2017 CB LaMarcus Morton (Courtesy to SCOUT)

TOC's ETx Area-Round Playoff Pairing Picks

The Old Coach's East Texas expert gives his picks and breaks down each of the major games in the second round of the playoffs.

Twitter: @Joeyballgamejh

Gilmer (10-1) vs. Melissa (8-3); 7:30 p.m. Friday; E.H. Hanby Stadium, Mesquite

State-ranked Gilmer stretched its win streak to seven in a row with a rather decisive bi-district victory over Diboll to earn its way to a Class 4A Division II, Region II Area Playoff against Melissa, a former district opponent.  Gilmer has outscored the Cardinals 123-0 the last two years they met as 5-4A Division II opponents in 2014 and 2015. … The Buckeyes are averaging 49.1 points per contest. Gilmer QB Aaron ‘Poppy’ Brown has thrown for 3,757 yards (271 of 401) and 37 touchdowns, but has suffered 10 interceptions. His primary receivers are Oklahoma State commit LaMarcus Morton (49-983, 10) and Red Jones (48-733, 8). Brown has the ability to scramble if necessary, having rushed for 228 yards and six touchdowns. The leading rushers, though, are Kelton Collier (65-533, 11), Rashaad Ward (66-386, 6) and Kamron Cuevas (61-382, 4). … Melissa QB Tate Whittington is 102 of 205 for 1,733 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Cardinals’ leading rushers, are Kaedric Cobbs (122 for 1,1 53,15), Frosh. Ja’Bray Young (76-786, 7) and Breelyn Armstrong (85-547, 3). Whittington’s favorite receivers are Gunnar Murphy (37-608, 8) and Cole McCraw (26-404, 1). … Gilmer’s Black Flag defense is allowing an average of 30.7 ppg, and has given up an average of 188 rushing and 143 passing yards per ballgame. The Buckeyes have nine interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and 38 sacks. … Gilmer’s defense is anchored by LB Jeremy Kelly (102, 14 TFL, 5 Sk, 3 FR and 2 INT. Following Kelly’s lead are S Kollin Hurt (101, 2 TFL, 3 INT) and LB Myles Chumley (79, 15 TFL). … Melissa’s stop unit is led by a trio of juniors LB Drew Cummings, MLB Payton Wallace and DT/DE Jacob Blackwell. … The winner advances to meet the winner of the Jasper-Aubrey game in a Division II Region II semifinal.

JOE’S PICK: Gilmer by 20

Pleasant Grove (5-6) vs. Wills Point (6-4); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Pine Tree Stadium, Longview

This is a 4A, Division II Region II Area Playoff between a couple of teams that turned their fortunes around about the mid-point of the season. Pleasant Grove, under second-year Coach Josh Gibson, has won four in a row, including a bi-district championship against Rusk to earn its way to the area-round for the first time since 2009. Meanwhile, Wills Point is enjoying its first winning campaign since 2011 and making its first area-round appearance in a dozen years. The Tigers did it by winning seven in a row, including beating Bonham in bi-district. … The Hawks come into this week’s showdown against the Tigers, averaging 25.3 points per game for the season, but almost 11 points more than that (36.0) in the last four games. Pleasant Grove has rushed for 2,403 yards and 27 touchdowns, and passed for 703 and nine scores. RB Logan Wesley is the Hawks leading rusher with 731 yards and eight touchdowns. Keshawn Jones follows with 561 and five, while Josh Roberts and QB T.J. Cole are next with 515 and five, and 407 and eight, respectively. Xavier Benson (9-122, 2) and Wesley (9-114, 1) have been Cole’s primary receivers. … The Tigers leading tacklers have been MLB Sloan Rodberg (195) and FS Trey Patterson (111). The stop unit has nine interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries and 19 sacks. … Offensively, Wills Point is averaging 21.5 ppg. Caden Bennett and Tyler James have split time at QB, completing 114 of 208 passes for 1,325 and eight touchdowns. The Tigers have rushed for 1,877 yards, averaging 170.6 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. The leading rushers have been Brandon Smith (71-667, 11) and Vernon Morrow (71-425, 4).  So. Seth Wilson is the leading receiver with 28 catches for 368 yards and one touchdown. Nathan Johnson and Brandon Smith follow with 17 receptions each, totaling 177 and 190 yards, respectively. … The Hawks defense, which has 23 TFL to go with 13.5 Sk, 9 FR and 6 INT, is led by LBs Caleb Porchia and Xavier Benson. Porchia has 93 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 Sk, 1 FR, while Benson has 80 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 Sk, 2 FR, 1 INT and 3 CF. … The winner advances to meet the winner of the Celina and Gladewater game in a Division II Region II semifinal.

