semifinals again,” said Canadian head coach Chris Koetting, “I thought we might have a chance at them again and we have them. I’m excited for another game with those guys. They’re an outstanding team.

The Wildcats are coming off a win over district rival Childress last week where they pulled away in the fourth quarter. Now, they try to take out a team on a 30-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Gunter Tigers are led by quarterback Dylan Jantz and their shotgun-option hybrid offense presents a real challenge for opposing defenses. That said, the Tigers know they’ll have their hands full.

“They’re going to be really aggressive on defense and play fast,” said Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel, “Canadian is a really well coached and fundamentally sound football team.”

This game is shaping up to be another classic.

8. No. 4 Newton (13-0) vs. NR Boling (9-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Texan Drive Stadium (Porter)

A state power meets the defending state finalist as the Newton Eagles face off against the Boling Bulldogs at Texan Drive Stadium.

December 15, 2016 – Texas UIL 3A Div. II State Championship game between Gunter and Boling at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Image Credit: John Glaser/

When you watch Newton, the first thing that stands out is their speed and athleticism. Whether it’s Darwin Barlow running the ball or Tamauzia Brown catching it, they’re one of the most explosive offenses in 3A and will present a challenge on both sides of the ball.

Boling is led by none other than Vernon Jackson. The Alabama commit plays both quarterback and defensive end and has been a star in both sports this season. After entering the playoffs at 5-3, Jackson has been a big reason why the Bulldogs have found postseason magic for the second straight season.

Can they keep it going against Newton? We’ll find out Friday night.

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