Week 5 preview: Central starts season; Wall, Sterling City, Ballinger face tough tests; Eldorado, Sonora renew rivalry

Locker Room

Central vs Killeen Shoemaker, 7 p.m. Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium
After weeks of watching Classes 4A-1A compete, 6A-5A officially kicks off the season. For the third consecutive year, Central opens the season against Killeen Shoemaker, the first of three non-district games. The Bobcats are coming off their 10th consecutive playoff appearance under head coach Brent Davis and have multiple returners from last season’s 6-5 team. Senior quarterback Malachi Brown enters his third season commanding the offense and is coming off a 2019 campaign where he threw for over 2,600 yards, rushed for 765 yards, and accounted for 41 touchdowns. The Bobcats backfield will feature three capable backs led by senior Ashton Hartsfield, while senior receiver Jalen Leifeste is the standout on a young receiving core that could see several players involved.

The Grey Wolves return eight starters from an explosive offense that led them to a 7-4 record last season. Known for its team speed, Shoemaker has plenty of talent at its skill positions, notably senior quarterback Ty Bell and junior athlete Omari Evans. Central’s young defense struggled against the Grey Wolves speed in last season’s 54-21 loss. Now with a year of experience under their belt and multiple returners led by safeties Ky Snelson and Ty Casey, the defense could be one of the team’s strengths. Head Coach Brent Davis hopes that experience will help this year’s Bobcats play like a veteran football team.

These two programs have played each season since 2016 and the Bobcats have won three of four.

No. 2 Sterling City vs Happy, 7 p.m. Thursday at Coyote Field
No. 2 Sterling City continues its difficult non-district schedule against a quality Happy team, hungry to prove it’s one of the best teams in 1A Division I. The Eagles (4-0) are coming off a thrilling 62-58 win over No. 3 Borden County where they had to play comeback late in the fourth quarter, despite leading for most of the game. Senior running back Cross Knittel and senior lineman Chance Ferguson continued to play crucial roles and were impressive in the win. Knittel accounted for 334 yards of total offense, while Ferguson led the defense with 22 total tackles.

The Cowboys (4-0) are coming off a dominating 58-8 victory over Kress, where Senior running back Stetson Jameson scored three touchdowns and rushed for 190 yards. Stetson has carried the workload for the team offensively this season. He’s scored 21 touchdowns and is averaging over 260 yards rushing per game.

This game offers both programs different opportunities to prove something to the state. Sterling City has gradually moved up in the 1A Division I rankings and is definitely on the radar as one of the best teams in the state. The Eagles have the chance to get another statement win and add another bright feather in their cap that already has two wins over top 10 opponents. Happy is right on the fringes of moving its way into the top 10. A win over a team with the track record of Sterling City would go a long way in showing they’re a legitimate threat in Region I with the likes of Borden County, Knox City, and White Deer. The Cowboys won the last meeting 47-22 in 2016.

Ballinger vs Llano, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Llano Stadium
This matchup offers a battle of two teams who are undefeated. Ballinger (4-0) played another close game in its 21-14 comeback win over Clyde last week. Bearcats’ senior running back Garrett Dixon led the charge scoring the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, finishing the contest with 214 rushing yards. A Ballinger defense holding opponents to under eight points per game, stepped up holding the Bulldogs scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Llano (4-0) is coming off a comeback win of its own. After trailing 2A Division I No. 6 San Saba by 10 points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Yellowjackets were able to score two unanswered touchdowns to pull out a 35-31 win. Senior receiver Quincy Prince led a Llano dynamic offense averaging over 43 points per game, with nine catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

This week’s contest allows both teams to put their strengths to the test. Ballinger’s defense is holding opponents to 190 yards of total offense per game, while Llano’s offense is averaging 404 yards per game. This is the first time the two programs have played since 2000.

