Navasota (2-8) vs. Kilgore (6-4); 7:30 p.m. Thursday; Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin
Class 4A Division I Region III Bi-district
This marks the only the third meeting between the two schools with Kilgore winning both of the previous games (1995: 20-12 and 1998: 21-7). Both have rich football traditions, Navasota winning the UIL Class 3A championship in 2012 and the 4A title in 2014. Meanwhile, Kilgore won the 2004 4A crown, and played for the 2013 3A Division I championship. … The Bulldogs are 10th in this week’s THEOLDCOACH.Com’s Class 4A Division I rankings. … Navasota is the fourth seed from 10-4A Division I, while Kilgore is the top seed from 9-4A aka ‘the District of Doom’. … The Rattlers are averaging 22.7 points and 296.2 yards per game. Of that yardage, 1,462 is rushing and 1,500 passing. RB Keyondrick Philio, who rushed for 1,253 yards a year ago, leads this year’s rushing attack with 1,080 and 12 touchdowns. QB Jeb Malek is 114 of 235 passing for 1,464 yards and nine touchdowns. His favorite receivers are Erick Lattimore and Deeldre Richardson. Lattimore has 31 receptions for 590 yards and four scores, while Richardson has 29 catches for 294 and two, respectively. … Kilgore’s defense comes into the playoffs, allowing an average of 27.4 points, 125.8 rushing and 170.3 passing yards per game. LBs Jamal Nobles, Rodney Coleman and Isaiah Smith have anchored the unit. Nobles leads in tackles with 82 to go along with 5 TFL and 1 CF. Coleman has 67 stops, 4 TFL and 2 FR, while Smith has 64 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 Sk and 2 CF. … Navasota DE Jabril Hunter, who had 15 tackles in last week’s OT loss to LC-M, is one of the leaders on a unit that is allowing an average of 32 points and 322.7 yards per contest. Of that total, 791 is passing and 2,436 rushing. Other standouts include CB Da’tron Taylor and FS Lattimore. Taylor returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, and Lattimore ran in a fumble recovery in last week’s game. … Kilgore’s offense comes into this bi-district matchup, averaging 30.6 points, 244.3 rushing and 74.9 passing yards per contest. QB Buddy Jackson and RB Melek Hamilton have eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau. Jackson has 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns, while Hamilton has 1,068 and 10. … Jackson, a Jr., is 57 of 94 passing for 697 yards and five scores. His primary receivers have been Cole Wood (21-239, 1), Deiontrae Wheat (14-168, 2) and Jonathan Shepherd (14-223, 3).
JOE’S PICK: Kilgore by 10
Diboll (2-8) vs. Gilmer (9-1); 7 p.m. Thursday; Eagle Stadium, Tatum
Class 4A Division II, Region II Bi-District
This marks the first time these schools have met since a first-round playoff game in 2008, which the Buckeyes won 54-0. Gilmer, ranked No. 4 in this week’s THEOLDCOACH.Com’s 4A Division II poll. The Bux are unbeaten in earning the top seed from 7-4A Division II, while Diboll was 1-3 and the 4th seed from 8-4A. The Lumberjacks’ wins came over Cleveland (21-13) and Huntington (34-0). Diboll enters the playoffs, averaging 16.6 points per game over the season, but only 10.0 against its district opponents. The Lumberjack QB is junior Nathan Garcia. His go-to teammates are RBs Desmond Shelby (178-483 yards, in four district games) and Ty Hamilton (58-337 in four district games), along with WRs Jamarcus White, Dominique Guy and Colby Robertson. … Gilmer’s Black Flag defense is allowing an average of 31.0 points per game. It is led by LBs Jeremy Kelly and Myles Chumley, along with Louisiana Tech commit S Kollin Hurt. Kelly has a team-leading 70 stops as well as 11 TFL, 4 Sk, 3 FR and 2 INT. Chumley has a team-leading 13 TFL to go with 54 tackles. Hurt has 52 tackles, 2 TFL and a team-leading three interceptions. … Gilmer’s offense is averaging 49.1 points and 539.7 yards per contest. QB Poppy Brown closed the regular season against Pittsburg, completing 23 of 37 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns, bringing his totals for the season to 250 of 371 passing for an ET-leading 3,522 yards and 35 touchdowns. He has suffered nine interceptions. Brown has four receivers with 25 or more receptions. They are Dimitri Fort (25-369, 4), RB Qua Heath (37-507, 6), Oklahoma State commit WR LaMarcus Morton (43-922, 9) and RB Red Jones (44-691, 8). The Buckeyes’ rushing attack, which has accounted for 1,812 yards, has been balanced with Rashaad Ward (63-367, 5), Brown (57-226, 6), Kelton Collier (54-379, 7) and Kameryn Cuevas (54-329, 4) getting the most carries. … Leading the Diboll defense are SS Jucory West with 89 tackles, 5 TFL and 1 INT and MLB Lucio Monroy (72 tackles, 8 TFL).
