Midseason report card: SBLive’s 25 most impressive Texas high school football teams halfway through 2021 season

The 2021 Texas high school football season hits the halfway point entering Week 6 with district championship and playoff races across the state beginning to heat up.

Several teams throughout Texas have stood out after five weeks of regular-season play from perennial powers dominating the front-end of their schedules to surprise starts and the top turnarounds so far this year.

SBLive is taking the opportunity to hand out a midseason report card evaluating the 25 most impressive teams around the state after the first half of the 2021 regular season:

CYPRESS BRIDGELAND BEARS (5-0, 2-0)

Bridgeland, the eighth-ranked team in SBLive’s Texas Top 50, battled through one of the toughest schedules around the state in the first five weeks of the season with three straight wins against 6A playoff teams from last year to start. The Bears smoked Klein Cain 54-14 in their nationally-televised season opener and earned gritty wins against Alvin Shadow Creek and The Woodlands. Bridgeland boasts one of the state’s most prolific offenses halfway through the season led by senior quarterback Conner Weignman, a five-star prospect and Texas A&M commit. Weigman has inserted himself into the Mr. Texas Football award conversation with a scorching-hot start that includes 1,652 yards and 15 touchdowns on 110-of-171 passing, 436 yards and five TDs on the ground and 62 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches. The Bears are averaging 41.2 points per contest as they enter the thick of district play in 16-6A. Bridgeland will aim for its 21st victory in its last 23 games against Cypress Ranch (3-1, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium.

REFUGIO BOBCATS (6-0)

Refugio has been setting the standard for small schools in the Coastal Bend for years, and the 2021 Bobcats haven’t strayed from tradition. After another deep postseason run in 2A DI last year, Refugio has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders and smashed every team on its non-district schedule. The Bobcats notched quality wins against a pair of Class 3A teams in a 55-0 blowout against George West and a 55-38 victory over Edna. They also obliterated Class 4A Crystal City 57-0 on the road. Refugio has pitched three shutouts in six games defensively and cumulatively outscored its opponents 358-51. It’s the program’s third consecutive 5-0 start thanks to one of the most balanced and talented sub-5A rosters throughout Texas high school football. The Bobcats have gotten major contributions on both sides of the ball from 6-foot-2 senior receiver and defensive back Jordan Kelley, a Power Five caliber recruit with 829 total yards and nine touchdowns on 37 touches, whose 22.4 yards per touch are an indicator of the Bobcats’ big-play potential. Refugio will kick off its district slate at home against Bloomington (2-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

DENTON GUYER WILDCATS (6-0, 2-0)

Few teams have tallied as many signature victories as Denton Guyer through the first half of the season. The Wildcats, who are the No. 4 team in SBLive’s Texas Top 50 and ranked 18th nationally in SBLive’s Power 25, eked out a 14-7 overtime win against rival Denton Ryan. The victory was Guyer’s first over Ryan since 2014 and handed the Rangers their first regular season loss in almost seven years. The Wildcats kept rolling afterwards by beating Humble Atascocita, fresh off snapping Allen’s 84-game home winning streak, 46-35 at home and securing a decisive 44-26 road win over McKinney in their district opener. Guyer has already avenged 2020 losses to Denton Ryan and McKinney, and the Wildcats have looked like one of the state’s most complete teams by showing the capacity to take over games with their offense or defense. Junior quarterback Jackson Arnold has been sharp in his first full season as starter throwing for 1,156 yards and 11 touchdowns on 96-of-160 passing. Guyer’s defense is also loaded with DI prospects from senior safety Marquan Pope, a Pittsburgh commit, and senior linebacker Vincent Paige, a North Texas commit, to junior safeties Peyton Bowen and Ryan Yaites who are both uncommitted four-star recruits. The Wildcats will host Denton Braswell (4-2, 1-1) in its next District 5-6A contest at 7 p.m. Friday at the C.H. Athletic Complex in Denton.

AUSTIN WESTLAKE CHAPARRALS (5-0, 2-0)

