(Area playoff pairings are at the end of this story.)
Texas high school football coaches say it every year: If their team is practicing on Thanksgiving morning, it’s been a good season.
“The turkey tastes better, the pecan pie is a whole lot sweeter, and life is good when you’re still playing during the week of Thanksgiving,” Judson coach Sean McAuliffe said. “Life is good.”
Judson already has had a good season by any measure, taking a 10-1 record into its Class 6A Division I second-round playoff game against Austin Lake Travis. But with Thanksgiving behind them, the Rockets have another goal now. They want to play in December.
To extend their season into another month, the Rockets will have to beat Lake Travis a second time this season when they clash at 2 p.m. Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. Judson beat the Cavaliers 65-45 in the season opener for both teams on Sept. 1 at Rutledge Stadium.
“We feel that this is what we’re supposed to be doing,” McAuliffe said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The Rockets lead the series against Lake Travis 3-1, winning three in a row after losing the first meeting in 2012.,
The Judson-Lake Travis game is one of 13 second-round playoff matchups involving UIL and TAPPS teams from the San Antonio area scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
O’Connor (11-0) plays Reagan (10-1) in another 6A Division I second-round game at 2 p.m. Friday at Farris Stadium.
O’Connor coach David Malesky was a Judson senior linebacker in 1983, when the Rockets won their first state championship. He has vivid memories of Judson’s long playoff run that season, including practicing on Thanksgiving.
“It doesn’t matter what your regular-season record is, if you’re going up to school on Thanksgiving Day in the morning to practice, it’s an awesome feeling,” Malesky said. “It’s a special time. I can still remember back to my playing days and us practicing on Thanksgiving.
“You leave practice in the morning, a short practice, then you go home and eat your Thanksgiving meal, watch football on TV and then get ready for your game the next day. Those are memories that last a lifetime.”
O’Connor is in the playoffs for the 15th consecutive year and reached the state semifinals in 2012, but it had never finished a regular season 10-0 until this year.
Malesky has been at O’Connor for all 15 of the Panthers’ playoff seasons, serving as defensive coordinator under Danny Padron for eight years before getting promoted to head coach in 2010 when Padron resigned to become head coach at Texas Lutheran.
“I’ve related a story to my kids of my senior year in high school, telling them what it was like getting on a bus after the pep rally and having a police escort to the airport to get on a plane to go play in the state championship game,” Malesky said. “My comment, after I talked about that – I had chills and I had tears in my eyes – that how I so wish, not for me, but how I wish those 70 kids I sit there and look at every day could tell that story one day to their kids.”
Reagan leads the series against O'Connor 9-3. The Panthers won the first two meetings in 2004 and 2006, but the Rattlers won the next eight games, including three in the playoffs. O'Connor snapped the streak with a 28-23 win in 2014, but Reagan prevailed 42-19 the following year.
Two other area teams are playing 6A Division II playoff games Friday. Smithson Valley (10-1) takes on Austin Westlake (11-0) at 1 p.m. at Alamo Stadium, and Steele (7-4) meets Austin Vandegrift (7-4) at 2 p.m. at New Braunfels Canyon.
Steele, which reached the 6A Division II state final last season, has won six in a row after starting the season 1-4. After the Knights beat Madison in their opener, they lost consecutive games against four of the best teams in the region – Lake Travis (34-31), O’Connor (42-30), Smithson Valley (43-20) and Judson (35-28).
Smithson Valley’s only loss was to Clemens in District 27-6A play. The Rangers went on to win the league title by virtue of its victory over Judson, which finished tied for first with Smithson Valley in the standings.
Region IV, TAPPS second-round playoff pairings
Class 6A Division I
Reagan (9-2) vs. O'Connor (11-0), 2 p.m., Farris Stadium
McAllen Memorial (9-2) at San Benito (11-0), 7:30 p.m.
