Hello, young Chaps

Football’s playoff journey continues with defending state champion Westlake


Tim Tschoepe

Defensive linemen Diego Hamilton (left) and Trey Moore (right) discuss tactics on the sideline. The defense will have their hands full Friday against a Westlake team averaging 54.9 points per game.

Jackson Posey, Sports Editor

There’s a pervasive “underdog” trope in traditional media based off the Biblical story of David and Goliath. According to the story, David, a young shepherd boy, fought a Philistine warrior giant named Goliath and won – needing only a single stone from his sling.

There have been numerous movies that follow a similar against-all-odds approach – Rocky, Rudy, Remember the Titans, etc – but there’s a reason commentators like Oscar Wilde speak of life imitating art. The two move in a cycle, dancing to and fro like carefree trapezists swinging through the air.

Which brings us to another underdog story, this one also starting with the letter ‘R’. The scene begins with the Ranger football team preparing to play defending state champion Austin Westlake (9-0), who have won their nine games by an average margin of 51.1 points per game. The closest they came to a loss was a 45-7 victory at division rival Austin Bowie.

In the past two seasons, Westlake is 24-1, with the lone defeat a 26-25 road loss at the hands of eventual state semifinalist Lake Travis. Their average game in the past two seasons has resulted in a 42.8 point win; Smithson Valley’s average football game has resulted in a relatively paltry (yet not unimpressive) 13.2 point win. 

In that time span, the pair have played three common opponents: Lake Travis and Steele in 2019, and Clemens in 2020. The Chaparrals beat Steele and Clemens and narrowly lost to Lake Travis; the Rangers cruised past Clemens but couldn’t get going against the other two.

Point margins don’t paint a perfect picture of the difference between the teams though, because Smithson Valley coach Larry Hill isn’t too concerned with blowing out opponents. Instead, the Rangers have traditionally focused on keeping scores low and winning on the margins.

But Todd Dodge’s Chaparrals aren’t slouches defensively. They’ve allowed just 34 points all season, shut out five opponents and only allowed over seven points once: after a two-week layoff, they allowed first round playoff opponent Cedar Ridge to score 14 points in a 43-point win.

Like all great teams, that dominance extends to the offensive end. Junior quarterback Cade Klubnick (2,496 yards, 32 touchdowns) and sophomore Jaden Greathouse (42 catches, 796 yards receiving, 9 touchdowns) return from last season’s championship team with more experience – and more still to come. 

Klubnick has hummed to a 32:1 TD:INT ratio, and Greathouse has built a great house of yardage after last year becoming the first freshman to ever start at Westlake. Senior wideout Luke Nichols (555 yards receiving, 9 touchdowns) has contributed to the aerial attack as well. But the Rangers are more concerned about the ground game.

“They do throw the ball as well or better than anybody we’ve seen,” Hill said, “[but] the first thing you got to do is not getting enamored with it. I mean, they run the ball as well as anybody that we’ve played. They’ve got talented backs, their offensive line is really good. And I think the mistake some people make is focusing too much on the pass – it still boils down to being able to run the ball and stop the run.”

Westlake’s ground game is daunting. It’s a three-headed monster: do-it-all scatback Zane Minors (1,030 yards, 16 touchdowns), Grey Nakfoor (519 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Klubnick (412 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns) complement the passing attack perfectly to create a dangerous, multifaceted offense with enough juice to make a return to AT&T Stadium in January.

“We’ve played some awfully good teams before, deep in the playoffs and even in the regular season,” Hill said. “[But they are] the defending state champions [and] haven’t really been in a challenging game this year at all. And so they’ve got every reason in the world to feel good about where they’re at and be confident.”

The teams will face off at Pflugerville’s The Pfield at 7:30 p.m. Friday, in a bid to advance to the third round and play the winner of Saturday’s game between Stevens and Harlingen.