Texas A&M prospects are expected to make headlines this weekend at the Class 3A, 4A and 5A state championships games in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies will have representatives not just from the 2013 class but also from the 2014 class as well as a total of four A&M commits on those three teams will be attempting to win state titles. In addition, there's another prospect in the 2015 class who has A&M ties and will be seeking a seeking his program's second state championship.
At 4 p.m. Friday, the Class 3A Division II state championship game between Gilmer and Navasota will feature 2014 A&M commit Josh Walker. The 6 foot 1, 220 pound Walker has helped his team to a 14-1 record this season playing both linebacker and running back. As a runner, Walker has 611 yards and 15 touchdowns as the team's short yardage and goal line specialist. He's also got 19 receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns. However, he's expected to make his mark on the defensive side of the ball for the Aggies with his 4.5 speed as evidenced by his 106 tackles (57 solos) on the season. He committed to A&M earlier this fall after he visited the Aggies unofficially for their game with LSU.
Following Gilmer's game, the Lancaster Tigers continue their foray into uncharted waters by playing in their first state championship game (Class 4A Division II) ever when they face off versus Cedar Park at 8 p.m. The 14-1 Tigers have proven to have a knack for winning the close ones along the way as they have to come from behind in their last three playoff games in order to reach the state title game. None of their games was more thrilling than last week's state semi final 26-19 win over Wichita Falls Rider as the Tigers tied the game with just a 1:47 to play on a fourth and 11 conversion and then won in the second overtime in the midst of a downpour.
The tying score was the work of junior Nick Harvey (already a Rivals 250 prospect in the 2014 class) who committed to the Aggies during Lancaster's playoff run. Harvey plays almost everywhere for the Tigers: quarterback, receiver, cornerback, safety, punt returner…because he is a game changer not just with the ball in his hands but also because of his presence on the field. When he goes in motion, most of the defense either winds up pointing at him or going with him. In a regional final victor over Prosper, he played cornerback the entire second half and Prosper tested him just once…and Harvey wound up making a game saving interception in the end zone.
Harvey's numbers -- 53 receptions for 788 yards and nine touchdowns, 70 rushes for another 788 yards and eight touchdowns -- don't do justice to his impact on a game. Harvey makes big plays when his team needs him to, like the interception against Prosper on the Eagle's last possession of the game or the touchdown catch versus Rider that came on a fourth and 11 with Lancaster literally down to their final play of the season. His size, style, and blond hair make him Lancaster's version of the Honey Badger, former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who (like Harvey) made an impact all out of proportion to his size.
Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., Cedar Hill makes its second appearance in a state championship game when they take on state powerhouse Katy in the Class 5A Division II final. Head coach Joey McGuire's group played one of the toughest non-district slates in the state as they played two other state finalists in Allen and Denton Guyer and it served them well on their extended playoff run.
Cedar Hill is led by the senior duo of athlete Laquvionte Gonzalez and outside receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, both of whom committed to A&M during the spring. Gonzalez is a four star rated recruit by Rivals.com and perhaps the most dynamic player in the state with the ball in his hands. Gonzalez lines up in the slot but will also motion into backfield to take handoffs and averages 8.27 yards per carry. He's not as prolific a receiver as Adeboyejo (32 receptions for 324 yards) but like Harvey he is a big play guy with 24 touchdowns on 203 touches which means that he scores a touchdown every eight times he touches the ball. Gonzalez has also added two touchdowns on returns. He's also the most entertaining prospect in A&M's 2013 class as evidenced in a game against Class 4A Division I finalist Denton Guyer when he took a handoff going left, stopped near the left sidelines, and ended up going back all the way back to the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown and outran every member of the Guyer defense in the process, most of whom had angles on him.
Adeboyejo caught just five passes as a junior but his length (6 foot 3), quick feet, and a increased commitment to the passing game earned him a spot among the state's most productive pass catchers as a season. Adeboyejo has grabbed 87 passes in 15 games so far for 1,230 yards (14.1 yards per reception) and 17 touchdowns. He's a long strider who has proven to be at his best on play action down the field, beating man coverage by outlegging smaller defensive backs to catch the ball and then putting on a burst to beat them to the end zone. He's come a long way as a receiver, learning to catch the ball with his hands and also to make cuts and run routes.
Finally, in the nightcap on Saturday, Allen takes on Houston Lamar in the Class 5A Division I final. The Eagles have been the best team in the Metroplex all season, beating defending Class 5A Division I state titlist Southlake Carroll in its opener, Cedar Hill in non-district, and then Metroplex powers Dallas Skyline and DeSoto in regional finals and state semi-finals, respectively.
The Eagles settled on sophomore Kyler Murray as their quarterback after a mid-season loss to Coppell and he has emerged as one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the state. The son of former A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, Kyler has rushed for 1,227 yards and 23 touchdowns and hit 63% of his passes for 1,955 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's expert at running the zone read in conjunction with running back Marcus Ward but also is capable of taking off for big yardage when plays break down or on designed rollouts. Despite being 5 foot 10, Murray has a delivery and arm strength that belies his height and as well as the poise and confidence of someone much older (he has a touchdown to interception ratio of about 3:1 even though it is his first year as a starter). Due to the fact that he is a sophomore, A&M can have very limited contact with him but A&M coaches have already watched an Allen practice and Murray has expressed significant interest in A&M which finished the season 10-2 and beat defending national champion Alabama down the stretch.