Class 6A Division II
Smithson Valley (10-1) vs. Austin Westlake (11-0), 1 p.m., Alamo Stadium,
Eagle Pass (9-2) vs. Edinburg Vela (11-0), 2 p.m., Student Activity Complex, Laredo,
Steele (7-4) vs. Austin Vandegrift (7-4), 2 p.m., New Braunfels Canyon
Laredo Alexander (6-5) vs. Weslaco East (8-3), 7:30 p.m., Student Activity Complex, Laredo
Class 5A Division I
Boerne Champion (6-5) vs. Angleton (10-0), 7 p.m., Heroes Stadium
Mission Veterans Memorial at (10-1) at CC Flour Bluff (9-1), 7:30 p.m.
CC Veterans Memorial (10-1) vs. Brownsville Veterans Memorial (10-1), 6 p.m., Buccaneer Stadium, Corpus Christi
Class 5A Division II
Austin McCallum (11-0) vs. Rosenberg Terry (5-4), 7:30 p.m., Navasota
Mission Sharyland (9-2) at Alice (8-3), 4 p.m.
Kerrville Tivy (9-2) vs. Victoria West (5-5), 7:30 p.m., Bastrop
CC Calallen (11-0) vs. Mercedes (9-2), 2 p.m., Texas A&M-Kingsville
Class 4A Division I
Waco La Vega (11-0) vs. Kingsville (7-4), 2 p.m., Heroes Stadium
Canyon Lake (9-2) vs. Pleasanton (10-1), 7:30 p.m., Gustafson Stadium
Somerset (9-2) vs. China Spring (8-3), 7 p.m., Bob Shelton Stadium, Buda
Rockport-Fulton (5-5) vs. Liberty Hill (8-2), 2 p.m., Seguin
Class 4A Division II
Wimberley (10-1) vs. Sinton (8-2), 7 p.m., Floresville
Hondo (3-8) vs. Sweeny (7-3), 1 p.m., Victoria
Cuero (10-0) vs. Crystal City (9-2), 7:30 p.m., Alamo Stadium
Rio Hondo (9-1) vs. Navarro (10-1), 7 p.m., CC Calallen
Class 3A Division I
Van Vleck (5-4) vs. Mathis (6-5), 7:30 p.m., Port Lavaca
Yoakum (10-1) vs. George West (10-1), 7:30 p.m., Rutledge Stadium
Goliad (9-1) vs. Hallettsville (9-1), 7:30 p.m., Edna
Edna (7-4) vs. Lyford (8-3), 7 p.m., Cabaniss Field, Corpus Christi
Class 3A Division II
Lexington (11-0) vs. Odem (7-4), 7 p.m., El Campo
Tidehaven (10-0) vs. Skidmore-Tynan (5-6), 2 p.m., Port Lavaca
CC London (7-3) vs. East Bernard (9-1), 7 p.m., Victoria
Dilley (5-6) vs. Boling (6-3), 7:30 p.m., Mathis
Class 2A Division I
Thrall (9-2) vs. Yorktown (7-4), 4 p.m., Giddings
Mason (11-0) vs. Shiner (8-2), 7 p.m., Pflugerville
Refugio (9-1) vs. Thorndale (5-6), 2 p.m., Rutledge Stadium
Weimar (4-6) vs. Holland (9-2), 7 p.m., Matador Stadium, Seguin
Class 2A Division II
Burton (10-1) vs. Louise (3-8), 7 p.m., Hall Stadium, Missouri City
La Pryor (8-2) vs. Flatonia (6-4), 7:30 p.m. Jourdanton
Falls City (9-2) vs. Rocksprings (7-4), 7 p.m., Fredericksburg
Woodsboro (8-2) vs. Milano (10-1), 7 p.m., Marion
TAPPS Division II
Holy Cross (8-3) vs. Austin Regents (11-0), 1:30 p.m., Shelton Stadium, Buda
TAPPS Division III
Boerne Geneva (10-1) vs. Waco Reicher (8-2), 7:30 p.m., Burnet
Class 6A Division I
Judson (10-1) vs. Austin Lake Travis (9-2), 2 p.m., Darrell K. Royal Stadium, Austin
Southwest (9-2) vs. Los Fresnos (8-3), 1 p.m., Alamo Stadium
Class 5A Division I
Dripping Springs (11-0) vs. Richmond Foster (7-3), 1:30 p.m., Bryan