No team in Texas high school football was as dominant as Austin Westlake during the opening half of the regular season. The Chaparrals have owned the top spot in SBLive’s Texas Top 50 and a top-five national ranking in SBLive’s Power 25 since the preseason. Westlake, which is currently ranked fourth in the Power 25, annihilated a trio of playoff teams from last year in consecutive blowout wins to kick off the 2021 campaign. Euless Trinity, Mansfield Summit and Temple combined for eight postseason victories in the 5A and 6A playoffs in 2020, but this year they were cumulatively outscored 147-48 by Austin Westlake in wire-to-wire victories for the Chaps that were never in question. Westlake’s defense has shown its effectiveness against both elite passing and rushing opposing offenses. The Chaparrals limited Trinity senior running back Ollie Gordon, an Oklahoma State commit, to a season-low 7.0 yards per carry in a 34-14 win against the Trojans, kept Temple’s passing attack in check in a 54-13 victory and held both teams to season lows in points. The Chaps also possess one of the state’s best offenses that’s rich in FBS talent at every position. Senior quarterback Cade Klubnik, a five-star recruit and Clemson commit, has thrown for 1,317 yards and 19 TDs on 87-of-121 passing through five games this season. He has five receivers with at least 100 yards through the air so far this fall but his favorite target has been junior Jaden Greathouse, a four-star tight end prospect with team highs in catches (23), receiving yards (436) and touchdown receptions (six). Klubnik is protected by one of the most talented offensive lines in high school football across the country that features senior offensive tackle Bray Lynch, an Indiana commit, senior guard Connor Robertson, a Texas commit, and junior guard TJ Shanahan, who holds nearly 40 offers from DI programs. The Chaps have tallied at least 475 total yards in each of their games so far this season, including 170 rushing yards in every contest and 300 passing yards or more in three of its first five games. Westlake will look to top the 50-point mark for the fourth consecutive contest and add to its 29-game winning streak, the longest active streak in Texas high school football, when the Chaps host Austin Bowie (5-0, 2-0) in District 26-6A action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chaparral Stadium in Austin.

HARLINGEN SOUTH HAWKS (5-0)

The Hawks have captivated the Rio Grande Valley with their strong showing through the first half of the 2021 season and they’re starting to turn heads around the state. Harlingen South has sprinted out to its first 5-0 start since 2013 under the leadership of first-year head coach Israel Gonzalez, a Harlingen High grad who took Lyford to the area round of the 3A DI playoffs last year. The Hawks have turned into one of the RGV’s toughest teams with Gonzalez at the helm. South crushed Sharyland Pioneer, a regional finalist in the 5A DII playoffs last season, in a 64-0 road beatdown to hand the Diamondbacks’ their only loss of the season so far. The Hawks have also already knocked off both of District 32-6A’s reigning co-champs from last year in victories over Brownsville Hanna and Harlingen in addition to a pair of solid non-district wins against Alice and Brownsville Veterans. The team’s win over Harlingen in the Bird Bowl during Week 6 snapped a streak of 13 straight losses to the Cardinals in their crosstown rivalry series. Gonzalez and his staff have brought a new energy and mindset to the south side of Harlingen that has quickly started to pay dividends. The Hawks have soared to the top of the District 32-6A standings and have positioned themselves to contend with unbeaten San Benito and undefeated Weslaco for the district championship. A huge part of South’s success has been one of the best defenses in South Texas. Harlingen South’s defense has allowed 9.8 points per contest through five games this year. The senior quarterback-running back combo of Xander Casarez (624 passing yards, eight TDs) and Jeremiah Rivera (389 rushing yards, 5 TDs) give the team one of the area’s most balanced offenses too. The Hawks will have a chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat of the 32-6A district title race when they travel to face San Benito (5-0) in a battle of unbeatens at 7 p.m. Friday at Bobby Morrow Stadium.

BUDA JOHNSON JAGUARS (5-0, 2-0)

The Jaguars have had one of the state’s most unstoppable offenses through the first half of the 2021 season. In the third year of the program, Buda Johnson has tallied at least 52 points in each of its five games to date. It’s a remarkable start for a Johnson program that now sits one victory away from tying the school’s all-time record for wins in a single season after a 6-4 finish last year. The Jaguars’ offense might be the most prolific unit throughout Central Texas led by junior quarterback Jesse Medina (1,277 yards, 15 TDs on 64-of-96 passing). Medina also leads a group of five rushers with at least 100 yards on the ground this season, and has leaned on the wide receiver duo of Ethan McCalister (419 yards, four TDs) and Alex Rodriguez (345 yards, five TDs). Johnson’s defense has been equally effective by stopping every opposing offense that has faced it in their tracks. The unit has only allowed 9.4 points per game to opposing offenses in five games this fall. The Jaguars will put their perfect record on the line again in Week 7 when they travel to face San Antonio Veterans (3-2, 1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Edgewood Veterans Stadium in San Antonio

ROCKWALL HEATH HAWKS (5-1, 1-0)

Hardly any offense throughout Texas high school football can match the level of firepower at Rockwall Heath and it’s shown early in the season. The Hawks have marched into the top 10 of SBLive’s Texas Top 50 after a series of wild games to start the year including a 36-35 loss to third-ranked Southlake Carroll on a blocked field goal as time expired and a 79-71 double overtime win over rival Rockwall in the I-30 Classic. Heath became the first 11-man team in Texas high school football to score 300 points this season after their win over Rockwall. The team’s offense can claim one of the state’s most productive workhorse backs in senior Zach Evans, a Minnesota commit with 738 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, as well as an elite wide receiver duo in seniors Jay Fair, an Auburn commit with 546 receiving yards and seven TDs, and Jordan Nabors, a Baylor commit with 665 yards and six receiving scores. The pilot of the Hawks’ high-flying offense is senior quarterback and Indiana commit Josh Hoover, who has established himself as one of the state’s top passers with 1,797 yards and 21 TDs through the air in six games. Heath heads into Week 7 locked in a tie for first place in District 10-6A with Tyler Legacy, which could set up a de-facto district championship game in late October, and should be a major force in Region II once the 6A playoffs begin in November. For now, though, the Hawks will be focussed on their next district contest coming up against North Mesquite (1-4, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium in Rockwall.