JOE’S PICK: Gilmer by 35
Little Cypress-Mauriceville (5-5) vs. Henderson (9-1); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Monte Jack Driskell Stadium, Crockett
Class 4A Division I, Region III Bi-District
Little Cypress-Mauriceville is in the playoffs for the third time in four years. The Bears have not won a playoff game since 1997. Meanwhile, Henderson is making its third trip (2014, 2012) to the postseason in the last five years. The Lions are 6th in this week’s THEOLDCOACH.Com’s 4A Division I rankings. Both Little Cypress-Mauriceville and Henderson carry three-game winning streaks into the playoffs. … LC-M comes into the contest, averaging 29.3 points per game and 344.4 yards per contest. It’s one-point OT victory over Navasota last week determined the 3rd and 4th seeds from District 10-4A Division I, and marked the fifth time this season the Bears have scored 40 or more points in a contest. QB Beau Bickham is the catalyst, completing 98 of 182 for 1,498 passing yards. He has a stable of capable receivers in Trey Guillory, Katon Brown, Mark Netherly and Keegan Sonnier. The leading rusher is TB Chris Winters with 1,011 on 184 carries (5.4 ypc). … Henderson’s defense is allowing 17.7 points per game. It is anchored by LBs Keaton Hand, Josh Mapps and Ty Blanton. Hand leads in tackles with 107, Mapps has 104 and Blanton 99. Hands and Mapps have 6 TFL, apiece. Mapps has three sacks. Blanton is tied with DEs Jaylon Henson and Nathan Boutinn with the most TFL on the team 11 to go with four sacks and two fumble recoveries. … Henderson’s offense, which has scored over 60 points twice this season, is averaging 47.0 points, 253.7 rushing and 177.2 passing yards (430.9 ypg). QB Trae Hall is 95 of 135 passing for 1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Hall has proven himself to be a capable runner as well with 551 yards and five touchdowns. His favorite receivers are TCU commit Trestan Ebner and Matthew Childers. Ebner leads with 39 receptions for 805 yards and 15 touchdowns. Childers follows with 32 catches for 517 yards and six scores. Another TCU commit RB LaKendrick Vanzandt has rushed for a team-leading 1,003 yards and 13 TDs. RB Lynn Freeney follows with 431 yards and five touchdowns.
JOE’S PICK: Henderson by 20
Center (6-4) vs. Bridge City (7-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Wildcat Stadium, Splendora
Class 4A Division I, Region III Bi-District
Center is coming off its bye week and is the 4th seed in 9-4A, while Bridge City wrapped up its first district championship since 2002 with a 5-0 record, coasting past its five 10-4A district opponents by an average margin of 25.2 points. … The Cardinals, led by QB Byron Trahan and RB Cayce Draper, enter the playoffs, averaging 37.1 ppg for the season, and 48.6 against district foes. … Bridge City looked like it was ready for the postseason, using five players to rush for 247 yards in the first half of its win last Friday against Huffman Hargrave. When it was all said-and-done, Draper (126), Patrick Morris (126) and Max Baker (110) had more than 100 yards each against the Falcons. Draper’s performance lifted him over the 1,000-yard plateau (1,010). … Center, making its second appearance in the postseason since Coach Barry Bowman took the head football coaching reigns prior to the 2015 season, is averaging 277.3 yards and 23.8 points per game. The ’Riders are led by QB Kyle Parks and Division I FBS wide receiver recruit Octavius Evans. Parks has thrown for almost 2,000 yards (1,870) and 13 touchdowns, with a 63 percent completion ratio (147 of 235). Evans is one of the premier receivers in the state with 67 receptions for 867 yards and five touchdowns. He finished his jr. season, a year ago, with 76 catches for 1,016 yards. RB Jacarious Evans is the leading rusher with 368 yards, but Parks isn’t far behind with 291 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Following Evans in receptions is Jaterius Evans with 29 catches for 500 yards and five TDs. … OLB Adrian Johnson anchors the Center defense with 95 tackles, 29 TFL and 10 Sk. For the season, the Roughriders have 25 sacks, eight interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries.
