Monthly archive

December 2020

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 8

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Picking Texas high school playoff games, NCAA college bowl games, as well as the Cowboys & the Texans

As the Class 6A and 5A Texas high school football playoffs move to the State Quarterfinal round, we also turn our eyes toward the annual New Year’s Day college football bowl games.

But thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NCAA college football bowl schedule continues to be somewhat abbreviated this season, and has been hit with additional cancellations. After putting on 40 bowl games in 2019, only 28 matchups were on tap this season after originally planning to hold 43 tilts. And this week, that total got whittled down even more.

As we move forward, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus will pick all of Class 6A and 5A high school football playoff games on tap as they battle to reach the State Semifinal round next week, along with all of the NCAA college football bowl games as well as the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans in the NFL.

THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel welcomes newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25) this season, while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz  photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Wade hung onto the overall lead with his uncanny ability to correctly pick the Class 6A and 5A playoff games, exclusively picking Cedar Hill over Tomball Memorial and Rockwall-Heath over Cypress Bridgeland.

With Wade struggling a bit in the college bowl picks, Don swept the panel by picking Hawaii over the Houston Cougars in the New Mexico Bowl while Brett nailed the Camellia Bowl by selecting Buffalo over Marshall. On the flip side, Wade’s upset special didn’t work out as Georgia St prevailed over Western Kentucky in the LendingTree Bowl.

By the way, it looks like we will finally play the Class 1A, Division II state championship game between Richland Springs and Balmorhea next Tuesday in San Angelo. Yep, Texas high school football on Tuesday…go figure. It’s been a crazy football season.

Speaking of crazy…in the final week of the NFL regular season, we will be picking both games from the NFC Least as the resurgent Dallas Cowboys visit the New York Giants before Washington faces Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football as every team other than the Eagles remain in the hunt for the postseason.

Playoffs? Did you say PLAYOFFS? Amazingly, the Dallas Cowboys can legitimately talk about postseason possibilities going into the final week of the NFL regular season. And remarkably, it was only three weeks ago that the Cowboys were in last place in the lowly NFC East with just three wins under their belts.

But after taking down the Philadelphia Eagles, 37-17, in resounding fashion last Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the Cowboys (6-9) will need to beat Giants (5-10) this Sunday afternoon, then hope the Eagles (4-10-1) knock off the Washington Football Team (6-9) on Sunday night to win the NFC East title outright. Washington remains in control with the tiebreaker edge over Dallas and will clinch the division with a Week 17 win over the Eagles.

If Washington loses, the winner of next Sunday’s Cowboys-Giants game will be crowned division champion and go on to host a playoff game. If the Giants come out on top, they’ll clinch the division at 6-10 thanks to holding the tiebreaker over both the Cowboys and Washington. Taking the pattern established over the last 25 years into consideration, the Cowboys will once again let all of us diehard fans down this week, one way or the other. But we will be there, nevertheless.

Join us every Thursday throughout the rest of the 2020 football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for a select group of the week’s high school playoff games, your favorite college teams from the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as the state’s two NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

HITTING THE RESET BUTTON

in Basketball

After opening the season with 10 straight wins, Clifton boys basketball re-emerges from 18-day hiatus to open District 17-3A competition

CLIFTON – Despite getting shut down due to Covid-19 precaution protocols the week before the Christmas break, the Clifton Cub boys basketball team hopes to rediscover the magic that produced a 10-game winning streak to open the 2020-21 season when re-emerging from an 18-day hiatus.

With District 17-3A competition opening Wednesday, the Cubs will begin their quest to advance to the postseason for the first time in 16 years by hosting the McGregor Bulldogs at 12:15 p.m. at Clifton High School Gym. But with state-ranked Grandview gone, the district will have a new look following the UIL realignment.

According to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason district picks, Lorena (8-4) entered the season as the favorite, followed by West (7-1), McGregor and Troy. Lorena moves down for Class 4A, McGregor (2-6) and Troy (2-10) move in from District 19-3A, Riesel (6-3) crosses over after placing second in District 18-3A, while West and Whitney (6-5) return to 17-3A along with the Cubs.

“It’s going to be a dogfight every night out,” Daniel said. “We have Lorena coming into the district after moving down from 4A. Everybody we’ve seen looks solid. We’re familiar with Whitney and West and what they are going to be like. Troy and McGregor were in our district a couple of years ago. And Riesel won their district last year. But I think our guys are up for the challenge.”