BANDERA BULLDOGS (4-1)

Bandera has been one of the state’s most exciting turnaround tales in 2021. The Bulldogs went 0-9 and were outscored by 331 points during the 2020 season, but that’s already a distant memory after an electrifying start. Bandera has surged to the forefront this year in District 15-4A DII with a 4-1 start that stands out as one of the best throughout South Texas. The Bulldogs dropped their season-opener on the road against Poteet, the team’s 12th straight loss, but rebounded in Week 2 with a 14-13 win over Cotulla to snap the streak. That victory sparked an impressive run for the Bulldogs, who have bullied their three most recent opponents amidst a four-game winning streak. Bandera blanked San Antonio Cole and Manor New Tech in Week 3 and 5, respectively, and crushed Comfort 40-6 to finish its non-district slate as one of the hottest 4A DII teams in Region IV this fall. The Bulldogs are allowing just 4.8 points per contest during its current winning streak that’s likely to carry the group back into the playoffs a year after a winless season. Bandera could run all the way to a district title behind the backfield tandem of senior running back Brock Johnson (439 yards, five TDs) and senior quarterbacks Tyler Moore (436 passing yards, six TDs; 475 rushing yards, five TDs) leading the team’s prolific rushing attack that has accounted for more than 135 yards on the ground in every game so far this season. The Bulldogs will look to add to their winning streak as they begin district play in 15-4A DII against Crystal City (0-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Javelina Field in Crystal City.

STEPHENVILLE YELLOW JACKETS (5-0)

Stephenville has thumped all five of its opponents halfway through the regular season without much strong opposition to take a place as one of the state’s top teams in 4A DI. The Yellow Jackets completed a perfect run through their non-district schedule with an impressive series of victories highlighted by a 38-14 win over Everman (5A DII) and a 48-21 win against Salado (4A DII). Stephenville’s offense is captained by one of the state’s most prolific and accurate passers in junior R Lambert, who has thrown for 1,575 yards, 19 TDs and one interception on 95-of-144 passing. Lambert has also added 288 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to lead the charge for an offense that is averaging 510.2 total yards of offense per game. The Yellow Jackets’ stout defense has also been a major factor in their recent success after holding opponents to 13.6 points per game during the first half of the regular season. Senior middle linebacker Reese Young has taken over as the team’s emotional leader defensively with a team-high 75 tackles, six TFLs, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in five games. Stephenville should be in prime position to claim a district championship in a top-heavy District 5-4A DII if the team can roll that positive momentum from the beginning of the season into the stretch run. The Yellow Jackets should be favorites in the remainder of their games until the postseason begins, where they’ll be a solid bet to contend for a regional championship and more. Stephenville will kick off district play with an important matchup against Waco La Vega (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Willie Williams Stadium in Waco.

FLORESVILLE TIGERS (5-0)

Floresville has already surpassed its win total from last year. The Tigers finished 3-7 with a loss in the bi-district round of the 5A DII playoffs, but they’ve raced out to a 5-0 start to the 2021 campaign. Floresville took down all five of its non-district opponents including the District 14-5A DI trio of San Antonio Southside, San Antonio Southwest and San Antonio Southwest Legacy. The Tigers have also escaped with several close wins that include victories over Southwest Legacy by three, La Vernia by two and San Antonio Antonian Prep by one in overtime. The team hasn’t been able to consistently rely on its defense, but it hasn’t mattered much with one of the state’s most explosive offenses backing it up. Floresville has scored 38.6 points per game so far this year with that number likely to continue to rise. Senior running back Dareion Murphy, a Princeton commit and Texas Sports Writers Association all-state pick last year, has been excellent out of the backfield with 688 yards and 12 touchdowns on 75 carries. Murphy, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground in all five games this fall, pairs with dual-threat quarterback Braedyn Fuller (801 passing yards, 10 TDs; 559 rushing yards, four TDs) to create one of the most difficult-to-contain duos offensively throughout South Texas. Fuller, Murphy and the Tigers will encounter their stiffest opposition of the 2021 campaign thus far when they open up district play against San Antonio Alamo Heights (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Harry B. Orem Stadium in San Antonio.

