PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — It’s not uncommon to see two teams from the same district meet up in the regional finals. Nobody is shocked to see District 17-6A’s Cy Fair and Houston Langham Creek in the 6A Div. II Region III championship. Nor is anybody batting an eye at the Waco La Vega-Liberty Hill or Carthage-Henderson rematches in Class 4A Div. I Region IV and Region III.
But Round Rock Cedar Ridge and Pflugerville Hendrickson playing for the Class 6A Div. I Region II crown? Not many saw that coming. But it’s going down Saturday at 5 p.m. at The Pfield in Pflugerville.
“I think [the players are] really excited about the game,” Cedar Ridge Head Coach Sam Robinson said. “Our schools are like 4.4 miles apart or something like that. We’re really close to each other. So a lot of kids know each other and compete with each other in different things all year long. So a lot of talk going on. A lot of excitement in the community. I think they’re going to eat it up so hopefully we can handle it and take care of business on the field.”
Cedar Ridge beat Hendrickson in the district opener 43-27. The Raiders doubled Hendrickson in total yardage (391-194), but gave up a kick return touchdown, a blocked punt return for a touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown.
“When we were on offense every yard you get was hard-earned,” Robinson said. “But we’re going to have to clean up a lot from that game to make sure we don’t give them anything easy.”
“I think (Cedar Ridge) came out really fired up and ready to go and we didn’t execute very well early in the game,” added Hendrickson coach Chip Killiam. “Not exactly sure why. We just didn’t come out of the box hot and didn’t execute real well. Once we got into halftime and made some adjustments we got it to within a point before (we) had some turnovers late in the game to kind of seal it away. So we got to reverse that trend. They’re one of the top teams in the state. You better be ready to play.”
That loss put Hendrickson at 2-3, and following a 3-7 season in 2016, things looked bleak. But those three losses were to some of the top teams in the state, including Lake Travis and Smithson Valley. Those opponents toughened up the Hawks, who’ve since won eight straight. Last week, they pulled one of the biggest upsets in the state playoffs by knocking off undefeated and state-ranked Sachse, 42-35.
“The difference between the team (when we were 2-3) and the team now is not huge. It’s just the idea of those guys learning how to play together,” Killiam said. “I don’t really worry about the records until we start district because nothing really matters until you get to that point. I think we’ve been fortunate enough to have a little bit of a playoff run here and I think those early tests helped build success throughout the course of a year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Hendrickson is led by senior tailback D.J. Jackson, who’s rushed for 1,578 yards and 16 touchdowns despite his small stature (5-foot-6, 170-pounds). The key to beating Cedar Ridge, however, probably rests in the play of junior quarterback Blaine Barker.
Barker struggled in the regular season matchup with Cedar Ridge. He completed just 14-of-30 passes for 113 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions with no rushing production. But in last week’s upset of Sachse, he was a perfect 13-of-13 for 100 yards and a score passing while adding 84 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Cedar Ridge won its third straight district title this year but had never advanced past the second round of the playoffs in its young history. That changed two weeks ago when it stomped Klein Oak 59-18. In the regional semifinals against Coppell on Saturday, Cedar Ridge lost its top offensive threat when senior running back Simi Bakare (1,727 yards, 29 TDs) went down with a leg injury.
But nobody panicked.
Sophomore Deuce Vaughn came in and rushed for 165 yards on 26 carries, and senior quarterback Ezekiel Coss balled out with five total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing, one receiving). When Coppell’s kicker missed an extra point in overtime to give Cedar Ridge the win, its sideline and crowd went into a frenzy.
“It was unbelievable,” Robinson said. “I think there was a little bit of air let out of the stadium when Simi (Bakare) went down. We have a lot of guys who have contributed all year. We have a lot of guys who are confident in themselves so I wasn’t surprised. Everybody stepped up a little bit, kind of picked up the slack and got us back going.”
Bakare, a Tulane commit, is considered day-to-day. Expect Vaughn to get another heavy workload if Bakare is out. Cedar Ridge also has a stud at wide receiver in junior Jaylen Ellis. Ellis, a three-star prospect headed to Baylor, had seven catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Hendrickson during the regular season and grabbed five balls for 101 yards and a score in last week’s win over Coppell.
Brought To You By