Bright lights and big crowds can only mean one thing: Texas high school football is back in the Metroplex. While the Cowboys and the rest of the college teams around the state continue to prepare, teams like Allen, Trinity and Aledo will begin their quest this week for a state football championship.
Here's a look at the five best high school games in the area:
Duncanville (0-0) vs. Colleyville Heritage (0-0): A battle of the Panthers takes place on Saturday at Pizza Hut Park, as two of the top teams in district 5-5A and 6-5A go head-to-head in a top non-district battle. Heritage head coach Mike Fuller returns 10 starters from him 2009 squad that finished 5-2 as bi-district finalists. Linebacker Jamen Sisk and defensive lineman John David Cook anchor the Panther defense. Quarterback Jeff Calvert, who was also the team's leading rusher last year, returns to lead the Heritage offense.
They'll be facing a Duncanville squad that's looking to get back to the playoffs after going 4-5/3-3 district last season. Quarterback Divan Ealy is the biggest question mark for head coach Jeff Dicus. The junior will make his return to the starting lineup after missing most of the year due to a season-ending injury. With nine starters returning for 2010, there doesn't seem to be a big difference between these two teams.
While Duncanville does seem primed for a big year in 5-5A, I wouldn't expect a whole lot from Ealy in his first start of the season. Heritage and quarterback Jeff Calvert should find a way to win this one in the second half.
Pick: Colleyville Heritage
Stephenville (0-0) vs. Aledo (0-0): Aledo and Stephenville have some bad blood to settle after last year's second-round overtime battle. Aledo knocked off Stephenville, 26-23, and went on to win the state championship in Division II 4A.
Both schools are returning a ton of talent from their '09 squads for Friday night's battle at Bearcat Stadium (Aledo). Stephenville returns 15 starters, while Aledo returns 11. Aledo running back Johnathan Gray could be the best back in the state. He rushed for 2,813 yards and 50 touchdowns last season. And did we mention he did all of that as a sophomore?
Stephenville is a traditional high school powerhouse, but even I'm not sure they have someone to contain Gray. While Yellow Jacket quarterback Connor Washington has the veteran presence, he'll find things increasingly difficult against a stingy Aledo defense.
Allen (0-0) vs. Cedar Hill (0-0): The second game in Saturday's 2010 Tom Landry Classic at SMU's Ford Stadium is a matchup to watch. Allen finished the 2009 at 10-2 overall/7-2 district as the Division II area finalist. And while they only return four starters in 2010, the few that are returning should give them a shot at contending for a state title in 5A.
Receiver Jonathan Lee, who caught 53 passes for 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns, will be the top threat on a team that must find a way to replace 14 starters, including QB Matt Brown. Lee, who already committed to Baylor, will need to get the ball as often as possible against a very good Cedar Hill defense.
Allen will also rely on the running back trio of Jonathan Williams, Kyree Owens and Paul Walker. With so much depth at the running back position, expect the Eagles to grind it out on the ground when they can, alleviating some of the pressure being put on the quarterback.
Cedar Hill has one of the best quarterbacks in the area in Driphus Jackson. The senior, who is 24-3 as a varsity starter, had a banner year in 2009, passing for 1,506 yards and 16 touchdowns. With receivers Lovett Gibson and Andre Anderson returning as well, Allen's relatively inexperienced defense could be in for a difficult night.
Even with the lack of depth on defense, expect Allen to find a way to get a big opening week win against one of the better teams in the area.
Everman (0-0) vs. Highland Park (0-0): The Scots and the Bulldogs open Saturday's 2010 Tom Landry Classic with one of the more intriguing games of the weekend. Everman head coach Dale Keeling has transformed the Bulldogs into one of the best teams in distrcit 7-4A. The running back duo of James Bailey and Cory Franklin gives Everman a distinct ground advantage. Throw in one of the biggest offensive lines in the area and your have the makings of a dominant offense.
Highland Park lost 50 seniors from last year's team (no, that's not a typo), meaning they'll be starting from scratch in 2010. It's hard to believe the words Highland Park and rebuilding could go together -- but they do this season. Quarterback Jake Howeth will have the biggest target on his chest. Given the quarterbacks Highland Park haveproduced recently, he'll certainly have to carry a majority of the pressure.
Highland Park should find a way to get the season on track, but inexperience in a big game could prove to be too much against one of the best teams in 4A. Expect Everman to jump out to an early lead and use the duo of Franklin and Bailey to wear down the Scots late in the game.
Trinity (0-0) vs. Tyler Lee (0-0): Trinity returns almost all of their starters from the '09 state championship team, meaning the rest of the state should be in on alert once again. The worst part of all is that Trinity will get even better this year with the return of running back Tevin Williams and tight end Nila Kneubuhi to an offense that still found a way to win without two of their best players.
Even with the return of Williams and Kneubuhi, receiver Brandon Carter is still the big play threat for Trinity, and he'll certainly give Tyler Lee all they can handle on Saturday night. The Lee Red Raiders return 12 starters this season, including CB Cortland Browning, SS Chad Reese and FS Marvin Gray.
Lee should have more than enough on the defensive side of the ball to contain the Trinity passing attack; what this game will really come down to is if Lee can put up points against on of the toughest defenses in the country. While tailback LaQuintas Wallace is a great player, he's only a sophomore. And I just don't see a sophomore knocking off the defending state champs all by himself.
Lee does have the home field advantage, but I'm not sure it'll matter against Trinity. Look for the Warriors to score early and often against on of the best teams in district 11-5A.