HS Football: A Top Matchup in the State is Ready Between Willis and the Woodlands

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 10/23/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The long-awaited matchup has arrived. An unbeaten newcomer must go through the traditional powerhouse as the Willis Wildkats get set to take on the Woodlands Highlanders.

2023 has been a fruitful year for the Willis Wildkats after the previous year’s campaign ended 5-5. Injuries were the primary culprit for why the Wildkats struggled, but the injury bug has stayed away from what is now one of the hottest teams in Texas.

Willis is in sole possession of first place in District 13-6A due in no small part to the high-flying offense. The number one-ranked offense in the district has produced a total of 4,463 yards of offense through eight games played, staking the Wildkats 808 yards ahead of any other team.

The production stems from the newly five-star rated quarterback and University of Florida commit D.J. Lagway. The future gator has set the district on fire with his electrifying ability to sling the football to his talented offensive weapons while also possessing the capability to scramble at a moment’s notice. Lagway leads the district in passing and overall yards gained with 2,865 and 3,278 respectively while also posting 47 total touchdowns.

His weapons are also a talking point, as their statistical footprint is something that cannot be ignored. In the backfield with Lagway is runningback Terri Lawrence III, who formulates a dynamic one-two punch to any defensive front that lines up against them. Lawrence III sits fourth in the district in rushing at the time of writing, with 563 yards on the ground and nine scores.

The Wildkat receiving core is equally stacked with talent, as every target has the potential to take each reception to the endzone. Out of the top four receivers in the district, three are on the Wildkat roster, showing how deep the Willis core goes. Most noteworthy among these receivers is Jermaine Bishop Jr., whose impact through the air makes him one of the best statistical receivers in the entire district. The sophomore has brought in 43 catches for 726 total yards to go along with 10 receiving touchdowns, which is second-best in the district.

Not to be outdone, the Wildkat defense is also a formidable force that comes with its accolades. A turnover margin of +5 has handicapped opposing teams, and their ability to move the football downfield while also giving the ball back to the district’s top offense. 22 sacks and nine interceptions have also hindered the potential for plays from opposing quarterbacks, which the Wildkats will need against the daunting Woodlands Highlanders.

Up against this new force are the perennial powerhouses of the area, the Woodlands Highlanders. An 0-2 start against some of the toughest competition in the state has prepared the Highlanders for the run, which they currently find themselves on. Since losing to North Shore and Lamar, the Woodlands have won all of their last seven games convincingly, showing why they have been one of the most consistent contenders in the district.

The run has been sustained by an overall team effort that thrives on crushing opponents early with demoralizing scores before the defense enters the field and feasts on their weakened opponents.

The oppressive scores are posted by the Highlanders’ quarterback, Mabrey Mettauer, who carries accolades similar to his opponent in purple and black. Mettauer is a future Wisconsin Badger and a four-star commit who made his decision back in December 2022. Since that decision, Mettauer and the Highlander offense have built one of the best units in the North Houston area. His stats show a stellar ability to throw the football, with 1,706 yards through the air and 24 touchdowns. Where Mettauer stands in difference to Lagway is in his efficacy in connecting with his receivers. Zero interceptions and a completion percentage of 72% demonstrate the veteran ability of Mettauer to work through his reads and to deliver an accurate throw away from the reaching hands of defenders.

The passing stats become more understandable when looking at the receivers that flank either side of the Woodlands’ equally venerable offensive line. Junior receiver Quanell X Farrakhan Jr. leads the bunch with 501 yards and eight touchdowns. His stats may not be as eye-catching as the Willis bunch, but the utility of Farrakhan Jr. and his teammate Aden Self lends considerable attention to their abilities.

The Highlander offense utilizes a variety of looks that include the use of receivers in the backfield as rushers. Because of this, Aden Self is currently the seventh leading rusher in the district despite being listed in the Woodlands roster as a wide receiver. Self has racked up 373 yards on the ground and tallied six touchdowns through his versatility as a runner.

The Highlander defense is bolstering these versatile skill players, which has proven to be one of the best units in 13-6A. The Woodlands defense has only allowed 368.1 yards per game through seven played, which stands at sixth in the district. Beyond the limitations put on opposing offenses, the Highlanders have also forced turnovers that handicap an opposing team’s ability to string together drives. A turnover margin of +7 is the best in the district, which fuels the energy brought by the Highlanders and provides the opportunity for their offense to drive up the score.

The critique against the Wildkats and their success has been that they lack the resume to be considered the “top dog” they are made out to be. Will the narrative be proven right by the highly capable Highlanders, or will the new kid on the block rise to the standard they have been placed in? All will be answered Thursday night at Woodforest Bank Stadium and on The Woodlands Online Sports.

*All stats are accurate as of 10/18/23.

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