Region III-5A Playoff Primer: Marshall, Paetow headline state potential
With the Texas high school football playoffs revving up this weekend, here's a look at what to expect and who to watch out for in Region III-Class 5A, Divisions I and II.
Four teams that have a legit chance at getting to AT&T Stadium:
>> Fort Bend Marshall: The Buffs are 10-0, doing so in brilliantly dominant fashion. Marshall has outscored opponents 581-69 this season. Yes, that's an average point differential of 51.2 points! Marshall starters only played beyond the first half in one game in the regular season, and that was the 68-34 season-opening win over Aldine Eisenhower. The Buffs have a turnover-differential of plus-21, with 23 takeaways to three giveaways. Coach James Williams has a wealth of talent and his disposal, and he knows how to use it. That makes for a nightmare combination for opponents. The Buffs are looking to return to the state title game for the third time in four seasons and are hoping the third time is the charm in winning it all.
>> Katy Paetow: Paetow (9-1) continues its upward trend, winning a share of its first district championship in varsity year No. 4. The Panthers are winning by an average of 42 points per game and were the top offense and top defense in a hellacious District 10-5A, Division I, that includes Manvel and Hightower. Coach B.J. Gotte's team is experienced, fast, and physical. They're basically Katy-lite, and that's intentional as Gotte was a state champion lineman and offensive coordinator for the Tigers. Oh, and they're also playing with a chip on their shoulder after COVID-19 cases forced them to forfeit their area playoff game last year. Beware of Paetow's dynamic, diverse rushing attack, but be even more aware of a defense that has only surrendered 270 rushing yards—total.
>> Manvel: The Mavericks (8-2) are the Mavericks: they are the quick, quicker, and quickest. They run the ball prolifically and have playmakers all over the field. It's no secret what Manvel can do. They have had 14 wins in a season four times over the last eight years. Manvel is a plus-8 in turnover differential this season. Don't be surprised if the Region III-5A, Division I final came down to district rivals Paetow and Manvel. While Manvel bested Paetow 33-28 in their meeting this season, the Panthers were without their top two running backs.
>> Montgomery: What a year for the Bears! Montgomery enjoyed a fine season in 2020, going 8-4 and finishing as an area finalist before falling to Fort Bend Marshall, but it has been downright special this year as the Bears are undefeated so far at 10-0. Montgomery is led by a potent offense that averages 41.4 points per game, with a strong, efficient running game that is complemented by an effective passing attack. Montgomery had not had a 10-win season since 2010, when it made it to the regional finals. Perhaps this is the year they make it back in what could be the Year of the Bear.
Five players to watch in this year's Region III-5A playoffs:
>> Ja'Koby Banks, Marshall jr. QB: Banks took over the reins of the potent Buffs offseason this season and has excelled. How dynamic has he been? Right after Marshall's season-opening win, Banks drew an offer from Texas A&M. It's been that kind of year. Banks has completed 50 of 76 passes for 1,262 yards and 22 touchdowns to two interceptions so far, while rushing 56 times for 1,008 yards and 17 touchdowns. That's 18 yards per carry! Keep in mind he only once played the second half of a game this season. Banks is a natural leader, and he has waited for this moment to lead his team on a postseason run. Now watch him shine.
>> Chris Marshall, Marshall sr. WR: The 6-foot-4 Marshall is probably the most electrifying talent in the state. A recent Texas A&M commit, Marshall has only caught 13 passes so far this season and still led the district in receiving. When he catches the ball, defenses might as well give up. There's no stopping him. Marshall has 454 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 34.9 yards per catch. You read that right: 11 of 13 catches have gone for touchdowns. The athletic skyscraper has a knack for the highlight reel. You can bet he'll turn it up for the playoffs.
>> Alex Kilgore, Paetow jr. LB: Keep this 6-1, 210-pounder on your radar. Kilgore has been exceptional for the Panthers this regular season, and he keeps rising up the ranks of Class of 2023 linebackers. A team captain, Kilgore has 62 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one caused fumble so far this year. He is the motor that makes Paetow's violent, fast defense go. Perhaps the average Texas high school football may not know who he is yet, but offensive coordinators surely do.
>> Cyrin Myles, Crosby jr. QB: Perhaps a true sleeper, once again, in the 5A, Division II playoffs is 8-2 Crosby, and a huge reason why is Myles. Myles is one of the top dual-threat talents in the state. This season, he has thrown for 1,707 yards and 25 touchdowns (to only two interceptions) while rushing for 783 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averages 5.4 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per pass attempt. If the Cougars are to make it to the state championship game for a second straight year, Myles will have a lot to say about it.
>> Jalen Washington, Montgomery sr. RB: A primary suspect behind Montgomery's stirring undefeated run is the play of its quick-as-a-hiccup, punishing tailback. Washington has rushed for 1,832 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder is averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight of 10 games. He has rushed for at least 202 yards in five of his last six games. Fast, physical, and strong with the ball, Washington has been a breakout star in the Greater Houston area. Now he'll have the chance to show off when it matters most.