SPRING WESTFIELD MUSTANGS (5-0, 2-0)

Westfield may have been the Houston area’s most impressive team, especially defensively, through the first half of the season. The Mustangs held all five of their opponents — Aldine Davis, Fort Bend Hightower, Galena Park North Shore, Houston Strake Jesuit and Spring — to their lowest point totals of the season. Westfield has also been the only team to beat either North Shore or Spring at the season’s midway point. The Mustangs have collected wins against four playoff teams in 6A and 5A DI last year and passed every test thus far with one of the area’s most difficult schedules. Westfield has yielded 12.8 points per contest five games into the 2021 campaign. The team owns one of the stingiest defenses in 6A headlined by senior defensive tackle Anthony Holmes Jr, a Virginia commit who also leads all Class 6A defenders with 11 sacks in addition to 50 tackles, two pass deflections and a forced fumble this season. On the offensive side of the ball, the Mustangs can lean on one of the state’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks with a strong arm in senior Cardel Williams, a Tulsa commit, who has thrown for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns on 75-of-128 passing and run for 59 yards and three scores. Four Westfield receivers have more than 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch of 40 yards or more this season. The Mustangs should be big favorites in the remainder of their district contests and control their own destiny on the way to the District 14-6A title. Westfield will look to move one step closer to clinching that district championship when the Mustangs host Aldine Nimitz (1-4, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Planet Ford Stadium in Spring.

PORT ISABEL TARPONS (5-0, 2-0)

Port Isabel has been one of the best examples of a team whose season was hampered by COVID-19 complications during the 2020 campaign that has taken off this year. The Tarpons were limited to one actual game, which they lost 36-35 to PSJA Southwest, last year due to a condensed season in the Rio Grande Valley amid the pandemic. Port Isabel was then forced to forfeit its only district game of the year against Raymondville due to contact tracing that ruled out a majority of the team’s players after District 16-4A DII was split into separate RGV and Corpus Christi area zones due to travel restrictions. The Tarpons have come roaring back in 2021 in their first full season under second-year head coach Tony Villarreal. Port Isabel has dominated the early portion of its schedule to log the program’s first season with five or more wins since 2016. The Tarpons opened up their 2021 campaign with a series of lopsided victories against Aransas Pass (), Brownsville St. Joseph (TAPPS DII) and Valley View (5A DII). Port Isabel then opened up district play with back-to-back wins after a 55-40 shootout victory at Robstown and a 40-22 win at home over Raymondville. The Tarpons are scoring 44.0 points per game halfway through the regular season with one of the most productive rushing attacks in South Texas that has totaled at least 290 yards on the ground in every game so far this season. Port Isabel will have to defend its place in the 16-4A DII district title hunt in Week 7 when the Tarpons travel to face the Sinton Pirates (4-1, 1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pirate Stadium in Sinton.

SAN ANTONIO HOLMES HUSKIES (4-1, 2-1)

San Antonio Holmes has been one of the best turnaround stories at any level of Texas high school football this year. The Huskies finished last year in eighth place in District 29-6A with a 1-8 overall record. Holmes has turned the corner and appears destined for the program’s best season in years. The Huskies are 4-1 at the halfway point in their 2021 campaign, which already represents one of the most significant year-to-year improvements anywhere in the state. Holmes notched significant road wins against San Antonio Lee (42-10) and San Antonio O’Connor (39-14). The Huskies also muscled out a 35-34 victory over San Marcos and downed San Antonio Jay, another highly improved San Antonio area team, 41-14 to hit the Mustangs with their second loss of the season. Holmes’ only loss came to unbeaten San Antonio Taft in a 14-13 home defeat. All signs are pointing toward the Huskies remaining in the thick of the postseason hunt, however. Holmes touts the running back duo of senior C Medelez and junior C Maxey, who have combined for 910 rushing yards and 15 TDs on 175 carries and lead a unit that hasn’t lost a fumble or thrown an interception through five games this fall. The Huskies are even stronger defensively after allowing 13.7 points per game since the beginning of district play. Holmes has placed itself squarely in 29-6A’s title race and can do a lot to solidify its place at the top of the district standings with wins over San Antonio Marshall and San Antonio Brennan in the coming weeks. The Huskies will have a chance to show how serious of contenders they’ll be for the 29-6A district title when they travel to face Marshall (5-1, 3-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Farris Stadium in San Antonio 

AUSTIN LBJ JAGUARS (5-0, 1-0)

The Jaguars have been the state’s most impressive 4A DI halfway through the regular season. Austin LBJ has secured several impressive victories by beating 5A powerhouses Liberty Hill and Manor, another top-tier 4A squad in Waco La Vega as well as Dallas Parish Episcopal and San Antonio Cornerstone, two of the state’s top private school teams. The Jags are undefeated against a group of teams that have tallied a collective 18-4 record in games against other teams this season. LBJ dealt Dallas Parish and Manor their only losses of the opening half of the 2021 season. The Jaguars have been one of the most balanced offenses in 4A behind the leadership of senior quarterback Oscar Gordon III, a second-year starter and Texas Southern commit. Gordon has thrown for 708 yards and 14 touchdowns and run for 399 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground in LBJ’s five wins. He’s surrounded by an athletic group of running backs and wide receivers headlined by junior running back Sedrick Alexander, senior receiver Trent Leary and sophomore wideout Fatu Mukuba. A strong defense is highlighted by junior linebacker Latreveon McCutchin, who has 13 tackles, two TFLs and an interception this fall, and senior defensive back Tyrone Jurrells, who has tallied 18 tackles, five TFLs and a sack so far. Senior defensive end Jayden Rauls (20 tackles, nine TFLs, three sacks) has spearheaded a relentless Jaguars’ pass rush too defensively. Austin LBJ will look to carry its early-season momentum into the start of district play when the team battles Comal Canyon Lake (3-2) in District 13-4A DI action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Nelson Field in Austin 