Eldorado vs Sonora, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bronco Stadium
A rivalry that is over 90 years old is renewed for the first time since 2005 with both teams looking for a momentum shift before heading into district. Eldorado (1-3) is coming off its third loss of the season, despite holding its own against 2A Division II No. 5 Wink last week. The Eagles led after the first quarter and trailed by only one point at halftime, eventually falling 61-46. Eldorado’s offense led by junior quarterback Korbin Covarrubiaz and junior receiver Cooper Meador continued to show signs of improvement gaining 455 total yards. Covarrubiaz threw for 341 yards and five touchdowns, adding 105 yards rushing, while Meador had five catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

Sonora (0-4) is still looking for its first win of the season and is trying to avoid its first 0-5 start since 2008. The Broncos suffered their third one-possession loss of the season against Alpine 7-0 last week. Both programs are young and have two completely different offensive philosophies. So far this season, Eldorado has relied heavily on an up-tempo passing attack, while Sonora has looked to run the ball and control the clock.

Sonora has dominated this series since 1998 and has won all eight previous meetings.

No. 3 Wall vs Midland Christian, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gordon Awtry Field
For the fifth straight season, No. 3 Wall and Midland Christian square off in a contest where the home team has won every game. The Hawks (3-1) are coming off a dominant 42-7 win over rival Mason. Wall was able to run the ball at will, accumulating 406 rushing yards. Junior fullback Dominic Garcia rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns, while senior quarterback Drew Morrison added 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Hawks defense continued to keep their opponents out of the endzone and aside from their matchup against independent powerhouse San Antonio Cornerstone, is holding opponents to eight points per game.

Midland Christian is playing its first game of the season after TAPPS pushed back the initial start date. The Mustangs are led on offense by junior quarterback Ryver Rodriquez and junior receiver Chris Brazzell, while their defense is anchored by senior linebacker Colton Wolfe. In the past, this matchup has been a chess match between two head coaches, who are willing to make adjustments on the fly and have a winning track record.

Besides Wall’s 40-21 victory in 2017, this game has been decided by one touchdown. The Hawks won last year’s matchup 20-14.

Other games to watch:
Brownfield vs Lake View, 7 p.m. Friday at San Angelo Stadium
Lake View is entering the final stretch of its non-district schedule with only three games remaining until district. Despite being outgained by 11 yards on offense, the Chiefs (2-2) struggled to score points in their 36-12 loss to Snyder last week. Brownfield (0-3) is still looking for its first win of the season after falling 20-17 to Big Spring.

The Cubs have only been outscored by 19 points this season and their opponents have a combined record of 9-2. A Brownfield team known for spreading out its offense with its passing attack could provide the Chiefs defense that has allowed over 300 yards rushing for a third consecutive week with a much-needed break.

This marks the third year in a row these programs will play. In 2018 Brownfield won 24-17, while last season it squeaked by with a 38-37 victory.

Mason vs Junction, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle Stadium
This is a classic rivalry that has over 90 years of history. Mason (0-4) is off to its first winless start through four games since 1997. However, the Punchers have not played a cakewalk schedule. Their opponents have a combined record of 14-2 and two are ranked inside the top 10 in their respective classification.

Junction (3-1) has bounced back from its season-opening loss against Ingram Moore and is on a three-game winning streak. The Eagles have outscored their opponents by over 29 points per game during that span.

Mason has controlled this rivalry in the past and is on a 13 game winning streak that dates back to 2007.

Ozona vs Brady, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
Both teams are coming off rebound wins after suffering back to back losses. Ozona (2-2) dominated struggling Menard 46-0, while Brady defeated Dublin 38-24 last week. Both teams have faced opponents this season with a combined 7-1 record. This is the first meeting between these programs since 2009.

Remaining games:
TLCA vs Stanton, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Buffalo Stadium
Grape Creek vs Early, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Longhorn Stadium
Goldthwaite vs Christoval, 7 p.m. Friday at Cougar Stadium
Cross Plains vs Miles, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
Harper vs Menard, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Findlay Field
Cherokee vs Irion County, 7:30 p.m. Friday at O.K. Wolfenbarger Field
Morgan vs Eden, 6:30 p.m. Friday at Sanders Field
Rotan vs Robert Lee, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Griffith Stadium
No. 3 Borden County vs. Water Valley, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Diddle Young Field
Panther Creek vs. Veribest, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Falcon Field
Zephyr vs. Paint Rock, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Indian Field
Blackwell vs Brookesmith, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Dillingham Field

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