JOE’S PICK: Pleasant Grove by 14

Celina (9-2) vs. Gladewater (8-2); 7:30 p.m., Friday;  City Bank Stadium, Forney

Gladewater will meet last year’s Class 4A Division II state runner-up Celina for the first time when they square off on Friday in a Division II, Region II Area match-up. While the Bears have won 8 of 10 games thus far this season, Celina is riding an eight-game winning streak, dating back to a 43-14 loss to Argyle on the second week of the season. … Gladewater’s run-first offense is led by QB Cameron Callaway, Jr. The Bears have rushed effectively for 3,288 yards and 43 touchdowns. Callaway has run for 779 yards and 14 scores. He is 35 of 73 passing for 758 yards with five touchdowns. The leading rushers, though, continue to be Isaiah Davis (178-1,125, 17) and Darnell McKnight (140-793, 4). Callaway’s primary receivers are Tyler Glenn (13-281, 2) and Daniel Robertson ( 9-186, 1). … Celina QB Conner Pingleton is 77 of 121 passing for 1,291 yards and 16 touchdowns. Pingleton has also rushed for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bobcats’ leading rushers are John Franklin (136-1,199, 16), Ismael Ortiz (55-567, 9) and Ryan Nebeker (42-402, 5). Franklin, a senior, is a valuable piece of the offense and is the leading receiver with 28 receptions for 588 yards and eight touchdowns. Christian Rivas follows with 24 catches for 304 yards and three TDs. … Slowing the Bobcats’ offense will be the task of a Gladewater defense, which is allowing an average of only 14 points and 190.0 yards per contest. The unit is led by OLB Michael Batchelor, CB Austin Hawley and DT Isaiah Tiner. Batchelor has 85 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 Sk, 1 CF and 2 FR. Hawley, meanwhile, has 68 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 Sk and 1 Int. Tiner follows with 62 tackles, 4 Sk and 16 TFL. … The winner advances to meet the winner between Wills Point and Texarkana Pleasant Grove in a Division II Region II semifinal.

JOE’S PICK: Gladewater by 7

Stafford (8-3) vs. Kilgore (7-4); 7:30 p.m. Friday; College Station High School Stadium

This Class 4A Division I Region III Area Playoff between Stafford and Kilgore marks the first time the schools have played. The Bulldogs are 3-1 in Area-round playoff games under Coach Mike Wood. Two of Stafford’s losses were forfeits to Port Lavaca Calhoun and Bellville. … Stafford is averaging 43.3 points and 390.3 yards per game (219.1 rushing and 171.2 passing), while Kilgore is averaging 30.5 points and 323.5 yards per contest. That’s 245.6 rushing and 77.9 passing. … Offensively Stafford is led by WR Hezekiah Jones (6-1, 195), a commit to Texas A&M, who is ranked as the state’s sixth-best receiver by Scout.com. Jones has 31 catches for 532 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s the primary receiver for Jr. QB Walter White, who is 106 of 188 passing for 1,736 yards and 27 touchdowns with only three interceptions. White is a threat rushing for 473 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Spartans go-to RB is James Brown, who has rushed for 1,170 and 11 TDs and has 22 catches for 363 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Cameron Montgomery has 60 carries for 652 yards with seven touchdowns to go with 11 catches for 129 yards. … The Ragin’ Red defense must slow the Spartan passing attack to enjoy success. The unit, anchored by DE Demorrea Richardson, LB Jamal Nobles and S Mateo Meraz, is allowing 26.1 points per game, and has forced six fumbles and 10 interceptions. Richardson has 90 tackles, 11 TFL, 8 Sk, 1 FR and 20 QBP. Nobles has 86 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 Sk and 1 FR, while Meraz has 61 tackles, 3 INT and 1 FR. CBs Jerrick Ervin and A.J. Henson, like Meraz, have three interceptions each. … Defensively, the Spartans are led by DT Joseph Mayfield (44 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 Sk), S Jalen Pitre (73 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 Sk, 6 INT, 3 FF, 4 FR), S David Allison (70 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 FR and 1 blocked kick), and CB Christopher Brantley (39 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 3 BK). The Spartans are allowing 11.6 points per game and have forced 31 turnovers: 22 fumbles and nine interceptions. … Kilgore has rushed for 2,702 yards. QB Patrick ‘Buddy’ Jackson and RB Melek Hamilton lead the way with 1,130 and 9 rushing touchdowns, and 1,212 and 11 touchdowns on the ground, respectively. Nobles has 83 yards, but 10 of his 24 runs have resulted in touchdowns. Jackson is completing 61 percent of his passes (66 of 109) for 805 yards and six touchdowns. His primary receivers have been Cole Wood (24-274, 1), Deiontrae Wheat (17-198, 2) and Jonathan Shepherd (15-231, 3). … The winner faces the winner between Bridge City and Bay City next week in a Division I Region III semifinal.