After a rash of injuries in district stalled a promising start last season, the Cubs open the season with a fast break to a 10-game winning streak and looked impressive in doing so. Led by junior Seth Payne averaging 20.0 points per game, along with senior Luis Rodriguez, junior Griffin Phillips, freshman Bradin Yates, junior Jorge Rodriguez and senior Cameron Bateson, Clifton (10-1) has outscored opponents by 15.9 points per game.

Playing their third game in five days and short-handed on the road in Bruceville-Eddy Dec. 12, the Cubs saw their 10-game winning streak snapped by the Eagles, 51-39, before Covid-19 precautions led to the cancellation of two non-district games at Valley Mills Dec. 15 and at Hillsboro Dec. 18 before the holiday break.

With Payne participating in the UIL Area Band Competition, the Cubs could not keep up with the Eagles down the stretch as Bruceville-Eddy took control of the game in the third and put Clifton away in the final frame.

“I think the games earlier in the week took more out of us than I expected,” Daniel said. “We were also missing a couple of players who were competing in the Area band competition. But make no mistake, Bruceville-Eddy has a good team. They have one player who was really tough to stop.”

Senior Daylon Riley tossed in a game-high 23 points to lead Bruceville-Eddy while Phillips led the Cubs with 14 points and nine rebounds, followed by Jorge Rodriguez with 10 points and four steals. Bateson pulled down six rebounds, dished out four assist and came up with four steals.

Earlier in the week, the Cubs kept the win streak alive with back-to-back impressive home wins over Dublin, 74-57, and Rio Vista, 61-28.

Against Dublin, Clifton jumped out to a commanding 18-8 first quarter lead before putting up 24 points in the second period to build a 42-23 advantage before intermission. Payne produced a triple-double to lead the Cubs with 21 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals, followed by Luis Rodriguez with 18 points and Phillips with 14.

Then in a dominating defensive performance, the Cubs crushed the Rio Vista offensive efforts by limiting the Eagles to only 13 points through three quarters while putting up 50 points of their own. Payne delivered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds despite being in foul trouble most of the game. But freshman Bradin Yates stepped up to score 16 points and pull down eight rebounds.

“Defensively, I thought we played great,” Daniel said. “They didn’t break the 20-point mark until late in the fourth quarter. Our second quarter was one of the best quarters we played all year. They’ve been playing well together, and they’ve been having fun doing it too. It’s been fun to watch.

“I don’t think anyone expects to win 10 straight to start. But I know these guys and how hard they play together, how hard they fight and how much they want it. So, it doesn’t shock me that we’ve gotten off to this start.”

The Cubs opened a five-game home stand in dramatic fashion Dec. 1 with a hard-fought 81-74 double overtime win over the Rapoport Academy Meyer Ravens behind a triple-double from Payne, who scored a season-high 28 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. Phillips added 16 points while Rodriguez tossed in 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and came up with a team-high four steals.

Trailing by 10 entering the final period, the Cubs outscored Meyer, 22-12, to force overtime, held their own to tie in the first extra period, before putting the Raven away with a 10-3 run.

After that wild contest, Clifton took care of business in a resounding 44-12 victory over the Class 2A Meridian Yellowjackets Dec. 4 as Rodriguez scored a game-high 17 points, Payne dished out five assists and sophomore Makail Brandenberger pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.

Rising to every occasion they faced during the streak, the Cubs took down the Class 4A Gatesville Hornets, 50-41, Dec. 5. Clifton jumped out to a commanding 24-12 lead in the first half, survived a strong third period from Gatesville before securing the victory in the fourth.

Luis Rodriguez tossed in a game-high 18 points and swiped seven steals, Payne added 16 points, a team-high five assists and seven rebounds, while Bateson pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.

While losing the opportunity to play tournaments due to Covid-19 precaution protocols this season limited live game preparation before district, Daniel kept the schedule as full as possible.

“I don’t think it has negatively impacted us too much,” Daniel said. “During the weeks we would have played tournaments we’ve tried to schedule three games every chance we could. I think we’re ready to meet the challenge in district.”

Photos by DAVID HARDING

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

HOOPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

in Basketball

After a short-lived holiday break, Meridian boys basketball goes back to work against Oglesby as final tune-up before opening District 12-2A play

MERIDIAN – Unable to get on the basketball court to play a game for the last 14 days, the Meridian Yellowjacket boys basketball team will return to action to hoop it up during the holidays just in time to get ready for district competition.

Battling Covid-19 precaution protocols, the Jackets (2-7) have not played a game since Dec. 15. Forced to cancel their non-district game at Holland Dec. 18, Meridian postponed its District 12-2A opener at Italy Dec. 22 as coaches and players remained in self-quarantine.

