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Denton’s Ryan High School is top-ranked in 5A this year and started its season by pummeling 6th-ranked Longview 40-7 at The Ford Center in Frisco on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sam Bridges.

College and professional football seasons are upon us and are both expensive to attend in person. Both are more and more removed from the purity of the game with each passing year. I’m not suggesting you abandon your preferred college or sports team, but if you crave unfiltered amateur football, Friday nights are when you should be drinking in the grit and pageantry. North Texas is a hotbed for football, but there hasn’t been a lot of championship-caliber play at the college or pro level in years. For a good time, return to your roots by following my roadmap to the best high school football matchups remaining this season.

 

Week 2 pick: Rockwall-Heath vs. Southlake Carroll (7:30pm Thu)

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An early non-district matchup between two of the heavy-hitting 6A schools in our region. The Dragons proved in Week 1 they don’t necessarily need top-national pick Quinn Ewers — who left early for Ohio State — to be dangerous. They routed the similarly privileged Highland Park Scots 45-21 in the battle of the bankrolls. Rockwall-Heath won, however unimpressively, against Keller Timber Creek, but this remains an intriguing early-season matchup between two teams ranked in the Top 10 statewide.

Alternate: Frisco Lone Star vs. Aledo (7pm)

 

Week 3 pick: Waxahachie vs. Ennis (7:30pm Fri 9/10)

I know, there’s no reason to go that far South of Dallas unless you’re attending Scarborough Renaissance Festival, but you’ll have the chance to experience some smaller-town football as second-ranked 5A-division-1 Ennis tries to punch above their weight class against 6A Waxahachie in what will probably be a tight matchup between two teams who play polar opposite styles of football.

Alternate: Aledo vs. Arlington Heights (7pm)

 

Week 4 pick: Desoto vs. Duncanville (7pm Fri 9/17)

District matchup between two neighboring DFW perennial powers. Only the Panthers are expected to plunge deep into the playoffs this season, but this game is a good ol’ track meet of South Dallas pride. Duncanville started their year shellacked 47-3 by Mater Dei — the top-ranked team in the nation, out of Santa Anna, California — and Desoto lost a one-touchdown thriller to Judson, the top-ranked squad in the San Antonio metro area. Both will fight all season to erase the memory of uncharacteristic early losses.

Alternate: Southlake Carroll vs. Martin (7pm)

 

Week 5 pick: Arlington v. Arlington-Martin (7pm Fri 9/24)

Sometimes the environment trumps competitiveness. I’m not going to say you can throw out the record books in this game — the Warriors from Martin are far more formidable — but the Colts have improved over the last several seasons and will be eager to prove themselves against their fellow Arlingtonians.

Alternate: Lewisville vs. Plano West (7pm)

 

Week 6 pick: Rio Vista vs. Itasca (7pm Fri 10/1)

This one may seem like a strange pick, but hear me out. If you don’t know, Rio Vista is just south of Cleburne, and this game will be like stepping into a different world for DFW dwellers. You’re not likely to see more than 25 players suited for either squad — because neither school has more than 225 students — in this battle of 2A District 7. I’m not promising the level of play will be impressive, but you can expect guts and grit from the small-town matchup between two low-ranked opponents. An added bonus: Itasca’s mascot is the Wampus Cats. How great is that?

Alternate: South Hills vs. Trimble Tech (7pm Thu 9/30)

 

Week 7 pick: Highland Park vs. Longview (7pm Fri 10/8)

A district matchup that will determine the first and second spot out of 5A District 7. Both the Scots and Lobos had their clocks cleaned by superior opponents in Week 1, but you can expect a lively atmosphere watching uppity Park dwellers intermingle with Piney-woods people. Just drive your best vehicle so HP’s finest don’t bother you, though I’ve heard the University Park jail serves artisan bagels every morning.

Alternate: Southwest vs. Grapevine (7pm)

 

Week 8 pick: All Saints Episcopal vs. Nolan Catholic (7pm Fri 10/15)

I’d be remiss not to show some private school love, though it can be hard to track down a game since most of the known locals compete in different leagues. I’m going to call a walloping right now as the Vikings played competitively with the Argyle Eagles — who are top ranked in UIL’s 4A — in Week 1.

Alternate: Aledo vs. Mansfield Timberview (7pm)

 

Week 9 pick: Argyle vs. Terrell (7:30pm Fri 10/22)

Argyle is ranked in the Top 15 statewide of any team despite being 4A and with a small student body compared to others. The Eagles look as strong as ever embarking to defend their state title. The Tigers will have an uphill battle but represent one of the stronger teams in this district.

Alternate: Brock vs. Boyd (7:30pm)

Week 10 pick: Eastern Hills vs. Western Hills (7pm Fri 10/29)

Show some compassion to the hometown teams as this crosstown rivalry commences between the Highlanders and Cougars. Neither team has any hope of catapulting themselves past the first round of the state playoffs should either of them even advance that far. Purely pride on the line in the penultimate week for most teams.

Alternate: Allen vs. Prosper (7pm)

 

Week 11 pick: Frisco Lone Star vs. Denton Ryan (7pm Fri 11/5)

A district shootout between the current first- and second-ranked teams in 5A. Ryan will be vying to defend their state championship, but they’ll have to win their district first by beating a team who’ll also be expected to play past Thanksgiving. This game is a playoff game delivered early, and you don’t want to miss it.

Alternate: Arlington Heights vs. Brewer (7pm)

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