LAST WEEK: 7-2, .777
SEASON TOTAL: 441-98, .818
I’ll be honest with you.
I didn’t expect to be forecasting five games this week, with six of our Big Country teams still showing a pulse.
Yet here we are.
Hamlin, with its monumental upset of Wellington last week, blew up my pick and earned a second shot at its old nemesis, Albany. And De Leon, another team I had designated to begin basketball season, dominated Riesel to keep on dancing in December.
That said, it’s time to dive in, with all games slated for this evening, due to weather concerns.
REGION I-3A DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP
Brock (12-1) vs. Shallowater (13-0), 7 p.m. Thursday, Sweetwater
The key matchup here will be an explosive Shallowater offense averaging 50 points per game against a Brock defense allowing only 15.
The Mustangs will need big plays, and a lot of them, to win. Because frankly, Brock’s defense is simply too aggressive to grind things out against.
On the other hand, I like Brock’s offensive chances to play keep away against a Shallowater defense that hasn’t performed well when faced with top opponents.
The Eagles will get enough defensive stops to prevail.
PICK: Brock by 7
REGION II-2A DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP
De Leon (9-4) vs. San Saba (13-0), 6 p.m. Thursday, Brownwood
Do I believe that De Leon is currently playing its best football of the year?
Do I believe the Bearcats will be far more competitive than they were in a 62-12 loss to San Saba for the District 7 title?
But do I believe that DHS has enough ammunition to become the first team to derail the nastiest herd of Armadillos we’ve seen in 30 years?
I’m sorry, but no.
Here’s the problem: No team has held San Saba under 40 points and the Dillos are averaging 54. So it’s a safe bet that, bare minimum, it will take roughly 50 points for someone to finally knock them off. And no team outside of Celeste in double overtime, has scored more than 16 against this bunch.
A De Leon upset will require absolute precision. Very few penalties, no turnovers and a healthy collection of mistakes by the Dillos that they aren’t prone to making.
De Leon is a big underdog here. There’s no getting around it.
PICK: San Saba by 20
REGION II-2A DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
Hamlin (12-1) vs. Albany (8-5), 7 p.m. Thursday, Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium
I’m so blown away by the odd set of circumstances that surround this game, that no outcome would surprise me here.
We have an Albany team hungry for respect. How is that even possible?
We have a Hamlin team that showed up flat in the first matchup with the Lions. How is THAT possible?
Albany started the year at 0-5 for the first time since I Love Lucy topped the TV ratings but is currently riding an eight-game winning streak. Hamlin is coming off an upset of Wellington that literally no one outside of the Hamlin city limits believed could happen.
Former longtime Stamford assistant Jeremy West is now employed at Hamlin. His son Ben is quarterbacking at Albany.
I’m telling you, if a UFO lands on the 50-yard line prior to kickoff, I won’t even flinch.
It’s difficult to pick against a team good enough to beat Wellington. But keep this in mind: In 12 years, I’ve picked Hamlin to beat Albany only twice and was wrong both times.
PICK: Hamlin by 3
SIX-MAN (Projected winners capitalized)
CLASS 1A DIVISION II STATE SEMIFINALS
Jayton (10-3) vs. FOLLETT (11-2), 6 p.m. Thursday, Amarillo Highland Park
STRAWN (11-2) vs. Oakwood (10-3), 6 p.m. Thursday, Alvarado
BIG COUNTRY PREPS DRIVE-TIME PODCAST
Evan Ren and Dan Youngblood break down this week’s playoff games