SHINER COMANCHES (5-0)

The Comanches have been virtually unstoppable and mauled most of their non-district opponents from larger classifications. Shiner, the defending 2A DI state champion, won all five of its non-district games by at least two possessions each and handed Hallettsville (3A DI), Poth (3A DII) and Burton (2A DII) their only losses of the season. The team has played one of the state’s toughest sub-5A schedules in non-district play without stumbling. The Comanches’ six victims so far have combined for a 20-5 record in games against other teams, and they’ve beaten four 3A and 2A squads with winning records this year. Little seems to be standing in the way of another deep postseason run for Shiner, which has delivered one of the most dominant early-season performances of a defending state champion in recent memory. The Comanches’ 20-game winning streak is the second-longest active streak throughout Texas high school football. Shiner has thrived on the defensive side of the ball where the team has allowed 8.5 points per contest through four games. Leading the Comanches rock-solid defense are cousins Dalton and Doug Brooks, both two-way stars with multiple FBS offers. Dalton Brooks — a four-star Class of 2023 recruit with offers from 19 DI programs — anchors Shiner’s lockdown secondary and adds game-breaking speed offensively as a wide receiver. Doug Brooks — a senior and TSWA all-state pick with four DI offers — stars as a defensive tackle in the middle of Shiner’s front seven and a bulldozing running back in the team’s backfield. The Comanches will be enormous favorites in their district games with a likely third straight matchup against Refugio looming down the line deep into the 2A DI playoffs. Shiner heads into its bye week in Week 7, but will begin its quest for a consecutive District 13-2A DI championship when the Comanches visit Flatonia (2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15.

JERSEY VILLAGE FALCONS (5-0, 1-0)

The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in the last 18 years and have skyrocketed to the top of District 17-6A in a remarkable turnaround in northwest Houston. Jersey Village earned its first playoff berth in years, and earned a bi-district win, in 2020, but the team has reloaded and come back far stronger this fall. The team earned a 31-28 upset win over Langham Creek in Week 2 that confirmed the Falcons were a new and improved group. Jersey Village closed out a 3-0 run in non-district play that also included a blowout victory over Alief Hastings and a one-touchdown win against Cypress Springs. The Falcons, however, have been even better since district play began in 17-6A. Jersey Village trailed Houston Memorial 7-0 after the first quarter of its district slate wrapped up, but has outscored the Mustangs and Houston Northbrook 72-0 in the last seven quarters the team has played. The Falcons have found success with multiple quarterbacks in sophomore Adam Tran (480 passing yards, three TDs) and junior Arbrie Carter (359 passing yards, three TDs), but the team’s strength lies on the defensive side of the ball. Juniors Chris Noble and Darius Johnson have formed one of the state’s best defensive back duos in 6A with 32 tackles, six interceptions, six pass breakups, five TFLs and a fumble recovery combined. The Falcons also lead their district with 11 sacks as a team split between six defenders and 35 cumulative tackles for loss. Jersey Village will host the Cy-Fair Bobcats (2-2, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Ken Pridgeon Stadium in Houston in its most important district game of the year so far.

MERCEDES TIGERS (6-0, 4-0)

The Tigers have been the RGV’s most untouchable team in 5A so far this season with wins against three playoff teams from last year through six games. Mercedes manhandled District 16-5A DII rival Edcocuh-Elsa, a bi-district qualifier in 2020, 35-10 in Week 6 to move to 4-0 in district play. The Tigers also took down Brownsville Hanna, the reigning District 32-6A co-champs, in a 42-14 season-opening road win and Edinburg North, a 6A bi-district qualifier, 24-14 in their home opener. Mercedes flexed its muscle during a three-game run at the beginning of district play in which the team outscored PSJA Memorial, Roma and Valley View 193-28. Senior quarterback Michael Cisneros, a third-year starter, has excelled as a passer with 1,515 yards and 19 TDs on 88-of-117 passing through the air and as a rusher with 312 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Mercedes has been bolstered by a deep group of athletic, speedy flex players at skill positions offensively. Headlining a group of three receivers with 250 yards or more is junior Tyrell Trevino (471 receiving yards, four TDs; 187 rushing yards, two TDs), who burst onto the RGV’s football scene last year as the district’s offensive newcomer of the year. The Tigers also own the Valley’s most effective pair of edge rushers in senior defensive ends Roan Galvan and Jonathan Alvarado. Galvan has tallied 65 tackles, nine TFLs, five sacks and two forced fumbles in five games this fall, while Alvarado has recorded a team-high 76 tackles, nine TFLs, four sacks and a fumble recovery through six games. The Tigers should end the season fighting Mission Veterans and Sharyland Pioneer for the 16-5A DII district championship with those two matchups waiting for Mercedes in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Tigers will host district rival Sharyland (3-2, 2-1) in Week 7 action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium in Mercedes.

