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  • Greg Wille

WEEK 8 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Salado seeks to stay hot; Academy, Rogers, Lake Belton ready for road tests


SALADO – Next Friday, defending District 9-4A Division II champion Salado will travel to fifth-ranked China Spring for a highly anticipated league showdown. But for the Eagles (4-2, 1-0) to carry un unbeaten district record into that battle, first they must get past the Waco Connally Cadets (2-3, 1-0) at 7:30 tonight at Eagle Stadium.

It’s a rematch of Salado’s 20-15 road win a year ago.

Coach Alan Haire’s Salado team began defense of its 9-4A D-II championship with a 42-6 win at Gatesville last Friday. The Eagles’ Slot-T offense produced 445 rushing yards, paced by 151 yards and one touchdown by junior Seth Reavis and senior Aidan Wilson’s 103 yards and two TDs. Senior quarterback Hutton Haire rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown and threw a 19-yard scoring pass to senior Gavyn Keyser.

The Salado defense has been a formidable unit, permitting 230.3 yards per game and only 322 rushing yards in six games. Leading the Eagles in tackles are junior Nolan Miller with 54, senior Josh Huckabee with 48 and senior Nic Bates with 48.

Salado has outscored its opponents 269-92 this year and has recorded seven consecutive district victories dating to the 2019 season.

Connally snapped a three-game losing streak last week, beginning district play with a 28-7 win at Robinson. The Cadets’ first-year head coach is Terry Gerik, who was their offensive coordinator from 2016-20 until Shane Anderson departed to become the head coach at Waco Midway.

After rallying late to overtake

Cameron Yoe, Academy shoots

for road win against Caldwell

LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – Academy trailed Cameron Yoe 28-17 with 7 minutes remaining last Friday, but the Bumblebees charged back as sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to sophomore Zane Clark and 25 yards to junior Scout Brazeal to lift Academy to a dramatic 32-28 homecoming victory at John Glover Stadium.

That comeback win kept coach Chris Lancaster’s Bees (6-1, 2-1) near the top of the District 11-3A Division I standings, one game behind defending champion Lorena and tied with Yoe and Rockdale. Academy can move one step closer to its second consecutive playoff berth by winning its road test against the Caldwell Hornets (2-4, 0-2) at 7:30 tonight.

Caldwell is 0-8 in 11-3A D-I games during the last two seasons, including a 48-22 setback at Academy last year. The Hornets opened district with a 70-0 loss to Yoe and were edged 34-30 by Rockdale last week.

Mraz also threw a 2-point pass to senior Darion Franklin to aid the Bees’ scoring flurry in the closing stretch as they overtook the Yoemen.

First-year starter Mraz has passed for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns against five interceptions, and Brazeal has produced a big season with 37 receptions for 782 yards and seven TDs. Franklin has 376 yards and five TDs on 28 catches.

Junior linebacker Lane Ward made an interception against Yoe and leads Academy’s defense with 71 tackles, but he left late in the game with an upper-body injury. The Bees’ other leading tacklers include junior linebacker Clayton Lawson (58), senior safety Blake Bundy (55) and safety Brazeal (47). Bundy, Franklin and junior cornerback Alex Lawton have made two interceptions each.

Also a receiver, kicker and punter for Academy, Bundy has accumulated 62 points with two touchdowns, eight field goals and 26 extra points.

Rogers aims to bounce back

from loss to No. 1 Franklin

in key battle at Lexington

ROGERS – The Rogers Eagles had an opportunity to take down the state’s No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A Division II last Friday, hosting Franklin at Merk Field. It didn’t happen, as the powerful Lions – state runners-up last year – compiled 633 total yards and limited to Rogers to 129 in overwhelming the Eagles 56-7.

But although winning the District 13-3A D-II championship might now seem out of reach considering Franklin’s dominance, coach Charlie Roten’s Rogers squad (4-3, 2-1) can take a big step toward locking up second place in the league with a road victory against the Lexington Eagles (3-3, 1-1) at 7:30 tonight.

Rogers earned a 33-27 home win against Lexington a year ago, which ended up being the difference as Rogers claimed third place behind Franklin and Buffalo and eventually reached the Region IV semifinals before being edged by Buffalo. Lexington also advanced to the regional semis before losing 40-7 against Franklin.

All-around standout Jarred Kerr helped carry Lexington throughout last season, but the Texas A&M-committed senior hasn’t played for the Eagles this season because of an undisclosed injury.

One week before Rogers’ one-sided loss to Franklin, Lexington lost 49-12 to the Lions. Lexington’s Eagles responded last week by blasting Riesel 69-24. They’ve gotten a strong season from senior quarterback Sheldon Springer, who’s passed for 1,322 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for seven TDs.

After a rough outing against Franklin, the Rogers offense aims to bounce back against Lexington. Versatile senior Christian Riley has rushed for 744 yards and eight TDs but was limited to 28 yards on seven carries last week. Senior quarterback Riley Dolgener, whose early 3-yard scoring run put the Eagles up 7-0 against Franklin, has passed for 664 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 286 yards and seven TDs.

Senior Jordan Werner has 48 tackles and junior Brice Lisenbe 43 stops for a Rogers defense that seeks a better performance after allowing 559 rushing yards against Franklin’s relentless attack.

Lake Belton puts undefeated record

on line, hits road for

Saturday rematch vs. Katy Jordan

The Lake Belton Broncos will attempt to extend their record to 7-0 when they travel to play familiar opponent Katy Jordan (1-5) at noon Saturday at Katy ISD's Jack Rhodes Memorial Stadium.

It’s a rematch of Lake Belton’s 35-28 home win over Jordan on Sept. 24 at Belton’s Tiger Field, where the Broncos got a go-ahead 37-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Connor Crews to sophomore receiver Micah Hudson with 4:47 remaining.

The Warriors made a strong bid to tie the game in the final 2 minutes, but on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the Broncos defense tackled Ifaenyi Monye short of the goal line for a clutch turnover on downs to seal the victory.

Coach Brian Cope’s Lake Belton team is 3-0 against Jordan since the two schools opened in the fall of 2020.

Last Friday the host Broncos beat first-year program Richmond Lamar Randle 47-20 as Crews threw touchdown passes of 51 yards to Hudson and 30 yards to junior Jaydon Leza and rushed for TDs of 65 and 1 yards. Hudson returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, junior Javeon Wilcox rushed for an 8-yard score and sophomore Ty Legg contributed a 45-yard TD run.

Jordan was idle last week and hasn’t won a game since it beat Danbury 57-0 on Sept. 3. The Warriors were edged 18-17 by Hitchcock two weeks ago and their last three losses are by a combined 15 points.

Crews has thrown for 1,214 yards and 10 touchdowns and run for 371 yards and five TDs, while Hudson has caught 35 balls for 635 yards and four touchdowns.

Lake Belton’s defense has allowed 19.5 points per game. Safety Wilcox has a team-high 62 tackles and is one of seven Broncos with 30-plus stops, including junior linebacker Connor Brennan (46), sophomore safety Peanut Brazzle (38), junior linebacker Manuel Herrera (35), Legg (35), junior cornerback Bruce Onchweri (34) and junior linebacker Kyle Dalton (33).

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