The more predictable you might think Texas high school football is, the quicker it becomes apparent that it is anything but.
That fact stared several of the Houston area's top teams right in the face in Week 6, as several heavy favorites came crashing down on a wet, cold and wild weekend of football.
The biggest eye-opener came out of a far corner of Southeast Texas, as Port Arthur Memorial upset Galena Park North Shore 7-6 on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The Mustangs (4-2), who were less than two weeks removed from a win over perennial state power Southlake Carroll and carried a No. 6 state ranking into the game, saw their 52-game district winning streak come to a halt. It is the second long winning streak that ended for North Shore this season; the Mustangs' state-record 78-game regular-season winning streak ended in their 9-7 season-opening loss to Katy.
That wasn't the only surprise result in the area, though. Two other undefeated teams succumbed to their first losses of the season as Humble Atascocita (6-1) fell to Houston Nimitz 20-17 while Cypress Creek (5-1) lost a 21-20 heartbreaker to Cypress Woods.
Perennial area Class 4A power Dayton, which was a Class 4A Division II state finalist in 2008, was shut out 28-0 by Crosby.
Super start for Santa Fe
In case anybody was still wondering whether unbeaten Santa Fe was a pretender or contender, the Indians emphatically answered that question Friday.
The Indians (6-0), who haven't been to the playoffs since 2005 and had a three-year district losing streak from 2006 to 2008, picked up their biggest win of the season, squeaking by Friendswood 29-28 at Friendswood's Henry Winston Stadium.
Head coach Jay Buckner, who is in his second season with the Indians, gambled in the final minute as running back Joseph Walton (31 carries, 176 yards, four touchdowns), scored with 35 seconds left to pull the Indians within a point, 28-27. Buckner decided to go for two and the win instead of one and the tie, and Walton answered the call, scoring the two-point conversion to help the Indians get the win.
Santa Fe is now a legitimate contender for the District 24-4A title. The last time the Indians won at least a piece of a district title was 2002.
Make room for Dekaney
At the start of the season, few pegged Spring Dekaney, a second-year varsity squad, to be a district title contender in the ultra-competitive District 13-5A. Yet, here the Wildcats are, unbeaten in district play and carrying a 5-1 mark (3-0 in district) just a year after they went 0-9.
The Wildcats opened district with a win over perennial power Spring Westfield and then got an overtime win over Spring before their most recent eye-opener, a 32-24 win over Klein Forest. The Wildcats' defense kept Klein Forest, which has one of the area's most prolific offenses that has averaged more than 40 points per game this season, well under its customary output. Dekaney is tied at the top of District 13-5A with Klein Collins (6-0, 3-0). The teams will meet on Oct. 29.
Angleton still getting it done
After beating three solid Class 5A teams in its first three games, many wondered whether Class 4A Angleton would be able to carry that momentum into District 24-4A, which is easily the deepest, most competitive 4A district in the region.
The Wildcats were sure to be tested, playing three of the best teams in the district to start their league schedule in La Marque, Friendswood and Dawson. Angleton passed the test with flying colors. After a 37-14 beating of La Marque and a 48-33 shootout win over Friendswood, the Wildcats (6-0, 3-0 District 24-4A) stared down previously undefeated Pearland Dawson on the road and once again came away with a convincing win, 49-28.
With its large collection of speed on the field, the Wildcats have their sights set on a 16-game season.
"We do not want any slip ups," Angleton junior quarterback/defensive back Quandre Diggs said. "We want to finish undefeated. That's our main goal."
Duke a picture of perseverance
If there were ever an example of overcoming the odds, Shepherd's Justin Duke has to be one of the best. After colliding into a wall in a basketball gym while attempting to save a ball from going out of bounds, Duke was paralyzed from the neck down more than three years ago after breaking his C2 vertebra.
Yet after he was told by doctors that movement above the waist was probably the best-case scenario, there he was on Oct. 2, 2009, taking the field with his Pirates teammates and playing in his first regular-season football game since the January 2006 incident. The Houston Chronicle's Jenny Dial tells the amazing story of Duke, who went from halo to hero and is living his dream as a senior at Shepherd.