CARRIZO SPRINGS WILDCATS (5-0)

Perhaps no team in Southwest Texas experienced a more dominant start to the season than Carrizo Springs. The Wildcats, who finished 4-7 last year with a first-round loss in the 4A DII playoffs, have already surpassed their 2020 win total this fall and guaranteed themselves the program’s first .500 or better regular-season finish in the last decade. For the first time in the 21st century, Carrizo Springs remains undefeated and a legitimate district title contender at the season’s halfway point. The Wildcats recorded four consecutive defensive shutouts to start their 2021 campaign by blanking Cotulla (3A DI), Manor New Tech (4A DII), San Antonio St. Anthony’s (TAPPS DI) and Uvalde (4A DI). Carrizo Springs also collected a 16-point home win over Zapata to increase their scoring margin for the season to 185-24 five games into their schedule. This year’s version might already be the program’s best squad of the past two decades, but the Wildcats still have much to prove with a full slate of district play ahead. Carrizo Springs’ ability to burn opponents on the ground offensively and smother them defensively will make the Wildcats a team to watch in the District 15-4A DII title picture as the postseason nears. Carrizo Springs will face its toughest test of the season so far when the Wildcats welcome Devine (4-1) to Frank Carter Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday to kick off district play after falling to the War Horses 63-24 in last year’s meeting.

NEDERLAND BULLDOGS (5-0, 2-0)

The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams throughout East Texas after the opening half of the 2021 high school football season. Nederland is off and running after securing one-possession wins over West Orange-Stark and Silsbee and a blowout victory against Houston Austin in non-district play. The Bulldogs kicked off district play in 12-5A DII with a bang too. The team beat rival Port Neches-Groves 38-28 in Mid-County Madness before steamrolling Santa Fe 31-0 to ascend to the top of the district standings. The hot start has put Nederland on track to successfully defend its district title and represents the team’s first 5-0 start to a season since 2018. The Bulldogs have been buoyed by an elite defense headlined by two-way star Kydon Fuselier, who caught 47 passes for 834 yards last year as a wide receiver offensively. He’s also developed a reputation as one of the most athletic defensive backs throughout 5A. Nederland has allowed 14.8 points per game defensively and is winning by an average of 17.8 points per contest. Offensively, dual-threat quarterback Luke Broussard has given the unit balance with the ability to take over games on the ground or with the team’s aerial attack. The Bulldogs will prepare for their biggest clash of the season to date when they battle Texas City (5-0, 2-0) for first place in 12-5A DII at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stingaree Stadium in Texas City. 

BROCK EAGLES (5-0, 2-0)

Brock has been one of the most impressive 3A teams around the state so far this fall. The Eagles have soared back to the top of the District 4-3A DI standings after obliterating Bowie 68-6 and beating Paradise 35-16 to open up district play. Brock also navigated a rigorous non-district schedule with relative ease. The Eagles blew out 4A DII powers Iowa Park and Nevada Community and earned a dominant win over 3A DI playoff regular Bushland. Brock’s defense has delivered several impeccable performances thus far and it might be one of the top units defensively throughout North Texas. The Eagles are only allowing 8.8 points per game this year to teams with a combined 14-9 record in games against other teams. Brock also owns one of the most balanced offenses in North Texas headlined by senior tight end Nathan Jones, a three-star recruit and Abilene Christian commit who stretches the field as a receiver and sets the table for the Eagles’ backs as a blocker. Jones is a good example of Brock’s physicality as a team, often overwhelming opponents at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Eagles earned a massive district victory on the road in Week 6 over Paradise to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. That cleared the way for Brock to rumble toward another district title in preparation for a postseason run back to the 3A DI state championship game. The Eagles will have a chance to move another step closer to that goal when they square off against Whitesboro (3-2, 2-0) in a battle for first place in 4-3A DI at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle Stadium in Brock.

EDINBURG VELA SABERCATS (5-0, 3-0)

