No easy games this time of year

Nothing is guaranteed this time of season.

Just ask Notre Dame, which a week ago was No. 1 in TAPPS and looked to have a pretty good chance of winning in the semifinals.

I was already figuring out how we were going to cover the Knights in the TAPPS state title game this weekend in Zephyr, which I’ve recently learned is near Brownwood.

But you know what happened? The Knights lost. The other team hung in there down 18 points at half. I heard a couple Notre Dame players started getting cramps in the unseasonably hot weather. It probably didn’t help that the Knights hadn’t played past halftime much this year.

So the Knights saw a really good season end, 54-52. We have five teams left, and while I am picking most of them to win, it wouldn’t be out of the question to have only Munday remaining next week (not worried about the Moguls so much).

Here are this week’s picks as we head into the state quarterfinals, where there are no mediocre teams remaining:

Rider vs. Frenship – It’s hard to pick against Rider for a few reasons: First, the Raiders are looking pretty impressive on offense, having scored 31 or more points since the Guyer game.

The Raiders are at home and beat Frenship 42-14 last year. This one will be much closer, I think. Rider is going to throw it a little more than Frenship, but expect a lot of running in what should be a power game like Nocona-Gunter was last week.

Tigers RB D’Maujeric Tucker has about 2,600 yards and will present some problems for the Raiders, who no doubt must play better on defense than they did in giving up 520 rushing yards last week.

But something tells me Rider, so often denied in this round the past few years, will find a way and come out on top, 28-20.

Graham vs. Gatesville – I know Gatesville is undefeated and certainly capable of winning this game. But the Hornets are also very lucky to still be playing after being down two touchdowns to Monahans last week.

The Steers trailed Greenwood 14-0 at one point too, but there’s a big difference between an early deficit and down 14 at the start of the fourth and not taking your first lead until overtime, which happened to Gatesville last week.

The biggest reason why I’m picking the Steers is their passing game. Gatesville’s playoff opponents (Alvarado, Vernon, Monahans) are all running teams, the last two being Wing-T. Against Vernon, Brandon Urquizo’s seven completions went for 160 yards.

The Steers will be able to hit big pass plays I think. Gatesville has given up a lot of points in some of its wins and as long Graham doesn’t turn it over five times again, the defense will keep Gatesville out of the end zone enough to win by 10.

Nocona vs. Corsicana Mildred – Nocona’s last few games have followed a trend. The Indians played one of their best games of the season against Jacksboro, then struggled some vs. Henrietta.

But they responded with one of their best games of season against Edgewood, only to make a lot of mistakes against Gunter and get a little lucky to advance.

Nocona will need that trend to continue because Corsicana Mildred is a very impressive bunch with a Div. I quarterback (Nik Shimonek) and a RB that Nocona coach Brad Keck thinks is even more important to stop in Draylon Sterling.

I think the Indians will be able to run the ball better than it did against Gunter, who was real physical up front. They’ll have to play some keepaway and finish off those extended drives with points.

I don’t think this game will be a blowout like some think. Nocona’s defense is too good for that. But I do think Mildred has too much firepower and wins by a score like 31-21.

Munday vs. Albany – I’m not sure which game will be tougher for Munday, this one or Wellington next week. Both teams will present challenges for the Moguls and probably make the offensive starters play into the fourth quarter.

But as I’ve said before, I just don’t see Munday losing, not this year. I hadn’t watched them play in a few weeks, but what I saw last Saturday – seven touchdowns on 17 plays from starters – didn’t change my approach.

Albany is one of those traditional powers which could keep this close if it won the turnover battle and ground out some 6-minute scoring drives. But I’m going to pick the Moguls by 28 (and it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m being conservative).

Throckmorton vs. Valley – It’s pretty amazing how efficient Throckmorton has been offensively. The Greyhounds haven’t committed a turnover since loss to Dallas Covenant in Week 2 (not including INT in 11-man portion versus Windthorst).

Throw in the fact that Throckmorton made all 11 PATs last week (I know a lot of area 11-man teams who can’t do that), and the opposition is pretty much working with zero room for error when it has the ball.

A lot of people believe this game will decide the Six-Man Division I state championship, and I’m not going to argue with that. Throckmorton has proven itself several times in high-stakes affairs and I can’t pick against them with how well the Hounds are playing right now. Throckmorton by 16.

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