The most important stage of the season has arrived in Texas high school football as the playoffs get started.
Some area teams are fortunate enough to be preparing for a game later this week, while others are already thinking about next year.
The last 11 weeks have featured plenty of surprises, as some teams rose above expectations and others faltered.
This is a team sport, but there were a number of notable individual efforts that are worthy of recognition as well.
Rowlett quarterback Chase Toupal entered the season with a just a few games under his belt, but thrived as the season progressed, leading 10-6A with 1,731 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Toupal’s top target, Jerry Evans, led the district in receptions with 43 for 684 yards and eight scores.
The Sachse defense features no shortage of standouts and among them is Braylen Brooks, whose nine interceptions, including three he returned for touchdowns, not only led the district, but is among the best in the state.
Mesquite ISD boasted the top three rushers in 11-6A. Horn quarterback Jermaine Givens came roaring down the stretch to lead the district with 186 carries for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns. That was just enough to edge out Mesquite’s LaDarius Turner (160-1,126) and North Mesquite’s Jawuan Clark (113-975).
The ground game was also strong for MISD’s other two programs. Poteet junior Seth McGowan led 7-5A Division I with 1,483 yards and 23 touchdowns, with Ty Jordan checking in third in the district with 1,220 yards and 16 scores.
Wrangler wide receiver Dylan Wright, a Texas A&M pledge, used a strong season finale to lead the district in receptions with 42 catches for 619 yards and seven touchdowns.
Here is a look at some of the other highlights from Week 11:
--Sunnyvale quarterback Tripp McAda is more known for his skills in the ground game, but he showed he can be just as dangerous throwing the ball in Friday’s 46-13 win over Farmersville that gave the Raiders (9-0) an undefeated regular season. McAda completed only eight passes, but five of those went for touchdowns as he finished with 322 yards through the air. Big plays were the story of the night, as he threw a 37-yard scoring strike to Will Van Vessem, hit Trevor Tutle for touchdowns of 50 and 59 yards and Noah McDill for scores of 21 and 75 yards. As icing on the cake, McAda added a 68-yard touchdown run.
--West Mesquite’s offensive stars shined in Friday’s 49-21 win over Texarkana Texas High. Quarterback Neal Johnson had perhaps his best game of the year, throwing for 163 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 10 times for 198 yards and a 99-yard touchdown. Ty Jordan did his thing, with 10 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns and Dylan Wright was a force on the outside with seven catches for 107 yards and a pair of scores.
--The Sachse ground game was nearly unstoppable in Friday’s 48-0 win over Rowlett, averaging almost 10 yards per carry (46-397) with five touchdowns. Myles Nash (14-156, TD) and Derrick Rose (8-108, 2 TDs) each topped the 100-yard mark and Torey Washington (11-74) and KJ Williams (5-59, 2 TDs) also had impactful games. The offensive line, meanwhile, was dominant, recording 21 knockdowns, including six from Le’Trei Harris, and allowing zero sacks.
--Horn quarterback Jermaine Givens put on a show in the 55-41 playoff-clinching win over Tyler Lee on Friday. Givens gashed the Red Raiders for 296 yards on just 20 carries with touchdown runs of 14, 48 and 66 yards.
--Poteet continues to put the ball in the hands of junior Seth McGowan and he continues to deliver. McGowan had 30 carries on Thursday night and he turned those into 242 yards and three touchdowns in their 53-39 win over McKinney North.
--Horn sophomore Kendrick Blackshire turned in another huge all-around performance against Tyler Lee, leading the team with 16 tackles. Larry Cooper made 13 tackles, Larry Donnell had 10 stops and forced a fumble and Nick Garcia had an interception to go along with his nine tackles.
--Poteet needed players to step up against McKinney North’s high-powered offense and it got them. Highlighted by Cam Lampkin’s interception return for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, Joe Thomas and Christopher Muldrew each recorded 16 tackles, Jalen Hodo and Jonathan Kath made 12 stops each and Bershard Glaspie, Jeremiah Record and Jalen Updite each added eight tackles.
--Mesquite hung tough with Longview for the first half on Friday and the defense provided a lift in the second quarter when Chris Henry intercepted a pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown that gave the Skeeters a 17-14 lead.
--West Mesquite’s defense shut out Texarkana Texas High in the second half on Friday and the secondary was a big reason. Aaron Lowe recorded a pair of interceptions, Paul Christopher picked off a pass and Ashton Wilson made four pass breakups.
--Sachse put together one of its most complete defensive efforts of the season against its rivals at Rowlett, holding the Eagles to 102 total yards. In addition to Braylen Brooks’ ninth interception and third pick-6 of the season, the secondary of Brooks, Tim Cherry, Matthew Carter and Micah Buchanan recorded 12 tackles and seven pass breakups. The Mustangs also got big performances from Bryce Robinson, who had seven tackles, two for loss, two quarterback pressures and two sacks, Jack Forthman, who made six tackles with two for loss, and Devon Kennedy, who added seven tackles with one for loss.
--Jake Taylor and Max McAda each had 10 tackles and Cole Flannery and Ethan Akins had interceptions as Sunnyvale held Farmersville to 13 points.
--Horn’s N’Kowsi Emory gave the team some early momentum with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown.