BCP GAME OF THE WEEK: Jim Ned clashes with Eastland (w/ Evan Ren’s Big Country Picks, Thursday Night Drive-Time Podcast)

LAST WEEK: 28-3, .903

SEASON TOTAL: 351-79, .816

Our possible choices for Big Country Preps Game of the Week made our final selection difficult this time around, with two high-profile winner-take-all district title games on the menu.  

Our final pick: Jim Ned (7-2, 3-1) at Eastland (7-2, 3-1) — a matchup with a bit less at stake (the No. 2 seed in District 3-3A Division I), but one we feel will be the area’s most competitive of our top six games. 

One thing to keep an eye on here: A Jim Ned defense allowing just 17 points per game against an explosive, Behren Morton-led offense averaging 36 points when he’s in the lineup. The winner of that battle will likely determine the game’s outcome. 

 Based on numbers, this looks like a tossup, but I’ll give the Mavs a slight edge at home. 

PICK: Eastland by 1

De Leon (6-3, 4-0) at San Saba (9-0, 4-0) If you’re in the mood for the proverbial wild west shootout and have enough gas in your tank to make the trek to San Saba, I’d recommend this matchup, which will decide the District 7-2A DI championship. 

In fact, this game won our Twitter poll as the Game of the Week. 

San Saba, which is off to its best start in three decades, may very well be fielding its best team ever. But it won’t be until Friday until we get a clear picture of how good SSHS actually is.

Truth be told, the Armadillos haven’t faced a tough schedule this year with seven wins over sub-.500 teams and two additional wins over winning teams of questionable strength — Snook and Ingram Moore.

However, it needs to be said that while De Leon has faced a much tougher slate, it is 0-3 against teams that are currently above .500. And the Dillos have done precisely what a great team would do with a weak schedule: They’ve destroyed every team on it.

In fact, nobody has come within 27 points of defeating San Saba. Nor has anyone scored more than 14 points against a Dillo defense allowing an average of just 7.2 points per game.

De Leon will be, far and away, the best team San Saba has faced this year. But that truth will go both ways.

I’ll go with the Dillos in a game that could see 80 or more combined points scored.

PICK: San Saba by 17

China Spring (4-5, 0-3) at Brownwood (4-4, 1-2) Assuming that Waco La Vega tops Gatesville as a nearly 40-point favorite, this game will produce one of two scenarios.

A Brownwood win would give the Lions the No. 3 seed in District 5-4A DI. A China Spring win would force a three-way tiebreaker for the final two spots. 

And believe me, either scenario is entirely possible.

China Spring may come in at 0-3, but the Cougars fell by one score to both Gatesville (29-25) and Stephenville (21-14) — the latter of which needed a late fourth-quarter touchdown to top the Coogs.

I’ve been pointing to this game since two-a-days as one to keep an eye on, and here it is — just as difficult to pick as we suspected.  

All along, I’ve leaned Brownwood’s direction when speaking of this matchup. But now that game week is here, I sense an upset coming.

This is a very tough pick, but I’m going with China Spring, which has played slightly better defense against a slightly better schedule and is coming off a bye week.

PICK: China Spring by 3

Hamlin (9-0, 4-0) at Albany (4-5, 4-0) On paper, Hamlin wins this game, hands-down. But it’s not being played on paper, or with paper.  Russell Lucas and Denney Faith won’t be sitting over a kitchen table, flicking a folded triangular document around on Friday (although I’d pay to see that).

This thing will be played at Robert Nail Stadium against a team that has beaten the Pied Pipers nine straight times.

Not since 2001 has Hamlin been able to knock off AHS. And if you want an even bigger overall picture, Albany is 16-3 against their green-clad neighbors in the last 19 meetings dating back to 1989.

So if ever there were an aura, a mystique or a mental block for a favored team to overcome, it’s here, in the District 7-2A DII title game.

Two things to remember if you’re thinking Hamlin will win big: First, with Albany RB Cutter Edgar (133-804, 6 TDs) back in the lineup, the Lions are considerably tougher than they are without him. Secondly, the Lions have already been in the ring with several heavyweights, including 3A playoff teams from Eastland, Dublin and Colorado City. So AHS won’t be facing something it hasn’t seen this year. 

The big difference in this ballgame, and the winning edge as I see it, is a Hamlin defense that is limiting the opposition to just nine points per game. HHS hasn’t allowed more than a touchdown to anyone since Oct. 12 and should get sufficient stops to pull away.

I’ll go with the Pipers.

PICK: Hamlin by 17  

Clyde (3-6, 1-3) at Breckenridge (3-6, 1-3) The Bulldogs and Buckaroos will meet for a playoff elimination game on Friday, which adds plenty of intrigue to a matchup between sub-.500 teams.

But there is an additional truth and sad fact that needs to be mentioned here: Either one of these teams would be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the vast majority of districts out there.

Not so, in District 3-3A DI — which, according to one highly respected power rating service, is the very best overall district in Texas in this classification.

We’ve said that from Day 1 here at Big Country Preps and it has proven true. According to the computers, even Early, the last-place team in this district, would have been a playoff team in no fewer than five districts around the state, and would have been a No. 3 seed in at least two.

That, folks, is one tough league.

Look for a low-scoring, very physical game here, decided by a turnover or special teams play.

I’ll give the Bucks the edge at home.

PICK: Breckenridge by 6

Millsap (3-6, 2-2) at Dublin (7-2, 2-2) In a game that will decide the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in District 6-3A DII, Dublin is the clear-cut favorite.

That makes it dangerous for the Lions.

Dublin is also coming off a two-game losing streak, having seen its district title hopes evaporate in consecutive losses to Jacksboro (42-29) and Comanche (54-30).

That makes it doubly dangerous.

The loser of this game will likely face a 10-0 Gunter team in the first round of the playoffs.

That pushes this contest into the realm of urgency.

That alone should prevent DHS from not bringing its absolute “A” game.  If the Lions want to be the first-ever DHS team to win two playoff games in one year, then getting the No. 3 seed becomes imperative. 

PICK: Dublin by 14

EVAN REN’S BIG COUNTRY PICKS

(Projected winners capitalized)

CLASS 5A

Plainview at WYLIE

Amarillo High at COOPER

CLASS 4A

SNYDER at Pecos

BIG SPRING at San Angelo Lake View

MONAHANS at Sweetwater

CLASS 3A

COMANCHE at Tolar

COLORADO CITY at Stanton

BROCK at Paradise

Lubbock Roosevelt at COAHOMA

San Angelo Grape Creek at ANSON

Brady at SONORA

CISCO at Bangs

Coleman at MERKEL

WALL at Early

San Angelo TLCA at BALLINGER

CLASS  2A

Roscoe at CROSS PLAINS

MEMPHIS at Munday

HASKELL at Baird

Ozona at HAWLEY

VALLEY MILLS at Goldthwaite

Forsan at STAMFORD

CRAWFORD at Hico

CLASS 1A

Loraine at BLACKWELL  

GROOM vs Jayton in Silverton   

Paint Rock at BRONTE   

Rising Star at BROOKESMITH      

PANTHER CREEK at Cherokee    

IRA at Hermleigh             

Water Valley at HIGHLAND         

ZEPHYR at Lometa          

Lingleville at MAY           

Trent at MORAN             

Eden at ROBERT LEE       

SPUR at Rotan  

LUEDERS-AVOCA at Rule              

GORMAN at Santa Anna

BLANKET at Sidney         

Gordon at STRAWN        

THROCKMORTON at Woodson  

THURSDAY NIGHT DRIVE-TIME PODCAST 

Evan Ren and Dan Youngblood break down this week’s top games 

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