Ryan Dohner (Klein Oak boys cross country): The senior finished second in the elite boys division of the Nike South Invitational cross country meet, posting a 5,000-meter time of 15:43.4.
Dustin Garrison (Pearland football): The junior running back compiled 306 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries to lift the Oilers to a 27-24 road win over La Porte on Friday.
Hillary Montgomery (Klein girls cross country): The junior finished third in the elite division of the prestigious Nike South Invitational meet, running a 5,000-meter time of 19:04.6.
Trey Williams (Spring Dekaney football): In a 32-24 road win over Klein Forest, the sophomore running back exploded for 328 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. It was Williams' second 300-yard rushing effort this year and put him at 1,242 yards for the season.
* Three cross country meets involving local runners will take place on Saturday. In Houston, the Strake Jesuit Invitational will take place at Bear Creek Park and the St. John's Ramble will be held at Buffalo Bayou Park. In Lufkin, the "Coke Classic" meet will attract a handful of local teams. One of the most competitive cross country events of the year will happen across state lines in Fayetteville, Ark. as the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival takes place. A few local elite runners will likely make the trip.
* 2008 Class 5A Division I state finalist Fort Bend Hightower will be tested for the first time since its season-opening win over Houston Eisenhower when the Hurricanes (6-0) meet Fort Bend Elkins (6-0) in a crucial District 23-5A match. Hightower features one of the state's top defensive players, senior linebacker and Oklahoma State verbal commit Shaun Lewis. The Hurricanes' defense is tops in District 23-5A. The Knights feature one of the area's top receiving threats, University of Houston commit Jordan Jolly. Jolly, who also sees snaps in the Wildcat formation, leads what is District 23-5A's top ranked offense.
* This week could serve as the de-facto "Rivalry Week" in Greater Houston, with several rivals doing battle. The annual "Battle by the Bay" featuring Galveston County powers La Marque and Texas City will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday at La Marque's Etheredge Stadium. In the north part of town, Humble and Kingwood, who have long been heated rivals since the days when they were the only two high schools in Humble ISD, will meet at 7:30 p.m. at Turner Stadium. Though the district has expanded, the rivalry is still as heated as ever. And just south of town, a pair of Clear Creek ISD schools, Clear Brook and Clear Lake, will meet at 7 p.m. at Clear Creek ISD Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Heavily recruited receiver DeAndrew White (Galena Park North Shore) verbally committed to Alabama. The 6-foot, 170 pound White held offers from a plethora of BCS-conference schools. White boasts great speed (he won the Class 5A state 200-meter dash championship in June) and was North Shore's leading receiver last year with 801 yards and 10 touchdowns. He currently leads them with 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns this season.
Langham Creek senior point guard Mackey McKnight verbally committed to Lehigh. McKnight was the Lobos' second leading scorer last season, averaging 13.2 points and five assists per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor.
Conroe senior lineman Kyle Brown has verbally committed to UTEP. The 6-4, 265-pound Brown plays both offensive and defensive line for the Tigers and was an all-district selection last year.
In my four years covering high school football for the Houston Chronicle (this is my fifth), I have learned one thing: The more you think you know, the more you probably don't. That's why I always find it silly when people ask me for my predictions or put so much stock into rankings. Nothing really matters outside of those 100 yards of gridiron.
In watching upset after upset come across the scoreboard this past Friday, that became increasingly evident. We can prognosticate and make predictions and proclamations but we really don't know what's going to happen on that field when the lights turn on and the ball is snapped. I may have a more educated guess than most since I follow it, and I probably have an idea of what could happen, but that doesn't mean I really know.
That, to me, is what makes sports great and what makes my job exciting. We have The Woodlands as our No. 1 team in the area (and they are ranked No. 3 in the state currently in Class 5A), because they have been the most consistent team. Fort Bend Hightower, which is also unbeaten, is a solid No. 2. But do I honestly know who the best team is in Greater Houston? Probably not. This has been one of those seasons in Houston football where there has been no clear-cut juggernaut that has just dominated opponents at will (like the 2003 North Shore team or the 2007 Katy team).
As ESPN personality Chris Berman says, "That's why they play the game."
Sam Khan Jr. is a reporter who covers Greater Houston area high school sports for the Houston Chronicle. You can reach him at email@example.com.