The Austin area enjoyed a banner high school football season in 2017, with five of its teams advancing to state semifinals. Several of them set records and made history along the way.
So how does each of those state semifinalists look heading into the offseason? Let’s check them out.
After their run to the Class 6A, Division I state championship in 2016, conventional wisdom had the Cavaliers taking a step back in 2017. Instead, Lake Travis came up just short of its seventh UIL football championship Saturday, falling to Allen 35-33 in the Cavaliers’ third consecutive Class 6A final.
Expect more of the same in 2018 from Lake Travis, which will return receiver Garrett Wilson, quarterback Hudson Card and six sophomore starters from the 2017 squad that finished 13-3.
First-year coach Sam Robinson led the Raiders to the best season in the program’s six-year varsity history — a 13-2 record that included a state semifinal loss to Allen. Based on its depth and talent, Cedar Ridge could repeat that success.
Receiver Jaylen Ellis, a Baylor pledge, returns as one of the top playmakers in the state, and young running back Deuce Vaughn earned valuable experience while filling in for the injured Simi Bakare during the playoffs. Lineman Edge Williams will return for the Raiders’ defense.
The Chaparrals enjoyed a banner season this fall, recording the program’s first undefeated regular season since 2000 and topping nemesis Lake Travis in the process. Only a 14-6 loss to eventual Class 6A, Division II champion Cypress Fairbanks in the state semifinals kept Westlake (14-1) from playing in the ninth UIL championship game in school history.
Come 2018, Westlake will miss running back Nakia Watson, a Wisconsin signee, but the Chaparrals will lean more on dual-threat quarterback Taylor Anderson as well as a stout defensive front seven led by lineman David Neil and linebacker Jake Ehlinger.
In 2017, an unprecedented season didn’t end for the Knights until a loss to eventual Class 5A, Division II state champion College Station in a state semifinal,
Next year, McCallum will have to fill plenty of holes if it hopes to notch similar postseason achievements. Expect the Knights to remain a district contender, though, as head coach Charles Taylor has a proven record of developing a productive run game, and defensive linemen Alvino Carbajal and Loyd Barriere will help McCallum field one of the best defensive fronts in Austin.
Such standouts as quarterback JoJo Weeks and offensive lineman Ian Burnette don’t come around often at the Class 4A level, and the departure of those two to UT-San Antonio and TCU, respectively, will make it tough for the Texans to replicate their 13-2 record and run to the state semifinals.
Still, the Texans’ famed “Code Red” defense welcomes back several pivotal players, including defensive back Hayden Krebs, and Wimberley has missed out on the playoffs just twice this century. Don’t expect too drastic a drop for the program.
OUR EARLY PRESEASON TOP 10
(Teams listed with 2017 records and postseason outcomes.)
1. Lake Travis (13-3), Class 6A, Division I state finalist
WR Garrett Wilson returns as one of the top players in the state, Hudson Card looks like the next great Cavaliers QB and plenty of underclassmen gained experience during an extended postseason run.
2. Hutto (11-2), Class 5A, Division II regional quarterfinalist
Uber-productive QB Chase Griffin will enter his third season as a starter in 2018, and he’ll welcome back all three of his top targets in Caleb Forrest, D.J. Baptist and Chux Nwabuko.
3. Westlake (14-1), Class 6A, Division II state semifinalist
Expect more passes from returning QB Taylor Anderson to a talented receiving corps led by Mason Mangum; all-state lineman David Neil returns to anchor the defense.
4. Liberty Hill (10-3), Class 4A, Division I state quarterfinalist
Coach Jeff Walker enjoyed a spectacular debut with the Panthers, and 2,000-yard all-state rusher Kyle Harrison should help keep their slot-T offense humming.
5. Cedar Ridge (13-2), Class 6A, Division I state semifinalist
Over the past three seasons, Cedar Ridge has posted a 34-5 record despite having three head coaches. Second-year boss Sam Robinson will provide continuity for an up-and-coming program.
6. Hendrickson (10-4), Class 6A, Division I state quarterfinalist
Returning linemen Michael Ike, Curley Young and Shaylon Roberts will give the Hawks one of the best defensive fronts in the area, and QB Blaine Barker emerged as a dual threat in 2017.
7. Cedar Park (11-2), Class 5A, Division I regional quarterfinalist
QB Ryan Fiali and RB Will Lipscomb qualify as one of the best backfield duos in the area, but such youngsters as lineman Ben Bell will have to step up for a revamped defense.
8. Dripping Springs (11-1), Class 5A, Division I area finalist
The Tigers have won 23 of 26 games over the past two seasons, and RB Jake Cox, WR Parker Alford and the versatile Tanner Prewitt should keep Dripping Springs in good shape.
9. Regents (13-1), TAPPS Division II state finalist
Led by longtime coach Beck Brydon, the Knights reached their second straight TAPPS state title game this fall, and the return of QB Wilson Long should ensure that the Knights remain a postseason force.
10. Manor (5-6), Class 6A, Division II bidistrict finalist
QB Courtney Patridge-Lee and RB Tahj Brooks — as well as a drop to Class 5A — should help Mustangs coach Jimmie Mitchell enjoy a successful third season at Manor.
— Thomas Jones