JOE’S PICK: Bridge City by 7
Tatum (7-3) vs. Gladewater (7-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, Kilgore
Class 4A Division II, Region II Bi-District
These are a couple of East Texas schools rich in football history. Although not in the same district now, each is familiar with the other’s success on the gridiron. Gladewater is No. 11 in this week’s THEOLDCOACH.Com’s 4A Division II rankings. The Bears have won the last two meetings between the schools and done it with relative ease, outscoring Tatum 103-20. Don’t expect this to be as lopsided. Tatum averages 30.2 points per game. TB Cedric White has rushed for 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns, and QB Ob Jones has passed for more than 700 yards for the Eagles. Another player, offensively, to keep an eye on will be WR Jachais Jenkins. … Gladewater’s defense is allowing an average of 199.9 yards and 17.0 points per game. The Bear defense is averaging 8.5 TFL and 2.5 Sk per game. The unit is anchored by LBs Michael Batchelor and Bryson Oliver, along with DT Isaiah Tiner and CB Austin Hawley. Batchelor has 78 stops, Oliver 71, Tiner 61 and Hawley 60. … The Bears are averaging 326.6 rushing yards and 79.5 passing per contest. QB Cameron Callaway, Jr., has rushed for 725 yards and 13 touchdowns, and completed 32 of 67 passes for 716 yards and seven touchdowns. RB Isaiah Davis eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier last week against Pleasant Grove and comes into this week’s matchup against Tatum with a team-leading 1,015 yards and 15 touchdowns. RB Darnell McKnight follows the rushing lead of Davis with 754 yards and four TDs. Callaway’s leading receivers have been Tyler Glenn (11-243, 2) and Daniel Robertson (9-186, 1). … One of the top players to watch on Tatum’s defense is sophomore FS Keshoyn Alexander.
JOE’S PICK: Gladewater by 7
Carthage (7-2) vs. Silsbee (6-4); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin
Class 4A Division I, Region III Bi-District
This marks the fourth time in five years the Bulldogs and Tigers have met in the postseason with Carthage winning each of the three previous meetings (2015, 2013 and 2012). The last time they played in Lufkin was in the 2012 Region III finals. … Carthage is 12th-ranked in this week’s THEOLDCOACH.Com’s 4A Division poll. Carthage enters the playoffs averaging 35.2 points per game. The Dawgs’ offense is led by QB Kason Davis and RB Keaontay Ingram. Davis is 153 of 254 passing for 2,325 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ingram has 1,238 of the team’s 1,401 rushing yards, and has been on the receiving end of 28 passes for 352 yards. WRs Dee Bowens and Dewaylon Ingram have been Davis’ primary receivers. Bowens has 44 receptions for 700 yards, and Ingram 39 for 636 yards. … Leading Silsbee’s defense are CB Bruce Newton, Jr., DT Marquell Hale, NG Jonathan Mitchell and CB Cameron White. A big part of the Tigers’ success revolves around being able to convert turnovers (12 interceptions) into points. … Silsbee has talented go-to players on offense, but probably none moreso than RB Calvin Tyler, a move-in, who has rushed for more than 200 yards in seven games this season. He has 2,490 and 26 touchdowns now and on Oct. 28, he broke a school record, which had previously been set in 1993, with 385 yards rushing against Little Cypress-Mauriceville. QB Willie Jones III has a capable receiving corps made up on Kalon Barnes, Adonis Thomas and Tre’ Lowe. … The Bulldog defense is allowing an average of 23.1 points, 173 rushing yards and 125 passing yards per contest. The unit has 25 takeaways: 13 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions. Carthage’s defense continues to be led by LBs Mikael Gates, Jase Dixon and Jose DeJulian, along with DE Trey Gatlin. Gates has 90 tackles, 12 TFL, 3 CF, 2 FR. Dixon also has 90 tackles with 9 TFL, 4 CF, 2 FR and 1 Sk, while DeJulian has 81 stops, 9 TFL, 5 CF and 2 FR. Gatlin has 60 tackles, 11 TFL , 15 pressures, 2 CF, a FR and 2 Sk.
JOE’S PICK: Carthage by 7
4A Division I Region II - Picks
Van (9-1) vs. Princeton (5-5); 7 p.m. Thursday; Royse City ISD Stadium
Terrell (8-2) vs. Paris North Lamar (5-5); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Memorial Stadium, Terrell
Kaufman (7-3) vs. Texarkana Liberty-Eylau (5-5); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Lobo Stadium, Longview
Crandall (4-6) vs. Paris (7-3); 7 p.m. Thursday; Eagle Stadium, Allen
4A Division II Region II - Picks
Texarkana Pleasant Grove (4-6) vs. Rusk (4-6); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Jack V. Murphy Bear Stadium, Gladewater
Pittsburg (5-5) vs. Jasper (8-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Wildcat Stadium, Palestine
Canton (7-3) vs. Aubrey (7-3); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Hanby Stadium, Mesquite