The 5A and 4A state champions were finally decided this weekend at Cowboys Stadium.
Well, folks, we finally made it.
Nine state champions were crowned this weekend in a blizzard of fantastic football, and more than 200,000 total people flocked to Cowboys Stadium to be a part of the biggest high school athletics event in the country. All four 5A/4A title games lived up to the billing, too. Here's a recap of the action.
Class 5A matchups:
Allen 35, Houston Lamar 21
In a game that Allen was heavily favored in, unbeaten Lamar proved it belonged in the state title game with a fierce battle through a little more than three quarters. But in the end, the same elements that make the Eagles so impressive — size, strength, depth, consistency — broke through when RB Marcus Ward snapped off a 67-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth that set the final score and buried Lamar for good. Yes, Ward finished the job, but the young man who brought the Eagles to the cusp was sophomore QB Kyler Murray (16 carries, 143 yards, 2 TDs rushing; 1 TD passing), who dazzled the crowd with two monster first quarter scoring runs — a 55-yarder at the 3:50 mark and a did-you-see-that 68-yard scramble when a play droke down with 19 seconds left. But after Allen roared out to that 14-2 first quarter lead (Lamar scored when an errant Allen punt snap sailed through the back of the endzone), Lamar fought back behind gutsy QB Darrell Colbert, who put on an impressive showing — despite constant pressure, heavy hits and general wear-and-tear, the junior rushed for 126 yards and a score and threw for 207 and two more (with no INTs). The Allen defense continually drove him to the turf, but he just kept popping up. His yoeman effort had the monster audience of 48,000-plus applauding, but the Redskins' last real chance evaporated when they turned the ball over on downs at the Allen 33-yard line with just more than six minutes to play. One play later, Ward exploded for the final score of the game, and the Eagles more or less locked up their second 5A-DI title in school history.
Katy 35, Cedar Hill 24
Like Cibolo Steele in the state semifinals, Cedar Hill wasn't about to let unbeaten and largely unchallenged Katy make good on its supposed destiny of the DII title without a heck of a fight. So indefensible was the Longhorns' speed, and so ferocious was the Longhorns' linebackers, that Katy actually trailed, 24-21, midway through the fourth quarter. Up to that point, Katy RB Adam Taylor had all three Tiger touchdowns, but Cedar Hill QB Damion Hobbs threw and ran for a score early in the fourth to push the Longhorns in front and move the crowd of more than 42,000 to the edge of their seats. That's when the Katy ground game took over; with a little bit of FB Alex Fisher mixed in, Taylor stepped up a notch with two truly magnificent touchdown runs, a 56-yarder and a 42-yarder, that set the final margin and left coach Joey McGuire's squad looking for answers. There's just not much you can do with Taylor, who finished with 276 yards and all five Katy TDs on 30 carries; several times, Cedar Hill defenders met him at or near the line of scrimmage with textbook tackles, but the Nebraska pledge either stepped around, over or through them into the second level. His final run was possibly his finest — a defender put his shoulder right on Taylor's thigh pad, something that would have sent most of us sprawling. But Taylor brought his leg up and rolled with the impact, spinning his way into the open and propelling the Tigers to their seventh state title, tied with a number of programs for second-most in Texas. Taylor, who was named the game's Offensive MVP, carried the ball 76 total times in Katy's final two games.
Class 4A matchups:
Denton Guyer 48, Georgetown 37
This game featured one of the most dramatic turn of events in title game history. Georgetown dominated the late stages of the first half, forcing a turnover on downs, a fumble and a punt en route to a 23-14 halftime lead that had a large Guyer contingency scratching their heads. Outside of Austin Weston's 56-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter, Georgetown wasn't doing anything particularly explosive ... it was just chewing up short yardage behind a balanced ground game and the connection of QB Jake Hubenak and WR Randy Knightner. When Guyer fumbled again on its first drive of the third quarter, Georgetown could smell blood in the water; 10 plays later, Hubenak hit a highly-impressive Knightner for his second TD of the day and a commanding 30-14 lead. That's when Guyer QB Jerrod Heard, still just a junior, simply took over the game — after a strong kickoff return, Heard ripped off a 32-yard run that put Guyer just outside the redzone, and a few plays later he danced in from 17 yards out to put some life in the stadium. Georgetown turned the ball over on downs immediately afterwards, and Heard stepped up again, this time with a 14-yard touchdown run that ended with a bone-shattering collision at the goal line. Heard was still standing at the end of it, and suddenly the score was 30-27. The hits kept coming; Hubenak fumbled immediately on Georgetown's next drive, and Heard scored a third straight time one play afterwards to take the lead at 34-30. Georgetown's next drive ended in an interception, and Heard hit Ellis Jefferson two plays later for a game-icing 71 yard touchdown pass. In the end, Guyer went on a 34-7 run in the second half, and Heard (189 yards, 2 TDs passing; 143 yards, 5 TDs rushing) was at the center of it. Remarkable.
Cedar Park 17, Lancaster 7
Outside of maybe Houston Lamar and Allen, this was the most physical game of the weekend, as both defenses played out of their minds from kickoff to the final whistle. The hitting was fierce, with several pops audible all the way up in the broadcast booth. Lancaster got in front early behind a Demarcus Ayers' QB keeper, but Cedar Park closed the running lanes at the corner after that, and the pace began to shift to the Timberwolves. Behind a dizzying array of ball carriers, Cedar Park slowly started churning out hard-fought first downs, eventually scoring in dramatic fourth-down fashion on a short Ethan Fry run with seconds left to play in the first half. The second began much like the first, with both teams continually hurting themselves with penalties — Lancaster finished with 12, Cedar Park 9 — as Lancaster continually false-started off of Cedar Park's defensive shifts and the Timberwolves were caught holding. Things got more intense when Cedar Park QB Nate Grimm twisted his ankle severely on a sack in the third quarter and sat until midway through the fourth (he was on crutches after the game). But controversy struck twice in the third and fourth quarters; Lancaster, punting from deep in its own endzone, cried foul when Cedar Park poked the snap out of the long snapper's hands, forcing a fumble that CP would eventually turn into a tie-breaking field goal in the fourth (10-7). At least one story would suggest the Tigers' frustrations were justified. On the next possession, Lancaster WR Nick Harvey was intercepted on a end-around pass attempt, and Cedar Park started the drive of the game — a 14-play, 54-yard jaunt that took more than seven minutes off the clock and ended in a Mikal Wilson 14-yard run and a 17-7 lead. Lancaster, though it had just three minutes to work with, wasn't dead — the Tigers drove to the Cedar Park redzone and, from the Timberwolf 12-yard line, threw an apparent touchdown pass to make it a one score game with 1:25 left to play. But the receiver was incorrectly and befuddlingly ruled out of bounds, and on the next play, Lancaster fumbled a bad snap and Cedar Park recovered to ice it. That touchdown call was horrendously poor, and it very well could have made this a different ball game. But don't mistake that error for an undeserving winner — Cedar Park played brilliant football, and their no-superstar approach wore down Lacnaster on both sides of the ball. Attrition was CP's best player, and coach Joe Willis and Co. earned the school's first-ever title.
Travis Stewart is the managing editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@dctf) and via the DCTF Facebook page.