Six midseason storylines from the High School Football season

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Bushland Falcons head coach Josh Reynolds and his team is off to a 5-0 start to the season. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the halfway point of the Texas High School football regular season. With that said here are some major storylines that’s taken place across the Texas Panhandle at the midseason mark.

Bushland is a beast

No one has turned more heads or made a bigger splash to open the 2022 season than the Bushland Falcons. Thanks to an impressive 5-0 record the Falcons have soared from under the radar at the beginning of the year to No. 6 in the latest Dave Campbell’s Texas High School Football poll. The offense is putting up 455 yards a game behind junior gunslinger Dawson Jaco. Head coach Josh Reynolds pivoted on playing Jaco as a sophomore holding him on JV to let him grow and mature.

Jaco’s (1,401 passing yards with 15 touchdowns) emergence along with major weapons in receivers Baylor King and Tate Butcher as well as Ivan Soto in the backfield has Bushland putting up 46.2 points a contest. It’s not just the offense showing up, the Falcons are a complete team fitted by a fantastic defensive front. Led by linebacker Matthew Bridges (53 tackles, five sacks) and defensive lineman Charley Pitt (31 tackles, three sacks) Bushland defense gets after quarterbacks and is allowing only 12 points a game. A few more weeks of this kind of play and head coach Josh Reynolds along with his team are going to start getting 2009 comparisons when the Falcons were the state-runner ups.

Stratford has won 16 straight games dating back to last season. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]

Stratford is definitely back 

The defending Class 2A Division II state champions haven’t missed a beat entering the 2022 season. The No. 5-ranked Elks are rolling at 4-0 overall entering a matchup with Perryton on Friday. Dating back to last season Stratford has won 16 straight games, and even with the loss of Class 2A MVP Cody Rinne at quarterback, head coach Matt Lovorn’s team has a next man up mentality with sophomore Bryce Braden. Braden, who has rushed for 298 yards and thrown for 651 yards with six touchdowns, is doing his job along with a strong offense, but it’s Braden’s defense along with his older brother Luke Braden, and Zane Burr that make up a tremendous linebacking core. With a physical defensive front, the Braden brothers and Burr are hard-hitting throwback style players that run downhill. Stratford is very difficult to score against holding opponents to 10 points a game.

Canyon8217s Derrek Clements runs in for a touchdown against Caprock during a game earlier this season Tom Carver Press Pass Sports

Can Canyon cope with the loss of Clements at QB

Canyon is one of six undefeated teams remaining in the Texas Panhandle and have had a couple of battles to keep that way. Now head coach Todd Winfrey and his team have a new hill to climb. In last week’s 21-14 win at Midland Greenwood quarterback Derrek Clements suffered a severe shoulder injury likely leaving him out the remainder of the season. This is devastating to Clements, a senior, and Canyon for multiple reasons. Clements was much improved while leading the Eagles to a 5-0 first half record going 79-of-130 for 1,120 yards passing with 13 touchdowns. He’d also ran for 271 yards with four more scores but most importantly he was a team leader and highly respected. Fortunately, Winfrey says Clements is handling his situation with class and still being tremendous at practice.

“The goals we set at the beginning of the season are bigger than anyone,” Winfrey said. “They are bigger than me or Derreck or anyone on the team. Replacing him is tough and we have to go do our job. We had a great practice Monday, and they are responding because of how Derreck is responding. He was everyone’s biggest fan at practice and coaching us up. He’s being more vocal than he has been. He hasn’t pouted and kept a smile on his face.”

Canyon will turn to sophomore quarterback Boston Bell, the son of former West Texas A&M QB Dalton Bell. The Eagles have also called up Noah Sanchez off the JV.

West Plains quarterback Reid Macon looks to throw against Lubbock Estacado during a non-district game earlier in the season at Happy State Bank Stadium. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]

How about West Plains

Let’s tip the cap to head coach Adam Cummings and his staff. When the season started there were doubts if the new West Plains Wolves would even get a win in their first year as a football program. It didn’t help matters they faced off with Bushland for the first game in history and got flat out destroyed 52-6. But look at what five weeks have done and how far West Plains has come. The Wolves (2-3 overall) are hot, winning back-to-back games over Palo Duro, 28-26, and then dominating Lubbock Estacado 35-14. West Plains is in many fans’ eyes even considered a favorite to beat Hereford on the road on Friday, and six to seven wins doesn’t look out of the realm of possibility. If that happens Cummings needs to be the Texas High School Football Coach of the Year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let’s keep enjoying seeing this young team with not only 10 seniors get better by the week.

