Only the strong survive this long

TPI enjoys game cover, previews and player profiles. Today we take a look at the 4A and smaller classification football teams still kicking at state semifinals and finals are approaching. Brenham and La Grange are two excellent examples of ranked teams improving with each postseason contest. Check where you 4A, 3A, 2A or Class A team is in the TPI Rankings.

Look at the football teams still alive as we reach state semifinal/final week in December, and it's obvious why they are still strapping on the pads.

Much like a horror movie, most have battled through regional monsters and demons to stay alive this long. Some relish the hero role against all odds; others — scarred, aching and pained by the battle — hang on another week due to pride and sacrifice.

Regardless some march on with a chance to grab a state championship, which is a tall order most years. Brenham and La Grange, for example, have proven their mettle by thriving in the postseason while others have slammed the locker door on another season.

In Brenham, the 4A Cubs are green with joy after their latest cardiac-kids rally past Dayton in a 30-24 game in which the Broncos led 17-0 in the third quarter. But a momentum shift converted Brenham from first-half helpless to second-half dominance.

"The momentum shifted totally to our side when we scored the touchdown in the third quarter. Then we did that second drive, and our defense started stopping them. And then the momentum was totally on Brenham's side," junior Cub QB Ty Scholottmann said. "Once we get momentum on our side, we just keep rolling."

The Cubs have earned their playing time in 4A this fall, beating No. 1 Port Neches-Groves 27-20, No. 2 Angleton 32-28 and now No. 8 Dayton to reach the state semifinals. No easy task against the top-ranked, faster teams.

After the Brenham win over Dayton at Rhodes Stadium in Katy, Cub coach Glen West was jokingly asked if he was going to sell his halftime speeches to make a fortune due to the effective rallies in recent playoff games.

His reply? "Well, I know you don't want our pre-game speeches.

"We were killing ourselves (in the first half). This game was changed by our offense. When they went up 17-0, they were in complete control. When we took ball downfield and scored, everything switched at that point," West said.

In La Grange, the 3A Leopards, which survived a world-class district race, have downed Sweeny and Edna, shut out Devine and outlasted Region IV perennial power Sinton in overtime.

Leopard QB Josh Schneider has throw for about 3,700 yards this fall, and WR Brandon Wilkerson has more than 1,000 of that total. Against Sinton's stingy defense, Schneider tossed three interceptions, no TDs, yet La Grange still found the end zone four times on the ground.

Even the best teams will, at times, find a good opponent has taken away their strength. Balance on offense and excellence under pressure are two vital ingredients in reaching a December playoff date.

La Grange may have the tougher road this weekend against defending state champion Carthage, but Dawson also faces a daunting foe in Lake Travis. Brenham and Class A Cayuga also have challenges, but the odds may be in their favor.

4A Greater Houston Ranks/Analysis for Dec. 8, 2009:

1. Port Neches-Groves (11-1)lost to No. 4 Brenham 20-27 (area); season over
2. Angleton (11-2) lost to No. 4 Brenham 28-32 (quarterfinals); season over
3. Yates (10-2)lost to No. 10. El Campo 7-28 (area); season over
4. Brenham (12-2) beat No. 8 Dayton 30-24 (quarterfinals); Kerrville Tivy next
5. Bmt. Central (9-4) lost to No. 6 Friendswood (regional); season over
6. Friendswood (10-4) lost to No. 9 Dawson 11-28 (quarterfinals); season over
7. Crosby (10-3) lost to No. 9 Dawson 20-27 (regional); season over
8. Dayton (11-3) lost to No. 4 Brenham 24-30 (quarterfinals); season over
9. Dawson (12-2) beat No. 6 Friendswood 28-11 (quarterfinals); Lake Travis next
10. El Campo (7-2) lost to No. 8 Dayton 17-16 (regionals); season over

Small School Greater Houston Ranks/Analysis for Dec. 8, 2009:

1. Sealy (11-1) lost to Cuero 36-53 (regional); season over
2. Giddings (9-2) lost to Brookshire Royal 21-40; season over
3. La Grange (12-2) beat No. 9 Silsbee 34-27 (quarterfinals); Carthage next
4. West Orange-Stark (8-3) lost to Coldspring 36-41 (bidistrict); season over
5. Newton (12-2) lost to Daingerfield 6-27 (quarterfinals); season over
6. Rice Consolidated (10-2) lost to Refugio 14-21 (regional); season over
7. Navasota (10-3) lost to Gilmer 35-42 (quarterfinals); season over
8. Sweeny (8-3) lost to No. 3 La Grange 27-48 (bidistrict); season over
9. (tie) Cleveland (10-2) lost to Caldwell 13-20 (area); season over
9. (tie) Silsbee (7-5) lost to No. 7 Navasota 34-35 (regional); season over
10. Cayuga (12-1) beat Mart 42-28 (quarterfinals); Ganado next

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