WEEK 9 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Salado, No. 5 China Spring clash; Academy, Rogers seek to maintain momentum
By GREG WILLE
SALADO – The Salado Eagles are the defending champions of District 9-4A Division II and have won eight straight league games dating to 2019.
The China Spring Cougars are undefeated, have outscored opponents 345-73 and are ranked No. 5 in the state in 4A D-II.
Something’s got to give when China Spring (7-0, 2-0) hosts Salado (5-2, 2-0) in a showdown of district co-leaders tonight at 7:30 at Cougar Stadium.
It’s a rematch of the Eagles’ 28-14 home victory over the Cougars a year ago, helping Salado capture the 9-4A-II crown with a 5-0 record.
Coach Alan Haire’s 2020 Salado squad went three rounds deep in the 4A Division II playoffs before a 35-7 loss in the Region III semifinals to top-ranked Carthage, the eventual state champion.
Despite finishing as district runner-up to Salado, coach Brian Bell’s China Spring team actually advanced farther in the playoffs. The Cougars won three postseason games before they lost to perennial power Carthage 52-14 in the Region III final.
Salado has compiled a four-game winning streak since its back-to-back non-district losses to Grandview and Stephenville. The Eagles have allowed only 19 total points and scored 186 while beating Mexia, Taylor and then district opponents Gatesville (42-6) and Waco Connally (28-7).
Senior Aidan Wilson leads Salado’s Slot-T rushing attack with 815 yards and 15 touchdowns, junior Seth Reavis has 525 yards and senior quarterback Hutton Haire has contributed seven touchdown passes and five TD runs.
The Eagles’ defense permits only 227.6 yards per game. Its leaders include Nolan Miller with 61 tackles, Josh Huckabee with 59 stops and Nic Bates with 53.
Senior quarterback and returning starter Major Bowden spearheads China Spring’s offense.
Academy aims for fourth straight
district win in home duel vs. Rockdale
LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – The Academy Bumblebees seek to take another step forward finishing in at least second place in District 11-3A Division I when they host the Rockdale Tigers at 7:30 tonight in their home finale at John Glover Stadium.
Since beginning district play with a 34-17 home loss to reigning champion Lorena, Academy (7-1, 3-1) has ripped off three consecutive league victories against McGregor, Cameron Yoe and Caldwell. The Bees of second-year head coach Chris Lancaster enter the game against Rockdale (4-3, 2-1) in a second-place tie with Yoe (3-5, 3-1), half a game ahead of Rockdale. Yoe, which led host Academy by 11 points in the fourth quarter before falling 32-28 two weeks ago, plays tonight at first-place Lorena (5-2, 3-0).
Rockdale had its open date last week and hasn’t played since the Tigers’ 34-30 win two weeks ago over Caldwell, which shares last place with McGregor.
Academy sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz has passed for 1,744 yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions. His top targets are junior Scout Brazeal (41 receptions, 866 yards, nine TDs) and senior Darion Franklin (35, 443, six). Sophomore Zane Clark and junior Brayden Bartlett have scored five touchdowns each while splitting time at running back.
The Bees’ defense dominated Caldwell last week in a 49-0 road victory, even with junior linebacker and leading tackler Lane Ward (71 tackles) sidelined by an injury. Clayton Lawson has 63 tackles, Blake Bundy 59 and Brazeal 53.
Rockdale’s offense is paced by sophomore quarterback Blaydn Barcak, who’s passed for 1,303 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 423 yards and five TDs. His go-to receiver is junior Robert Owens, who’s compiled 632 yards and eight TDs on 29 grabs. Sophomore linebacker Cruz San Migel leads the Tigers’ defense with 92 tackles.
Academy is playing for the ninth straight week and finally will get its open date next week before finishing the regular season Nov. 5 at Troy (1-6, 1-2). Last year the host Bees controlled the Trojans in Week 11 to earn the district’s final playoff berth.
After double-overtime victory at Lexington,
Rogers seeks to extend momentum vs. Riesel
ROGERS – In a pivotal game in the District 13-3A Division II race, the Rogers Eagles grabbed a huge victory on the road last Friday by defeating Lexington 43-41 in double overtime.
With top-ranked Franklin (8-0, 4-0) steamrolling toward the district championship, coach Charlie Roten’s Rogers team (5-3, 3-1) has put itself in a strong position to finish in second place. The Eagles can take another step toward that result in their home finale against Riesel (3-3, 1-2) at 7:30 tonight at Merk Field.
Rogers will get its open date week before it concludes the regular season Nov. 5 at Florence (4-3, 1-2). Riesel is tied for third place with Lexington, Buffalo and Florence at 1-2. The Indians were off last week following consecutive blowout losses to Franklin (75-13) and Lexington (69-24).
Junior Zach Davis played a gigantic role in Rogers’ thrilling win at Lexington. He caught touchdown passes of 39 and 35 yards from senior quarterback Riley Dolgener and had a 24-yard TD run, then rushed for a game-tying 25-yard scoring run in the second OT period before Dolgener’s 2-point run capped the Rogers triumph.
Dolgener powered Rogers’ rushing attack with 128 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, while Davis scored on his only two carries. Senior Jordan Werner paced the Eagles’ defense with 12 tackles and junior Jackson Landeros made an interception.
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