Edinburg Vela’s reign at the top of Class 6A in the Rio Grande Valley has rolled into 2021. The SaberCats are off to one of the most sensational starts in the program’s 10-year history having passed every test so far with flying colors. Vela vanquished RGV heavyweights in 6A and 5A in non-district play with dominant wins over Harlingen (30-3) and McAllen Memorial (42-6). The SaberCats have been even better in district play, clobbering their first four District 31-6A opponents. Vela has held its opposition to seven points or less in three of four district contests, and the team is outscoring 31-6A opponents 204-26. The SaberCats haven’t lost a game within the Valley since 2019 and should be heavy favorites in the rest of their games until a regular-season finale at home against Mission. Vela boasts the grittiest defense throughout South Texas that has allowed 5.8 points per game through the toughest part of its regular-season schedule. The SaberCats have a talented secondary and junior defensive lineman Jake Dufner is a major game changer in the SaberCats’ front seven and might be the RGV’s best defender. The key to Edinburg Vela’s dominance in the Valley, however, traces back to an offense with more firepower than any other area team. Senior quarterback Chase Campbell, a DI-caliber recruit, has thrown for 817 yards and 11 TDs on 57-of-89 passing as the leader of an efficient offense that has secured a majority of its victories by halftime. Senior PJ Rivera (100 rushing yards, five TDs; 299 receiving yards, three TDs) leads a group of four running backs with at least 100 rushing yards and a separate group of three receivers with at least 200 yards through the air. The SaberCats secured sole possession of first place in District 31-6A with their rivalry game victory over Edinburg in Week 6 and can lock up their second straight district title by winning out. Vela will go on the road in Week 7 to face the PSJA High Bears (3-2, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at PSJA Stadium in Pharr.

GARLAND OWLS (6-0, 3-0)

The Owls have been one of the DFW’s most improved teams through the opening half of the 2021 season. Garland finished last year at 5-4 with a bi-district round 6A DII playoff loss after their 2020 campaign was complicated by the pandemic. The Owls, however, are off to one of the hottest starts of any 6A squad in North Texas this year after winning each of their first six games to surpass their win total from last year. Garland has won every game so far by at least four touchdowns, including a sweep of its non-district schedule against Dallas Kimball, Plano Prestonwood and Richardson. The team has dominated District 9-6A out of the gate too with blowout wins over Garland Lakeview Centennial, Garland Naaman Forest and Wylie. The Owls boast one of the state’s most prolific offenses with 40 points or more in every game this year and at least points in three victories. Seniors Cergio Perez and Jordan Hudson have been one of the top quarterback-wide receiver combos around the state this fall. Perez, a South Dakota commit, leads the DFW in passing this year after throwing for 2,012 yards and 28 TDs on 136-of-191 passing. Hudson, a four-star prospect and SMU commit, leads the team with 38 catches for 644 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. Garland’s defense has also held its opponents to 12.2 points per game thus far. The Owls own one of the most talented secondaries in 6A led by senior defensive back Aaron King (13 tackles, four pass deflections), a three-star recruit with multiple FBS offers, and senior safety Chace Biddle (15 tackles, three pass breakups, two interceptions), a four-star prospect and SMU commit. Garland will enter a bye in Week 7 to prepare for its biggest district contest of the season so far against Sachse (4-2, 3-0) in a clash for first place in 9-6A at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 at Homer B Johnson Stadium in Garland.

MART PANTHERS (5-0)

Mart has enjoyed one of the most dominant starts of any team in Central Texas this fall. The Panthers have pounded every team on their non-district schedule, collecting five straight wins to start the year. Mart has limited four of its five opponents to a touchdown or less defensively and secured shutout road wins against Flatonia and Teague. The Panthers’ defense has been one of the best units in 2A through five games this year after only allowing 5.4 points per contest. The team’s defense has been bolstered by seven players with 30 tackles or more this season already highlighted by senior defensive back Da’Marian Medlock (80 tackles, seven pass deflections, three forced fumbles, three TFLs, two interceptions, sack) and senior defensive lineman Ayden Lane (30 tackles, 11 TFLs, four sacks, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery). The Panthers have also been one of the top 2A DII offenses this fall thanks to a strong ground attack. Mart’s offense has four 100-yard rushers and six players with at least one rushing score led by senior running back Klyderion Campbell (490 rushing yards, four TDs). The Panthers have won by average of 36.6 points per game in their first five victories with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Mart shifts its attention to its District 2-2A DII slate with its district opener against Chilton (4-0) in a matchup of unbeatens at 7 p.m. Friday at Featherston Field in Chilton.

BRYAN RUDDER RANGERS (6-0, 2-0)

Few teams throughout the Brazos Valley have been as solid as Bryan Rudder through the first six weeks of the season. The Rangers are off and running after a 6-0 start that has included a slew of impressive victories. Rudder dominated its non-district slate that included a forfeit win in addition to blowout victories over Bastrop and El Paso Americas, as well as a shutout win against Elgin. The Rangers have been red-hot at the start of district play too. In one of the deepest 5A districts around the state, Bryan Rudder recorded back-to-back wins over Huntsville on the road 31-28 in overtime and against Montgomery Lake Creek 27-13 to vault itself to the top of the District 10-5A DII standings two weeks into district competition. The Rangers’ victories over Huntsville and Lake Creek, both playoff teams from last year, signify their district title quest is well on its way. Rudder has already matched its win total from a 6-4 campaign in 2020 that saw the program finish in fifth place and miss out on the 5A DII playoffs by one game. This year, however, the Rangers are racing toward the postseason with little remaining to derail the team’s first trip to the playoffs in program history. Wins in two of Rudder’s final four regular-season games set a new all-time program record for wins in a single season with the first district title in school history still within reach too. The Rangers have only yielded 14.2 points per contest in the five games they’ve played so far, but the team’s offense has been its biggest reason for success so far. Rudder’s offense has averaged 40.8 points per contest led by dynamic dual-threat senior quarterback EJ Ezar, who has thrown for 1,373 yards and 13 touchdowns on 76-of-128 passing and ran for 209 yards and three rushing scores in his third year as the team’s starting signal caller. Bryan Rudder will have its biggest matchup of the season to date coming up in Week 7 against Montgomery (5-0, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Montgomery ISD Football Stadium.

