The first games of the 2021 high school football season finally start this week! Everyone at KSAT 12 is preparing for the organized chaos ahead, but before any team kicks off, let’s take a moment to break down how Big Game Coverage (BGC) is audibling this year.
This newsletter isn’t the only new addition to KSAT’s BGC lineup. You can also watch a weekly preview show on KSAT.com on Thursdays at 4 p.m. or choose from more than 100 games to livestream by joining the free KSAT Insider membership program.
Thanks so much for joining us for the ride this year. Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way, let’s talk football!
2021 SEASON PREVIEW
Over the past three weeks, you’ve seen the KSAT 12 Sports page covered in our Big Game Coverage previews. Photographer Mark Mendez has visited high school campuses across the area to talk to coaches and players as they prepare to line up on the gridiron. There are a lot of fascinating storylines to dive into, but let’s start with the season’s first KSAT 12′s Top 12 rankings.
Every week of the season, KSAT 12 Sports Director Greg Simmons ranks the top 12 teams in the greater San Antonio area, factoring in team record, margin of victory, strength of schedule and head-to-head matchups.
Last season, Greg developed a new wrinkle to his usual strategy.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the UIL to stagger the start of the high school football season between two divisions: Class 5A-6A teams and Class 4A-1A teams. So, Greg chose to split our 12′s Top 12 along the same lines.
That theme continues this season, so you can expect two lists to be revealed every Sunday night at 11 p.m. on Instant Replay featuring the top 12 teams from each division.
Since the first two rankings have been made prior to the start of the 2021 campaign, Greg is using teams’ overall record from last year and the number of returning starters to gauge where teams stand before kickoff on Thursday.
Now, with those in mind, let’s take a moment to focus on six specific local teams that appear headed for special seasons:
CLASS 6A - BRENNAN BEARS
It seems like everyone in the state of Texas expects the Brennan Bears to take a big step as a football program this season. Brennan is the highest-ranked Class 6A team from the San Antonio area in this year’s edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine, and they also begin the year as the No. 1 team on KSAT 12′s Top 12. There’s plenty of reasons for that optimism.
Last year, Brennan finished 10-2 overall and went 7-1 in District 29-6A. That lone loss came at the hands of the Warren Warriors in Week 5 of the 2020 season, the only regular-season blemish on that squad’s resume. From there, Brennan rolled through the rest of the regular season and absolutely dominated Del Rio and Edinburg Vela in two straight playoff games before bowing out in the third round against Austin Vandegrift.
Brennan Head Coach Stephen Basore welcomes back 14 starters from that squad, including a handful from a defense that was undoubtedly a big reason for the team’s success. Brennan posted two shutouts and limited all but two of their opponents to 14 points or less. Meanwhile, dual-threat quarterback Ashton Dubose headlines a young core that produced one of San Antonio’s most balanced offensive attacks. The junior QB threw for more than 2,000 yards and accounted for 41 total touchdowns - 29 passing, 12 rushing – while the ground game racked up 2,100 yards.
It won’t take us long to find out how good Brennan is this year. They line up against perennial contender Reagan in Week 1. Recent history does favor the Bears: Brennan has beaten the Rattlers in each of the last two seasons by at least 12 points.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 6A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 5A - SOUTHSIDE CARDINALS
Southside comes in at No. 22 in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine’s preseason Class 5A Division I rankings and No. 7 in our first 12′s Top 12, but there’s definitely some question marks surrounding the Cardinals as they prepare to kick off the season.
Only 11 starters return for the defending District 14-5A-I champs. Air Force commit Caleb Camarillo was a huge weapon out of the backfield in 2020, but he has since graduated. Same goes for Wyoming commit Micah Young, who helped anchor a strong defensive core. Head coach Ricky Lock has said that the team has some concerns about roster depth to navigate.
Even with all of that uncertainty, there is still a known commodity under center: Richard Torres.
The senior quarterback committed to Nebraska over the summer after orchestrating Southside’s explosive passing attack to the tune of 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. Those numbers might seem underwhelming at first glance, but the Cardinals only played five regular-season games last year. Four of their games were canceled due to COVID-19. His experience and versatility will be crucial to the Cardinals’ success in 2021.
Meanwhile, you can’t overlook the defensive side of the ball. Defensive lineman Cody Wilkerson notched 51 tackles and three sacks last season. With a trio of solid linebackers – Matthew Castaneda, Jacob Montoya and Jeremiah Hall – playing behind him, the Cardinals look more than capable of winning low-scoring games. An opener against Brownsville Lopez at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi will give us a better look at what to expect from Southside this year.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 5A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 4A - YMLA LIONS
Setting a new standard is something every athlete and team wants to achieve in their preferred sport. The players and coaches at Young Men’s Leadership Academy (YMLA) have a unique opportunity to build a legacy from scratch as they prepare to embark on their first full season as a varsity program.
Last year, the mix of health and safety regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic truncated YMLA’s season down to only three games, and two of those three ended up being canceled. As a result, the Lions finished with a 1-1 record. They won their only game played on the field 63-0 over Austin Eastside Memorial. This year features a full nine-game slate and plenty of opportunities for YMLA to learn and grow among traditional District 14-4A Division II powers like Navarro and Wimberley.
The good news for YMLA and head coach Tony Green is that every starter is returning on both sides of the ball. That consistency is a huge boon for quarterback Alfredo Andrade, who has a plethora of young wide receivers to connect with like Brandon Mancillas and Dezmin Whitaker. Nathaniel Borrego will be huge in the trenches on both the defensive and offensive lines as well.
The Lions embark on their first full season Friday, Aug. 27 against Universal City Randolph at 7 p.m.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 4A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 3A - POTEET AGGIES
At the tail end of the 2018-2019 season, the Poteet football team was in dire straits. A loss to Pearsall on the final week of the regular season cemented an 0-10 overall record. Four of those losses were decided by a single possession.
