Last weekend, 32 teams looked to advance to the state semifinals. With the season winding down, I was able to cover four of the state’s 16 games, headlined by #2 Highland Park vs #1 Denton Ryan.
Game #1: #2 Highland Park vs #1 Denton Ryan
2021 Longhorns signee Ja’Tavion Sanders has been all over SportsCenter this year with his highlight catches. However, he also has been a star on the defensive side of the ball for the Ryan Raiders. In addition to Sanders, Texas has been interested in cornerback, Austin Jordan, and defensive tackle, Bear Alexander. Both Jordan and Alexander have been stellar for the Raiders and it showed against Highland Park.
Once again, Ja’Tavion Sanders had a SportsCenter top ten catch as he palmed a touchdown pass, thrown by Seth Henigan, to give the Raiders a 7-0 first quarter lead. However, Ryan’s defense was the highlight of the game as they were swarming to the football and only allowed the Scots to score seven points. Up front, Alexander did a solid job of plugging up Highland Park’s running lanes. In the secondary, Austin Jordan did an excellent job of using his speed to not get beat deep.
Similar to Sanders, 2021 Oklahoma signee Billy Bowman Jr. also had a big day for the Raiders. In the second quarter, Bowman caught a deep touchdown pass from Seth Henigan. Additionally, Bowman was shutting down Highland Park’s passing game from the cornerback position. Furthermore, Bowman also recovered a blocked Highland Park field goal attempt. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Bowman was originally committed to Texas before de-committing and signing with Oklahoma.
Highland Park’s seven points was their lowest output in a game since 2013, when they scored only three points against Aledo.
Game #2: #8 Lovejoy vs #2 Aledo
Through three quarters, it looked like Lovejoy was going to experience a program-changing upset. Unfortunately for the Leopards, Aledo had other plans. Thanks to DeMarco Roberts and JoJo Earle, the Bearcats found another gear and pulled away with a 52-48 victory.
Last time I covered Lovejoy, quarterback Ralph Rucker scored five touchdowns for the Leopards. Against Aledo, Rucker had another fantastic night, throwing dimes left and right, but ultimately his six total touchdowns were not enough to beat the Bearcats.
On early Signing Day, Earle flipped his commitment with LSU and signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Earle, who is the second-highest rated wide receiver in the state’s 2021 class, is looking for his third state title in a row as a member of the Bearcats.
Game #3: #23 Euless Trinity vs #19 Southlake Carroll
Against Arlington Martin, quarterback Quinn Ewers returned from an injury and led the Dragons to a playoff victory. However, Euless Trinity would present different kinds of challenges for the Dragons, thanks to star running back Ollie Gordon.
Despite Gordon’s three touchdown performance, Carroll’s offense proved to be too potent for Trinity. In fact, Quinn Ewers threw for a total of six touchdown passes, four of which went to 2021 Minnesota signee Brady Boyd. Quite simply, Ewers, an Ohio State commit, put on a clinic in offensive efficiency against the Trojans. Ultimately, the Dragons won 59-35 and will face Duncanville this weekend in the state semifinals.
Game #4: #11 DeSoto vs #2 Duncanville
In the previous round of the playoffs, Texas signee Byron Murphy II had a phenomenal performance for the Eagles. However, DeSoto was going to need a lot of help in order to beat a loaded Duncanville team.
For Duncanville, quarterback Grayson James was on the same page all night with wide receiver Roderick Daniels. In fact, Daniels, an SMU signee, finished the game with over 250 receiving yards and an appearance on ESPN’s ‘You Got Mossed‘. In addition, Duncanville’s defensive front did an excellent job of living in DeSoto’s backfield. Additionally, 2022 Texas target Omari Abor had a nice performance on the defensive line as his active hands led to an interception on a tipped pass.
Lastly, it was obvious that Murphy was the focus of Duncanville’s offensive line. However, Murphy still ended up having several key tackles and pressures that kept DeSoto in the game.
To start, Ja’Tavion Sanders is going to be one fun player to watch for the Longhorns. Despite being projected as a JACK linebacker, Sanders might be able to make a case about seeing some snaps on offense as well. Actually, Sanders was double teamed on offense for much of Ryan’s game against the Scots.
Like Sanders, there are many players that stand out for Ryan. On defense, Austin Jordan and Bear Alexander will be two intriguing players to watch for the Longhorns, especially with new head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Next, Byron Murphy II had another impressive playoff game and now will be moving onto his collegiate career with the Longhorns. Despite being listed as a 6’1″ defensive tackle, Murphy has legitimate athleticism and could be a recruiting steal for the Longhorns.
Longhorns Recruiting Notes:
On New Year’s Eve, the Longhorns offered 2022 four-star defensive end Marvin Jones Jr.
Blessed to receive an offer from the University of Texas pic.twitter.com/b39oXaajwX
— Samuel Okunlola '22 (@Samokunlola87) January 1, 2021
Also on New Year’s Eve, the Longhorns extended an offer to 2022 three-star defensive end Samuel Okunlola.
While the hiring of Steve Sarkisian is not recruiting news, it directly relates. First of all, it is paramount that Sarkisian is able to keep the talent that already exists on the roster. However, just as important, Sarkisian will have a lot of recruiting to do. Currently, four-star cornerback Jaylon Guilbeau is the only member of Texas’s 2022 recruiting class. For comparison’s sake, Ohio State, currently ranked first in recruiting for the 2022 class, has 10 commitments.
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