Fortunately, Meridian’s second-year head coach Carlos Johansson picked up an additional game to fill an open date Dec. 29, hosting Oglesby at 6 p.m. in Jacket Gymnasium to get tuned up for the rescheduled district opener on the road against the Italy Gladiators Jan. 1.

Going into quarantine riding a four-game losing streak, Meridian ran out of gas in a lopsided loss at DeLeon, 68-22, Dec. 15 after battling in down-to-the-buzzer losses to Texas Wind, 47-43, and Dawson, 39-37, in overtime.

Despite trailing by only 20-17 at intermission, the Jackets proved to be no match for the Bearcats in the second half as DeLeon ran away with the resounding win.

“I thought we battled in the first half against a good DeLeon team,” Johansson said. “In the second half, I thought our lack of experience caught up to us. We’re still pretty young. And with the lack of numbers, it can get pretty tough. But overall, I thought we worked hard to the very end.”

On the road against Dawson Dec. 11, the Jackets swarmed to a commanding 18-3 first quarter lead. But the Bulldogs answered by outscoring Meridian, 13-4, in the second period to pull within five points. After battling to a stalemate in the third, Dawson outscored the Jackets, 11-4, in the final frame to force overtime before putting the win away.

Senior Gabe Nunez led the Jackets with 11 points and six rebounds, followed by senior David Watson with nine, while senior Dylan Poole and sophomore Jon Bernal added eight points apiece.

“We started off really hot with great execution,” Johansson said. “ We fought and competed the whole game. It’s unfortunate that we did not come out with the win, but the boys definitely received a great deal of experience. Most of my kids have never played an overtime game at the varsity level. So, it was good for them.”

But the Jackets were no strangers to close games. Just three days earlier, Meridian lost a heartbreaker to Texas Wind at home Dec. 8.

After battling to a 14-14 first quarter tie, the Texas Wind blew past the Jackets in the second period to take a comfortable 29-18 advantage into halftime. But Meridian responded in the third by outscoring the Wind, 20-11, before falling at the buzzer.

Watson led the Jackets with 15 points and seven rebounds, followed by Nunez with 12 while Poole dished out a team-high seven assists.

“Even though we were down 11 at half, it turned out to come out to the wire,” Johansson said. “We made some adjustments for a comeback in the third. We kept it pretty close and had a good look at the basket to put us ahead late in the fourth, but unfortunately it did not go down.

“I’m very proud of our boys for fighting to come back in the game. We’re still improving with each game as we inch closer to district.”

After opening the season with back-to-back losses to Clifton, 41-28, and Santo, 36-21, the Jackets notched one in the win column with a convincing 61-35 home victory over the Iredell Dragons Dec. 1. Coming out of the locker room after a hard-fought first half, Meridian dominated Iredell, 23-5, in the third to take control of the game.

Four Jackets scored in double figures, led by Bernal with 17 points, followed by Poole with 13, senior Camron Sheffer with 11 and Watson with 10. Sophomore Brady Taylor dominated the boards with seven rebounds while Bernal came up with a team-high five steals.

“It was a great win for the boys,” Johansson said. “They’ve been working extremely hard. Our defense is starting to get to where we need it to be around this time of the season. We are halfway through the preseason, and we will continue to get better.”

Since Covid-19 protocol led the cancellation of all tournaments this season, Meridian only played four games before the Thanksgiving break. But Johansson felt like the Jackets made the most of their limited opportunities.

“We got after it in all of our games,” Johansson said. “ We lost some close games, but we gained a lot of experience within those games, and it will help us going forward. “I have one returning senior this year and a sophomore heavy group. It’s going to be a learning year, but I hope to get a high level of play come district time. With that said, we aim to return back to the playoffs this year.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

A HOLIDAY FOOTBALL FEAST

in Commentary

Although NFL football on Christmas Day represents a rarity, it pales in comparison to the scheduling exceptions seen in 2020 season

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Football League has seen plenty of firsts in its 101st season of existence. But playing a game on Christmas Day was not one of them.

Although it’s been a relative rarity, the NFL played 21 games on Christmas Day prior to 2020 with the most recent two coming in 2017, when the Steelers beat the Texans and the Eagles beat the Raiders.

The NFL hung another one on the Christmas tree Friday, but it proved to be the New Orleans Saints taking down the underachieving Minnesota Vikings with a lopsided 52-33 decision. Not only was the game one of those rare Christmas Day exceptions, but it also fell on a Friday, which has always belonged to high school football. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger alone, there have only been 10 games played on Friday – the last in 2009.