That is a stark contrast to the success the Aggies enjoyed last year.
In 2020, head coach Darby House led Poteet back to prominence with a breakout performance, posting an 8-3 overall mark. That included a 5-1 record against District 14-3A Division I opponents. Running back Ernest Davila was a difference-maker, racking up more than 2,000 yards and 22 total touchdowns. Junior quarterback Alex Lockamy returns after notching 1,500 passing yards and 13 touchdowns last year, giving Poteet a balanced attack. Meanwhile, the defense was impressive thanks to a standout effort from Joey Davila, who posted 78 tackles and six sacks. With 18 starters returning, Poteet starts the season as the No. 8 team in KSAT 12′s Sub-5A Top 12.
For all their success, there’s one more goal that they have yet to achieve: win a playoff game. The Aggies fell to Blanco in the Bi-District round last season 35-20. That loss has provided them with plenty of motivation this offseason to continue their upward trend and earn the program’s first playoff victory since 1958.
The journey towards that goal continues with the first game of the 2021 season this Friday, Aug. 27 at home against Bandera.
Here’s a look at some of the other Class 3A teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
CLASS 2A - FALLS CITY
The last time the Falls City football program lost a game against a district opponent, the current crop of seniors were in 7th grade. In fact, that loss to Flatonia on Oct. 28, 2016, is the only mark on the Beavers’ district record for the entire decade.
Simply put, Falls City has absolutely owned District 16-2A Division II, and this year’s squad is hungry to continue that winning tradition.
Fourteen starters return for head coach Mark Kirchhoff, who is preparing for his second straight season at the helm after coming out of retirement in 2020. The bread and butter for the Beavers will continue to be their ground-and-pound style of offense. Senior running backs Grant Jendrusch and Cole Thomas each topped 800 yards rushing and scored 18 touchdowns last year. They also starred on the opposite side of the ball as linebackers, racking up 112 combined tackles. Luke Shaffer moved to quarterback and led a complementary passing attack that accounted for eight touchdowns as well.
BRANDON MOCZYGEMBA: “You’ve got to be willing to work hard each and every day”
As a result, Falls City posted an 11-3 overall record and went 6-0 in district play, scoring 40 points against each of their district opponents. That consistent success is a big reason why the Beavers are ranked as the No. 3 team in KSAT 12′s Sub-5A Top 12. Their aspirations are bigger than the usual run of dominance, however. In each of the last three seasons, the Beavers have lost to Mart in the UIL Class 2A State semifinals. Time will tell if this team can get over the hump and capture the program’s first state title since 2011.
Falls City will renew that quest on Friday, Aug. 27 at home against Three Rivers. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
TAPPS – HOLY CROSS KNIGHTS
All kinds of changes are coming to Holy Cross this year.
First, the Knights will play home games on their own campus under brand new field lights for the first time ever. Head coach Mike Harrison will lead a veteran team with 11 returning starters onto the field to begin the new era of home games.
The question mark lies primarily with the quarterback position. Dynamic signal-caller Jordan Battles graduated, so the Knights will have someone new lining up under center this season. Rudy Rodriguez saw limited time at QB last year, but regardless of who starts, there’s loads of talent all across on the roster. Marcos Jimenez-Cedillo headlines a deep wide receiver core, while defensive lineman Amir Ali will help anchor a defense that proved to be dominant at times in 2020.
The Knights finished last season with a 6-3 record and advanced all the way to the TAPPS Division III state semifinals. This year’s team is hungry for a deep playoff run, and they have the right pieces to accomplish just that.
Holy Cross will open their season at home on campus against Boerne Geneva on Thursday, Aug. 26. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
Here’s a look at some of the other TAPPS teams KSAT 12 has visited this past month:
There have obviously been a lot of dates and times to keep track of throughout this Newsletter. As KSAT 12′s Big Game Coverage has done in the past, we have a Scores & Schedules page dedicated to listing every single game’s date, kickoff time, location and score.
Before we wrap up this preview, I wanted to take a brief moment to focus on a story that I feel deserves some extra attention in the first edition of
CELY’S SPOTLIGHT - PEANUT BUTTER BOWL 2021
For the first time, the annual Peanut Butter Bowl has expanded to 10 games across 20 different teams. Head coach Ron Rittimann helped start it all at Johnson High School back in 2016 when it was just a one-game event between the Jaguars and Brandeis. Now at Alamo Heights, Rittimann has seen it grow into a multi-city food drive between San Antonio and Austin. All told, 23,000 jars of peanut butter were donated last year to combat chronic hunger, and the goal is to surpass that mark in 2021. It’s always amazing to see what communities are capable of when they put their hearts and minds to the task of helping those in need.
Four of the 10 games this year take place on the opening Friday of the high school football season, Aug. 27:
- Reagan vs. Brennan at Farris Stadium, 7:00 p.m.
- San Marcos vs. New Braunfels at Unicorn Stadium, 7:00 p.m.
- Boerne vs. Alamo Heights at Stadium TBD, 7:30 p.m.
- Taft vs. Seguin at Matador Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
The Peanut Butter Bowl is accepting in-person donations as usual, but there are also avenues to donate online. You can find more information about this year’s event at peanutbutterbowl.com.
Here’s some of the latest high school sports headlines from the past week that you might have missed:
Follow KSAT 12 Sports on Twitter
As always, this season will be filled with twists and turns, dominance and upsets, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We can’t wait to share every experience with you this season! Make sure you catch all the action all season long by following the KSAT 12 team on twitter:
We’ll see you on Thursday for the inaugural Big Game Coverage Preview show and the first games of the 2021 season!
Andrew Cely, KSAT 12 Sports Producer and Reporter