CHILDRESS BOBCATS (5-0, 2-0)

Rounding out our list of the 25 most impressive teams around the state in the first half of the 2021 regular season are the Bobcats, another squad in 3A DII that has roared its way to a 5-0 start. Childress has been one of the most complete teams in North Texas and dominated much of its competition around the Panhandle this fall. The Bobcats notched a perfect run through their three game district schedule and used a different strength to secure each victory. Childress’ offense exploded in a 68-27 season-opening road win over Panhandle (2A DI). The team’s defense then flexed its muscle in a 29-7 rout of Perryton (4A DII) at home in Week 2 before relying on a complete team effort to escape with a 30-28 shootout victory on the road against Shallowater (3A DI) in its non-district finale. The Bobcats have been even better since the beginning of district play in Week 5. Childress has outscored its opposition 106-24 in back-to-back blowout wins over Amarillo Highland Park and Spearman to seize command of first place in District 3-3A DII at the season’s midpoint. The Bobcats can claim one of the state’s best passers and rushers in 3A with senior quarterback Collin Bishop and sophomore running back Dareon Mathis. Bishop has been one of the most prolific pocket passers throughout North Texas this season as a second-year starter under center. He’s thrown for 1,344 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions on 85-of-126 passing in addition to rushing for 220 yards and six scores on the ground on 37 carries in five games this year. Mathis, meanwhile, has run for 567 yards and 10 rushing TDs on 77 carries so far this fall in his first season as the team’s featured back. Bishop and Mathis are leading the Bobcats’ offense to the top of 3A after averaging 473.0 yards and 46.6 points per game through the opening half of the season. Childress’ defense has been a formidable force too. The Bobcats have allowed 217.8 yards and 17.2 per contest defensively thanks to a stout unit led by linebacker Zion Fuller, defensive lineman Jett Jones and defensive back Lamont Nickleberry, who has also chipped in with major contributions as a receiver offensively and an elusive returner on special teams with three combined kick and punt return touchdowns so far this season. The Bobcats will be a team to monitor closely from here on out as they contend for a District 3-3A DII title and a return trip to the Region I finals in the 3A DII playoffs, where they were eliminated last year in a loss to district rival Canadian. Childress will welcome another district foe, the Dimmitt Bobcats (2-4, 0-2), to town in Week 7 at 7 p.m. Friday at Fair Park Stadium in Childress as the team looks to stay atop the district standings.

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Other teams considered:Fulshear Chargers (4-2), El Paso Eastlake Falcons (5-0), San Antonio Johnson Jaguars (6-0), Keller Indians (5-1), Cypress Park Tigers (5-0), Killeen Harker Heights Knights (4-1), College Station Cougars (5-0), Angleton Wildcats (5-1). Magnolia West Mustangs (6-0), Katy Tigers (6-0), Lucas Lovejoy Leopards (5-0), Fort Bend Marshall Buffaloes (6-0), Aledo Bearcats (5-0), Tuscola Jim Ned Indians (5-0), Carthage Bulldogs (4-0), Montgomery Bears (5-0), McKinney Boyd Broncos (5-1), Huffman Hargrave Falcons (5-0), Southlake Carroll Dragons (6-0), Wichita Falls Rider Raiders (5-0), Tomball Cougars (6-0), China Spring Cougars (5-0), San Antonio Lanier Voks (4-1), North Garland Raiders (4-2), Argyle Eagles (4-1), Frisco Racoons (5-0), Corpus Christi Veterans Eagles (6-0), San Antonio Alamo Heights Mules (5-0), Texarkana Texas High Tigers (4-0), Austin Regents Knights (5-0), Katy Paetow Panthers (5-0), Dripping Springs Tigers (5-0), Texas City Stingarees (5-0), Little Elm Lobos (5-1), San Benito Greyhounds (5-0), Vidor Pirates (4-0), Houston Stratford Spartans (5-0), Austin Bowie Bulldogs (5-0), Fort Bend Clements Rangers (4-1), Bellville Brahmas (6-0), Monahans Loboes (6-0), Austin Akins Eagles (4-1), Loop Longhorns (6-0), Franklin Lions (6-0), Gunter Tigers (6-0), Hawley Bearcats (5-0), Somerset Bulldogs (5-1), Crawford Pirates (5-0), San Antonio Central Catholic Buttons (5-1), Gruver Greyhounds (6-0).

Andrew McCulloch

Andrew McCulloch, SBLive

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