But we can take it a step further.

Making NFL history, the Christmas Day game marked the first time ever the NFL has played at least one game on every single day of the week during a single season. In fact, fans had never before even seen five days utilized on the weekly calendar during an NFL season, let alone all seven.

Typically, the NFL schedules games on four days of the calendar week – Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday – and typically all four days have not been used in the same week. Of course, Sundays have always been about the NFL. Over the years, we’ve added Monday Night Football and Thanksgiving Day games, which ultimately led to Thursday Night Football on a weekly basis. And most recently, a handful of Saturday games have been added late in the season once the collegiate regular season has ended.

But then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened as precaution protocols led to a slew of postponements and rescheduling dilemmas, pushing two games to Tuesday – the Week 5 Titans-Bills game, and the Week 13 Ravens-Cowboys tilt – as well as a Wednesday afternoon Ravens-Steelers contest. So the Christmas Friday gave us the seven-day full house.

The only other time a Tuesday game has happened over the past 70 years came back in 2010 when the Eagles played the Vikings, postponed two days because a blizzard was about to hit Philadelphia. Amazingly, 40 NFL games have been played on Wednesdays dating back to 1925.

But mid-week day games prove incredibly rare. Prior to this year, each day had only seen one in the modern era since 1950, both of which came in the last decade. The only other Wednesday game took place in 2012 when the season-opener between the Giants and Cowboys was moved from Thursday to Wednesday to not interfere with President Barack Obama’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Interestingly with all that said, the Christmas Day game was on the original 2020 schedule. The NFL almost never schedules Friday games because it doesn’t want to interfere with the fact that most high schools play their games on Friday. But since that’s not an issue on Christmas, the league went ahead and scheduled the game. It marks the first the first time in 11 years that the NFL has held a Friday game, this year’s game represented just the fifth time it’s happened since 1993.

The Friday game means that the NFL gave us a Christmas gift with four straight days of football in Week 16 with games being scheduled on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

But back to the big bow on the package with the Christmas Day game. The NFL has presented six Christmas Day games since 2010, and this will be the 20th Christmas game since the NFL started playing regular season games on the holiday more than 30 years ago.

For me, though, the most memorable NFL game played on Christmas Day will always be the first one almost half a century ago – the 1971 NFC Divisional playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. As champions of their respective divisions with identical 11-3 records, the Cowboys and the Vikings met in a Christmas Day game on December 25, 1971.

After getting off to a slow start, the Cowboys owned a 4-3 record at midseason. But legendary Dallas head coach Tom Landry guided his team to seven straight victories to close out the regular season to capture the NFC East title once he resolved the ongoing quarterback controversy by turning to upstart Roger Staubach over veteran Craig Morton.

The controversial and explosive Duane Thomas led a talented group of running backs that included Calvin Hill, Walt Garrison and Dan Reeves. With deep threat Bob “Bullet” Hayes and tight end Mike Ditka as targets, the Cowboys obtained future hall of famer Lance Alworth from the Chargers to load up the passing game. And then there was the Doomsday Defense, featuring a host of Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Bob Lilly, linebacker Chuck Howley, cornerback Mel Renfro, and safety Cornell Green.

Thomas ran for one touchdown, Staubach connected with Hayes for another and Mike Clark kicked two field goals as the Cowboys took advantage of five Minnesota turnovers to secure a 20-12 victory.

“We haven’t been making mistakes the last eight games,” Landry said. “This was our best defensive performance of the year.”

But Dallas was just getting started. Continuing to ride a series of dominating defensive performances, the Cowboys went on to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 14-3, in the NFC Championship game before destroying the Miami Dolphins, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI to claim their first of five Lombardi trophies.

Whether it was Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day or any game day in between, those were the days when the holidays belonged to the Dallas Cowboys. It seems like ancient history. Come to think of it, it is.

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 7

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Picking Texas high school playoff games, NCAA college bowl games, as well as the Cowboys & the Texans

With most of the Texas high school football playoffs behind us, it’s time to go bowling. But thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NCAA college football bowl schedule will be somewhat abbreviated this season. After putting on 40 bowl games in 2019, only 28 matchups remain on tap this season after originally planning to hold 43 tilts.

As we move forward, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus will continue to pick a select group of Class 6A and 5A high school football playoff games before they reach the State Quarterfinal round next week, along with all of the NCAA college football bowl games on tap as well as the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans in the NFL.

THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel welcomes newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25) this season, while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz  photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, while Wade posted a pretty impressive 17-6 win-loss week, the rest of the Gridiron Gurus took a beating. In the process, Wade soared to the top of the overall standings to take a four-game lead as David’s slew of upset special picks let him down last week.

Wade used his crystal ball to become the only one to pick Cibolo Steele over Round Rock, Georgetown East View over Alamo Heights, and Windthorst over Mart. David did prove to be the only one to pick Mission Pioneer over Marble Falls, while Brett had exclusive rights to Manvel over Dripping Springs.

In closing, consider this…with only two games left in the NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys remain in the playoff hunt, vying for the NFC Least title with a 5-9 record.

It’s been a weird football season.                                                            

Join us every Thursday throughout the rest of the 2020 football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for a select group of the week’s high school playoff games, your favorite college teams from the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as the state’s two NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 6

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Picking Texas high school playoff games, NCAA college football games, as well as the Cowboys & the Texans

Although Covid-19 hit the Class 1A, Division II state championship game this week, the University Interscholastic League will still have seven Texas high school football state championship games on tap at AT&T Stadium in Arlington this week beginning on Wednesday.

In addition, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick a handful of Class 6A and 5A playoff games into the mix, along with an assortment of NCAA college football games in Texas as well as the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.

THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel welcomes newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25) this season, while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz  photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, David came roaring back to recapture the overall lead, but he only had one exclusive pick this week, Canadian over Gunter. Unfortunately, there were a couple of sleeper picks that didn’t work out as Brett was the only one to pick Crawford over Post, and Wade missed out on his loner pick of Austin LBJ over Lindale. On the other hand, the entire panel missed out on Hallettsville knocking off Llano.

But believe it or not, the Gridiron Gurus all correctly picked the Cowboys to WIN for a change. Disappointingly, the Aggies and the Longhorns lost to COVID-19 last week as their games were cancelled. And now, the Class 1A, DII state championship game between Richland Springs and Balmorhea has been postponed. It’s been a weird football season.

Join us every Thursday throughout the rest of the 2020 football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for a select group of the week’s high school playoff games, your favorite college teams from the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as the state’s two NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GRIDIRON SCOREBOARD: State

in Scores/Statistics

Class 4A, 3A, 2A & 1A high school football state tournament scores from the across the state of Texas

FINAL UPDATE: 10:15 p.m., Friday, December 11, 2020

Here are ALL of the final scores from Class 4A, 3A and 2A Texas high school football State Semifinal games for Thursday and Friday from across the state of Texas.

With the Class 1A state finalists already determined, four six-man teams await their date in the State Championship games next Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Be sure to check back with THE SPORTS BUZZ for up-to-the-minute updates throughout the playoffs for scores from the 2020 Texas high school football postseason.

On location for two games this weekend, THE SPORTS BUZZ provides award-winning coverage of the 2020 Texas high school football season every week, focusing on Class 3A, 2A and 1A schools in the 10-county Heart of Texas region — which includes Bosque, Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, Hill, Hood, Johnson, McLennan and Somervell counties.

Be sure to check in with THE SPORTS BUZZ every Friday night for the complete scoreboard from games across the Heart of Texas region.

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 5

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Picking Texas high school playoff games, NCAA college football games in Texas, as well as the Cowboys & the Texans

While Class 6A and 5A enter into the postseason, the 2020 Texas high school football playoffs narrow down to State Semifinal games in Class 4A, 3A and 2A this week as the Class 1A finalists have already been determined. So THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus added a handful of Class 6A and 5A playoff games into the mix, along with an assortment of NCAA college football games in Texas as well as the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.

THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel welcomes newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25) this season, while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz  photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, our panel proved downright Nostradamus-like last week, collectively posting an amazing 121-27 record, getting 81.8 percent of the picks correct. Wade scorched the grid with a near-perfect week to catch David for the overall lead. His soothsaying made Brett’s strong runner-up effort almost look pedestrian, especially when Wade ended up being the only one picking Carthage over China Spring, Falls City over Christival, and Rice over Marshall.

