Sports staff makes playoff predictions

Football roundtable discusses playoff game against Lake Travis

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Sports staff makes playoff predictions

Greg Eggleston totes the rock against New Braunfels. Eggleston will play a major role in the Rangers' upset bid.

Greg Eggleston totes the rock against New Braunfels. Eggleston will play a major role in the Rangers' upset bid.

Danielle Esperiqueta

Greg Eggleston totes the rock against New Braunfels. Eggleston will play a major role in the Rangers' upset bid.

Danielle Esperiqueta

Danielle Esperiqueta

Greg Eggleston totes the rock against New Braunfels. Eggleston will play a major role in the Rangers' upset bid.

Jackson Posey, Emma Siebold, and Parker Maroney

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1. What are your expectations for WR/RB Greg Eggleston this week?

Jackson Posey: They’re sky-high. Hank Carter has coached some legitimate stars in his time at Lake Travis, and he put Eggleston in the same breath as Ohio State (and Lake Travis alum) Garrett Wilson. “He’s a really good player… I’m not comparing him to Garrett [Wilson], but the way they use him is not too different.” Being careful to avoid comparisons is important; the two do have different styles. But Eggleston even evoking memories of a five-star recruit speaks highly of his talent and ability. If the Rangers are going to win, a big game from him is a must. And I don’t see how, at this point in the season, anyone could doubt him. A conservative estimate should place him at about 20 touches for 120 total yards and a touchdown, with room for growth if he hits a few extra holes.

Emma Siebold: I expect the usual game from Eggleston; a couple quick rushing touchdowns and a long run. Lake Travis is going to bring the heat with extreme defensive pressure, and I predict a few receiving yards from the senior. For the Rangers to have a successful offensive game, Eggleston and Luke Gombert need to harmonize.

Parker Maroney: I am curious to see how Ranger coach Larry Hill changes his play calling to combat Lake Travis’ strong defensive line, led by defensive ends Trey Sofia and Trey Wright, who combine to account for more than 20 tackles per game. Hill will have to adjust to avoid them, as their talent and athleticism will prove difficult to make outside cuts and screen passes, severely limiting our abilities.

2. Lake Travis is a great team, but what are Smithson Valley’s strengths going into Friday’s game?

Posey: The ground game, on both sides of the ball. Eggleston and running backs Jacob Forton and Gabe Hoskins are all guys who you can count on to pick up consistent yardage. On the other side of the ball, Tom Zeug (90 tackles) and Carson Padilla (54 tackles) front a stout run defense that has shut down elite players like East Central RB DeAngelo Rosemond. Lake Travis has some great athletes at the running back position, but I don’t envy Weston Stephens and Wesley Erwin, who are about to find Trey Witcher (12 tackles for loss) in just about every hole they can find. And it’s not like he’s the only threat, especially with Trey Moore (38 tackles) coming off of one of the hottest stretches you’ll see from a defensive linemen: eight tackles for loss, three sacks, six hurries, three pass deflections, four forced fumbles, three recovered fumbles (including a 71-yard touchdown return), and two blocked punts (including a safety). Moore and Co. have got to be on Cloud Nine right now, and they look ready to dominate the Cavalier backs.

Siebold: After suffering an ankle injury, it is unknown if quarterback Hudson Card, a University of Texas commit, will be playing in Friday’s game, though Coach Hill and the Rangers have prepared for either alternative. Even with Card’s 18 season touchdowns, the Ranger defense is capable of putting pressure on any offense. The defense has snagged 12 interceptions this season, which tops District 26-6A. Senior cornerback Cullen Betsey leads the district with five, with Jalen Nutt coming in third, and Mason Livingston in fourth. The defense needs to hold Lake Travis’ score in check, otherwise the Rangers will be playing a game of catch-up.

Maroney: Smithson Valley’s main strength will be the passing game, as the Cavaliers have only 5 interceptions in the season, so quarterback Luke Gombert and the Ranger wide receivers will need to step up to take the Rangers down the field. Players like WR Cooper Douglass will have to make plays in order for the Rangers to have consistent scoring opportunities.

3. What is so threatening about Lake Travis?

Posey: The two-headed monster at quarterback. Coach Hill told me on Tuesday that the team was preparing as if Card or Yarnell could start, and that’s a terrifying thought considering how difficult it is to prepare for any high-level passer, much less two. It looks like Card won’t play, but regardless, wide receivers Kyle Eaves and Grayson Sandlin have the requisite talent and roles to make a big impact.

Siebold: Lake Travis has produced a plethora of notable alumni; Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Garret Gilbert, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer, and former New York Jets offensive lineman Robert Turner head up the impressive list. Currently, there are 23 Lake Travis graduates playing college football, the majority of whom play D1. The Cavaliers’ starting quarterback (Card) is committed to the University of Texas, and second-stringer Yarnell has been receiving Division I offers since his sophomore season.

Maroney: The strong defensive front will be the main issue for the Rangers, as they will be forced out of using their main scoring assets, such as Eggleston and Forton, and be forced to use less experienced players. The wide receivers will be forced to step up, or else they won’t really have a chance. The Cavalier defensive line alone averages 25 tackles per game and will severely limit the production of the Ranger running game. 

4. Eggleston and RB Jacob Forton have their fair share of touchdowns, but which under-the-radar player do you expect to break out?

Posey: Mason Livingston. The safety has a pair of picks on the season to go with his 69 tackles, and his over-the-top help will be critical to slowing down Cavalier wideouts Kyle Eaves and Grayson Sandlin, who have combined for over 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. Regardless of who gets the nod at quarterback, Livingston and Jackson Sennie will be tasked with choking out a deadly passing attack that averages 268.5 yards and three touchdowns per game. 

Siebold: Gabe Hoskins. In the past two weeks, he has scored at critical points in the game. He has proven that he can make significant plays with less touches than Forton or Eggleston. The junior may not have the bulk stats of his backfield mates, but he is an important factor of the Ranger offense. 

Maroney: Cooper Douglass has the look of a standout player. He has four touchdowns on the year, and with a lacking Lake Travis secondary, he will be make vital catches to help keep the Ranger offense afloat against the Cavaliers’ strong defensive front.

5. Why will this game be different than previous years?

Posey: Experience. The Rangers returned 16 starters this season, and though some – Kasen Wells, Darlington Frasch – are not currently starting, that experience should play a key role this time around. Last season, the team returned just 10 starters, and that inexperience was evident in last year’s 45-14 loss at the hands of the Cavs. This time around, the Rangers are better, more confident, and more experienced, and that just might be enough to swing the game.

Siebold: The scoring level has changed dramatically since last year. So far, the 2019-20 Rangers have already doubled last year’s touchdown totals (42, compared to last year’s 21). Smithson Valley has become an offensive powerhouse, especially in the last couple of games. The Rangers have two fantastic receivers (running back Jacob Forton and wide receiver Greg Eggleston), and quarterback Luke Gombert has nearly twice as many passing touchdowns as his predecessor, Levi Williams, mustered last year (though Williams also rushed for eight scores). The team does not depend solely on these three, however; junior defensive end Trey Moore scored on a fumble return in the final minutes of last week’s game against New Braunfels. With an abundance of intense, hard-working players, the Rangers will have opportunities to put points on the board against the Cavaliers. 

Maroney: The Cavalier pass defense is the chink in Lake Travis’s armor, a wekness that the Rangers can exploit to their advantage and make the plays necessary to defeat this mammoth of a team. The Ranger passing game might just be the stone that causes Goliath to come crashing down.

 

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