And then there were two.
A season that started with promise for teams across the Big Country is now down to two teams vying for a state championship — Jayton and Strawn.
Before we look ahead to their state semifinal games this week, lets take a look back on last week’s action that saw four area teams playing.
Our first squad to look back on is Stephenville Faith, which played in the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations Division II state championship last week against Sugar Land HCYA Fort Bend.
Faith entered the title game as a 15-point favorite and was ranked second in the state, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Sugar Land won 74-56, ending Faith’s season at 8-2 and just one win shy of being champions.
Moving over to the UIL, there were three area teams left heading into last week: Gorman, Jayton and Strawn.
Jayton and Strawn were both favored last week and held serve. The Jaybirds knocked off Grandfalls-Royalty 66-52 and the Greyhounds were 68-22 winners over Iredell. These two squads are now one win away from meeting for the Division II state championship at 11 a.m. on Dec. 19th at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Gorman’s bid for a Division I state championship ended with a 68-36 loss at the hands of Leakey last week.
The Panthers started the season 1-3 (including a loss to Strawn), so a state quarterfinal run is nothing for them to be ashamed of. Congratulations to Gorman on a successful season and being one of the last eight teams standing.
It’s the state semifinals this week in six-man with Division I featuring games between McLean and Garden City and the other semifinal being Leakey-Milford.
If the projections hold true, we should see Milford face McLean in the state championship game.
The Big Country Preps squad will be keeping our eyes focused on the Division II bracket, where both games are expected to end on the 45-point rule.
Jayton, which has made a living as the underdog in the postseason, will have to win one more time in that role to make it to Arlington.
The Jaybirds are 45-point underdogs against second-ranked Follett this week.
Jayton enters the semifinals having allowed 332 points this year — a number that’s skewed by having given up 168 points in the first two weeks of the season and 52 points last week.
When you take those three games out, the Jaybirds allowed just 12.4 points per game in their other nine games.
Jayton will need to get back to that stifling defense to have a shot against the Panthers. The Jaybirds are also the lone team left standing in either division that was not a district champion.
Follett has won eight straight games (including a forfeit). Also included in that streak is an 84-56 win over Groom. Jayton beat Groom 62-16 in the last week of the regular season.
A win for the Jaybirds isn’t out of the question here, but I’m like the computers and going with Follett. This game is slated to be played at 6 p.m. Thursday at Amarillo Highland Park.
The Jayton-Follett winner will meet the winner of the Strawn-Oakwood game for the state championship.
Strawn enters the game as the top-ranked team in the state and is a 45-point favorite.
The Greyhounds have won their last seven games each by the 45-point rule and are giving up just 13.9 points per game this fall — holding nine of 13 opponents to eight points or less.
Oakwood has been equally dominant defensively shutting out six opponents and holding three others to either six or eight points.
Of the 263 points that Oakwood has allowed this year, the majority have come in their three losses: Milford (57-42), Calvert (46-35) and Union Hill (84-36).
Strawn, meanwhile, has scored at least 50 points in every game this year with the exception of its two losses: 51-18 to McLean in the season opener and 34-23 to Garden City in Week 6.
The Panthers started their season with a 58-0 win over Strawn’s JV so there is some familiarity here between the two programs.
As long as Strawn’s offense is humming like it has been during the Greyhounds seven-game winning streak (445 points total, 63.8 PPG), then the team should be making a return trip to AT&T Stadium to defend last year’s championship.