LAST WEEK: 43-7, .860
OVERALL: 173-34, .835
While the Cisco Loboes have been in countless big games over the last two decades, the last few years have been a bit lean for Ballinger.
In fact, the general consensus is, when the Bearcats (3-0) play host to the Loboes (2-1) on Friday, this will be the biggest regular season game played in Ballinger in several years.
At the very least, it’s our Big Country Preps Game of the Week, and deservedly so.
As for who to pick, I’m big on experience when it comes to high-profile games that garner a high degree of media attention.
The Loboes are in their element in this sort of matchup, while virtually no one on the Ballinger sideline with the exception of coach Chuck Lipsey has had a taste of it.
My personal belief is that Ballinger’s Edgar Nunez-led offense will be troublesome for Cisco and keep the Bearcats competitive. But two or three mistakes — penalties, turnovers or mental blunders — brought on by nerves, will likely make the difference.
Cisco has been here before. Ballinger is in uncharted territory.
PICK: Cisco by 7
OTHER TOP MATCHUPS
WINDTHORST (3-1) AT HAWLEY (4-0)
This is a dangerous game for Hawley, which is now coming off back-to-back emotional wins over Hamlin and Albany.
Windthorst has already knocked off respectable 3A teams from Henrietta and Jacksboro, so the Trojans will arrive at HHS with the attitude that they can win this thing. And frankly, they can, if the Bearcats suffer a letdown.
I don’t believe that’s going to happen.
I like the Bearcats to take care of business behind one of the Big Country’s best offensive lines. And if the turnovers break even, I like Hawley to win with some degree of comfort.
PICK: Hawley by 17
CHRISTOVAL (4-0) AT WINTERS (3-1)
I believe we’re looking at one of the most exciting games of the week with this matchup and if weren’t for the epic Cisco/Ballinger district opener, this would be a strong candidate for Game of the Week.
The computers like Christoval in this matchup, but I’m getting an itch on the back my neck that says “upset.”
My reasoning: This will be the most difficult opponent CHS has faced to date. Winters has won three of the last four meetings between the two schools. And finally, the Blizzards were a scant four-point favorite to beat Christoval last year and shattered the spread with a 40-14 win.
Add the fact that Winters is at home for the first time in three weeks, and I like the Blizzards to win what should be a great game.
PICK: Winters by 3
BROCK (3-1) AT PILOT POINT (3-1)
Every key game on Brock’s schedule this year is on the road. Every single one of them.
At this stage, I see the Eagles meeting the challenge — largely through a defense that is allowing just 11 points per game.
Pilot Point, despite its edge in speed, will be at a disadvantage in the physicality department — something that cost the Bearcats in a 35-0 loss to Gunter last week.
Pilot Point will arrive fired up, but the Eagles will prevail.
PICK: Brock by 17
HAMLIN (3-1) VS. STRATFORD (3-1) AT ABERNATHY
A difficult matchup for both teams, at the end of which, the most important thing will be to learn from whatever lessons are available and stay healthy in the process.
Both clubs are better than they were a year ago, especially Stratford, which has been playing lights out defensively. So look for things to be closer than last year’s 28-14 Hamlin win.
Nonetheless, I’ll go with the Pipers, who were good enough to play unbeaten 2A DI Hawley within two points, despite four turnovers.
If the mistakes break even here, the Pipers will have a slight edge.
PICK: Hamlin by 3
ANSON (1-2) AT BANGS (2-1)
When I look at this matchup, I immediately think “offense,” and I believe that’s what we’ll get here.
Both of these clubs are capable of scoring in a hurry and Anson is better than a 1-2 record with losses to Hamlin and Jim Ned would indicate.
I’m giving the edge to Anson, based on the belief that the Tigers have been in more games of this magnitude over the past four years and that experience will pay off.
Make no mistake: Kyle Maxfield’s Dragons have turned a corner. Their next step will be in learning to win crucial district matchups.
PICK: Anson by 7
EVAN REN’S BIG COUNTRY PICKS
(Projected winners capitalized)
BROWNWOOD at Abilene Wylie
STEPHENVILLE at Georgetown
WALL at Big Spring
COAHOMA at Iraan
Haskell at LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN
HAMILTON at Goldthwaite
Hico at EARLY
MASON at Comanche
Peaster at ALBANY
Reagan County at FORSAN
ABILENE HIGH at North Richland Hills Richland
Lubbock Monterey at COOPER
MIDLAND GREENWOOD at Sweetwater
BRECKENRIDGE at Dublin
Colorado City at CLYDE
JIM NED at Brady
San Angelo Grape Creek at COLEMAN
San Angelo TLCA at MERKEL
Jacksboro at EASTLAND
STAMFORD at De Leon
SAN SABA at Ingram Moore
Munday at MILES
Ranger at DAWSON
CROSS PLAINS vs. Plains (at Snyder)
KNOX CITY at Bryson
Roby at ASPERMONT
Hermleigh at BLACKWELL
El Paso Immanuel Baptist at IRA
WESTBROOK at Lenorah Grady
HIGHLAND at Robert Lee
Bronte at STERLING CITY
Paint Rock at BROOKESMITH
MAY at Zephyr
Lometa at GORMAN
JAYTON at Petersburg
Lueders-Avoca at ROTAN
Throckmorton at CHILLICOTHE
WOODSON at Rule
GORDON at Blanket
Strawn at MILFORD
Kopperl at GUSTINE
Mullin at SANTA ANNA
SIDNEY at Three Way
Cherokee at LINGLEVILLE
ROCHELLE at Rising Star