JOE’S PICK: Stafford by 7 

Houston North Forest (8-3) vs. Carthage  (8-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Texan Drive Stadium, Porter

This Friday’s 4A Division I Region III second-round match-up marks the first between these two schools. Since opening the season with losses against Stafford, Bridge City and LaMarque, North Forest has won eight in a row, including a 53-point shellacking of Houston Washington in bi-district play last week. … Since its back-to-back losses to Henderson and Kilgore, Carthage has won five in a row, including last week’s 34-30 comeback playoff victory against Silsbee. … North Forest averaged just 13.6 in its three losses, but is averaging 51.1 in its last eight games and a lofty 40.9 for the season. The Bulldog offense is led by QB Rashand Jones and RB Antonio Davis. Jones is 95 of 170 passing for 1,850 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. Jones has proven to be a capable runner as well, rushing for 1,355 yards on 136 carries and scoring 16 times. His favorite receiver is Frosh. Demond Demas, who has 32 receptions for 783 yards and 13 scores. Davis has proven invaluable, rushing for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns and catching 20 passes for 358 yards and four TDs. … North Forest is allowing 14.9 ppg, and has forced 27 turnovers (11 fumbles and 16 interceptions). The leaders on the defense have been soph. LB Rufus Wade, LB Caleb Bledsoe and DB Derrick Graham. Wade has 105 tackles, 10 TFL, 1 Sk, 1 FF, 2 FR and 2 INT. Bledsoe has 69 tackles, 24 TFL to go with 1 Sk, 2 FF and 1 FR. Graham has 63 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 INT and 1 defensive touchdown. … The Carthage offense starts with QB Kason Davis. The Sr. QB is 168 of 280 passing for 2,553 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Davis’ favorite receivers are Dee Bowens (46-749), Dewaylon Ingram (44-745), RB Keaontay Ingram (31-359) and WR Roderic Calloway (18-328). Ingram, a junior RB, is the Dawgs’ leading rusher with 1,398 yards on 193 carries. The offense is averaging right at 34 points per contest. …The Carthage defense, led by LBs Mykel Gates and Jase Dixon and CB Nic Moore. Gates has 98 tackles, 12 TFL, 3 FF, 2 FR and 2 INT. Dixon has 100 tackles, 10 TFL, 1 Sk, 4 FF, 2 FR and 2 defensive touchdowns. Moore, meanwhile, has 42 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 PBUs and 1 FR for a Carthage defense that is allowing 23.8 points and 239.6 yards per contest. …The winner advances to face the winner between El Campo and Henderson next week in a Division I Region III semifinal.

JOE’S PICK:  Carthage by 6

Henderson (10-1) vs. El Campo (11-0); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Turner Stadium, Humble

These two schools meet for the first time when they square off in a Class 4A Division I Region III Area showdown in Humble on Friday night. El Campo is unbeaten and was 8th -ranked in The Associated Press final regular-season 4A poll last week, while Henderson has won 10 of 11 games, and is riding a four-game win streak since its only loss (28-26 to Kilgore on Oct. 14). The Lions are averaging 47.1 points per game with a potent offense that features a couple of early verbal commits to TCU, RB Lakendrick Vanzandt and WR Trestan Ebner, besides some other very capable players. Vanzandt surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau and enters Week 13 with 1,181 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Ebner has 46 catches for 926 yards and 16 touchdowns. QB Trae Hall has completed 112 of 156 passes for 1,804 yards and 23 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He is a capable runner as well, rushing for 558 yards. WR Matthew Childers is also a threat as not only a runner, but a receiver. Childers, a former QB, has rushed for 139 yards, and has 37 receptions for 591 yards and six touchdowns. … The Ricebirds defense is allowing an average of 15.8 points per contest. … El Campo’s offense comes into the contest, averaging 322 yards rushing, 81.7 yards passing and 39.9 points per game. QB Brock Brandl is 45 of 89 passing for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns with only one interception. The leading rusher is RB Neri Enriquez with 1,49 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averages 8.11 yards per carry. RB Dedrick Holloway follows with 904 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Brandl has contributed 390 yards and seven scores. … Henderson’s defense is allowing 17.1 points per game. The unit is led by ILBs Keaton Hand and Josh Mapps and OLB Ty Blanton. Hand has 125 tackles and 6 TFL, Mapps has 114 stops and 6 TFL to go with 3 Sk and a FF. Blanton has 108 tackles, 11 TFL, 4 Sk, 2 FF and 2 FR. … The winner faces the winner between Houston North Forest and Carthage next week in a Division I Region III semifinal.

JOE’S PICK: Henderson by 7

4A Division I Region II

Paris (8-3) vs. Alvarado (8-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Lobo Stadium, Longview

Van (10-1) vs. Mineral Wells ( 9-2); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Irving Schools Stadium

4A Division I Region III

Bridge City (8-2) vs. Bay City (7-4); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Galena Park ISD Stadium

4A Division II Region II

Jasper (9-2) vs. Aubrey (8-3); 7:30 p.m. Friday; Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, Tyler


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