Join us every Thursday throughout the rest of the 2020 football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for a select group of the week’s high school playoff games, your favorite college teams from the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as the state’s two NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

UIL STATE PLAYOFFS: State Semifinals

in Roundups

With the Class 1A state finalists already set, Class 3A & 2A move to the State Semifinal round this week with hopes of advancing to AT&T Stadium for the state title games on the line

THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Matchups presents the Class 3A and 2A football State semifinal playoff matchups from across the state of Texas. With the Class 1A state finalists already determined, four six-man teams await their date in the State Championship games next Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

THE SPORTS BUZZ provides award-winning coverage of the 2020 Texas high school football season, focusing on Class 3A, 2A and 1A schools in the 10-county Heart of Texas region — which includes Bosque, Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, Hill, Hood, Johnson, McLennan and Somervell counties.

Within the Heart of Texas region, THE SPORTS BUZZ covers nine Class 3A schools spread out across four districts in two divisions, 15 Class 2A schools spread out across six districts in two divisions, and 21 Class 1A-Six-Man schools spread out across eight districts in two divisions.

Be sure to check in with THE SPORTS BUZZ every Friday night for the complete scoreboard from games across the Heart of Texas region.

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

FAST BREAK

in Basketball

After just missing the playoffs last year, the Clifton boys basketball team opens 2020-21 season with eight straight wins

CLIFTON — If their fast break out of the tipoff to the 2020-21 Texas high school boys basketball season can serve as an indication, the Class 3A Clifton Cubs could be on their way to ending a 15-year postseason drought.

After a rash of injuries in district stalled a promising start last season, the undefeated Cubs have broken out with an eight-game winning streak and have looked impressive in doing so. Led by junior Seth Payne, senior Luis Rodriguez, junior Griffin Phillips, freshman Bradin Yates, junior Jorge Rodriguez and senior Cameron Bateson, Clifton has outscored opponents by 17.2 points per game.

With back-to-back home games this week, Clifton (8-0) will be tested by the Dublin Lions (4-2) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Clifton High School Gym before hosting the Rio Vista Eagles at 6:45 p.m. Friday.

In the midst of a five-game home stand, the Cubs extended their winning streak by taking down the Class 4A Gatesville Hornets, 50-41, Saturday. Clifton jumped out to a commanding 24-12 lead in the first half, survived a strong third period from Gatesville before securing the victory in the fourth.

Luis Rodriguez tossed in a game-high 18 points and swiped seven steals, Payne added 16 points, a team-high five assists and seven rebounds, while Bateson pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.

Clifton began last week with a hard-fought 81-74 double overtime win over the Rapoport Academy Meyer Ravens last Tuesday behind a triple-double from Payne, who scored a season-high 28 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. Phillips added 16 points while Rodriguez tossed in 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and came up with a team-high four steals.

Trailing by 10 entering the final period, the Cubs outscored Meyer, 22-12, to force overtime, held their own to tie in the first extra period, before putting the Ravens away with a 10-3 run.

After that wild contest, Clifton took care of business in a resounding 44-12 victory over the Class 2A Meridian Yellowjackets Friday as Rodriguez scored a game-high 17 points, Payne dished out five assists and sophomore Makail Brandenberger pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.

The Cubs opened the season with a 50-41 victory over Veritas Academy in Austin Nov. 14 as Payne tossed in 20 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and dished out five assists — all team-highs — while Rodriguez added 11 points and Yates grabbed nine rebounds.

Payne scored 24 points while accumulating 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals in a dominating 52-26 victory at Meridian as Phillips and Rodriguez tossing in 10 points apiece. Payne provided another strong performance in Clifton’s 63-29 victory over Groesbeck by leading the Cubs in scoring (23), rebounds (6), assists (5) and steals (7).

After playing back-to-back games on the road, Clifton returned home to knock off the Class 4A Godley Wildcats, 46-41, Nov. 21 as Payne scored a game-high 26 points and dominated the boards with 11 rebounds.

Running their winning streak to five straight before the Thanksgiving break, the Cubs rolled past the Hamilton Bulldogs, 52-37, on the road as Payne tossed 17 points, followed by Phillips with 15 while Jorge Rodriguez and Luis Rodriguez added nine points apiece. Phillips led Clifton with eight rebounds while dished out eight assists.

With District 17-3A competition opening right after Christmas, the Cubs will begin their quest to advance to the postseason for the first time in 15 years by hosting the McGregor Bulldogs Dec. 30 at Clifton High School Gym. But with state-ranked Grandview gone, the district will have a new look following the UIL realignment.

According to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason district picks, 19th-ranked Lorena (6-1) entered the season as the favorite, followed by McGregor, Troy and West. Lorena moves down for Class 4A, McGregor and Troy move in from District 19-3A, Riesel crosses over after placing second in District 18-3A, while West and Whitney return to 17-3A along with the Cubs.

Photos by DAVID HARDING

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