Tascosa8217s Avion Carter sacks Amarillo High8217s Mason Graham during a District 2 5A Division I opener on Friday at West Texas AampM Joe Garcia III Press Pass Sports

Who is the Midseason MVP? 

This is always a fun topic of discussion and at this point any answer is a good one. There have been plenty of impact players leaving their mark on the first five weeks of the season so let’s breakdown a few that Press Pass Sports considers the Midseason MVP.

Tascosa defensive lineman and TCU commit Avion Carter is having one heck of a season. Carter, who stands 6-foot-6, 250-pounds, lived up to his reputation living in the Amarillo High backfield the entire night during a 45-10 squash of the Sandies to open District 2-5A Division I play. Numbers don’t tell the entire story on Carter, though, as his mere presence often creates matchup problems. On the season he’s racked up 39 tackles, five sacks, and six QB hurries.

Stratford’s Zane Burr lets his actions do the talking. You don’t hear much from the young man but when he steps on the field, he’s as dangerous as anyone. On the offensive side the bruising back has chewed up a team-high 440 yards on 53 carries with six touchdowns. At linebacker, the senior leads the Elks with 38 tackles. Continue to keep an eye on Burr it’s worth it.

Dawson Jaco is making a name for himself in his first season at QB leading one of the Texas Panhandle’s best teams in the Bushland Falcons. Jaco hasn’t shown any first-year nerves throwing for 1,401 yards with 15 touchdowns to only one interception.

Some other candidates to look out for is Panhandle’s Landyn Hack. Hack is a one-man show for the Panthers that is putting up video game numbers. Through the first five games of the year Hack has rushed for 718 yards on 79 touches with 10 touchdowns and thrown for 635 yards with another eight TDs. Jmaury Davis of Clarendon, a Texas Tech commit, has ran for 719 yards with 12 touchdowns over his last three games, and Sunray quarterback Armando Lujan may be the Amarillo-areas best kept secret already slinging the rock around for 1,485 yards to go with 18 touchdowns. Last but not least is explosive receiver Nathan Baker of Randall. Baker’s speed is a mismatch for any secondary and it has shown so far with the senior snagging 25 catches for 477 yards with seven TDs.

Pampa freshman running back Max Neff (9) looks for running room against Perryton during a non-district game. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]

New kids on the block

A new season always brings a plethora of new players to feature their talents. Products seen at the junior high or junior varsity level now called up to make a mark for Newcomer of the Year. Here’s some players that have caught the attention of many throughout the first five weeks.

Keep an eye out for Pampa freshman running back Max Neff. He’ll run through you, he’ll by you, and he’ll run over you. Neff, who plays with a heavy heart after losing his father earlier in the season, is making quite the name for himself already piling up 792 yards on 80 carries, averaging 9.9 yards a carry, with four touchdowns.

West Plains freshman quarterback Reid Macon has grown up in a hurry. From looking a wide-eyed freshman who got beat up against Bushland to now looking like a season veteran just a few weeks later, Macan is making major strides. Through the first five games the West Plains signal caller has gone 93-of-177 for 1,018 yards with eight touchdown tosses.

Highland Park earned its first win in almost two years when they downed Dimmitt 37-33 and junior QB Brady Thompson is huge reason why. Though the victories aren’t stacking up yet one thing opposing coaches say when they play the Hornets is “the quarterback is dang good”. As a first-year starter for Highland Park and new head coach Ty Stout, Thompson has already racked up 1,422 passing yards with 19 TDs.

One more name to keep an eye on is another underclassman quarterback. Sophomore Kyler Read, the son of Dalhart head coach Joey Read, makes unbelievable plays with his arm and his feet every week. Through four games, Read has thrown for 737 yards with 10 scores and chewed up 442 yards on the ground with five touchdowns.

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