Top 25 Games of 2018: No. 18 Liberty-Eylau at Pleasant Grove
Pleasant Grove shocked the state this past season.
The Hawks put themselves on the map with a 41-38 victory at Gilmer on Oct. 13 and never looked back. They went undefeated en route to snapping West Orange Stark's 40-game winning streak (previously the longest active in Texas high school football) and winning its first state championship.
Pleasant Grove returns only three starters on offense and four on defense and should understandably take a step back. But coach Josh Gibson, entering his fifth season with the Hawks, has built a program that isn't likely to go away entirely.
Liberty-Eylau, which faces Pleasant Grove in an Oct. 26 District 6-4A Division II matchup, will be one of many teams looking to get revenge on the Hawks from 2017. Pleasant Grove handed the Leopards a 51-14 loss last year.
This year's game should be a little closer.
Liberty-Eylau loses quarterback Decorian Phillips, but Isaiah Cross will move from receiver to take his place. He finished with 842 yards receiving and seven touchdowns a season ago, and his speed should keep the defense honest at all times. He'll still have an explosive target in Dazawion Cooper, who was just shy of a 1,000-yard season in 2017, finishing with 934 yards.
Pleasant Grove loses Xavier Benson, Carson Cox and TJ Cole from this past season, to name a few. But the Hawks have quarterback Ben Harmon returning for his junior season and running back Bruce Garrett will see more touches after splitting with Cole in 2017. Defensive lineman Landon Jackson is a Division I talent who already holds FBS offers. Marcus Burris, who stands 6-4, 230 pounds, joins him on the line.
Liberty-Eylau holds a 9-3 advantage in the series since 2004, but with the Pleasant Grove program trending upward, the Hawks have an opportunity to make up some ground.