3A/2A/1A Recap: Coronations
Greg Tepper recaps the 3A, 2A and 1A state championship games.
After my 33-hour live-blogging marathon this weekend, in which I did play-by-play on TexasFootball.com for all nine state championship games, I've awoken from my coma, and I've had some time to digest what we saw this weekend.
To me, this weekend was dominated by the sensational superstars -- Dee Paul for Munday, Hagen Hutchinson for Stamford, Ty Slanina for East Bernard, Adam Tayor for Katy, Kyler Murray for Allen, Jerrod Heard for Denton Guyer. That's not to say that they weren't team efforts; that's just to say that the superstars really shined brightest on the biggest stages.
And, of course, we got it all started with five fantastic small-school game, crowning deserving champions in Classes 3A, 2A and 1A.
Class 3A Division II – Navasota 39, Gilmer 3
The game I expected to be the best of the weekend ended up being one of the biggest blowouts, and while the Navasota offense was obviously impressive – we’ll get to them in a moment – this game was dominated and ultimately won by the Rattlers defense. After giving up a field goal in the first quarter, the Rattlers’ D completely stonewalled the explosive Gilmer squad, and it all starts in the front seven. DLs Jordan Wells (who earned Defensive Player of the Game honors) and Jake Bauer were men among boys out there, and along with LBs Jaylyin Minor, Solomon McGinty and and Dustin Savensky, they weren’t just in Gilmer QB Tanner Barr’s kitchen…they were living in it. The Buckeyes managed just 162 total yards, and this game represents the first time Gilmer has been held without a touchdown since 2001. A remarkable defensive performance, which opened the door for the Rattlers offense do what it does: hit home runs. The big slugger of the evening was WR Austin Collins, who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors by catching two touchdown passes and running for another 82-yard touchdown. Everything on the Rattlers offense was clicking, from the passing game of Kadarius Baker to the running game of a band of backups after star RB Xavier Creeks broke his leg in a car accident the day before. Simply put, Navasota dominated this game from start to finish, and earned the state championship it proved all year that it deserved.
Class 2A Division I – Cameron Yoe 38, Daingerfield 20
Sometimes, starting fast is enough, and that’s exactly what Cameron Yoe did en route to avenging its 2010 state title game loss to this same Daingerfield program. After being forced to punt on its opening possession, Yoe’s defense immediately stepped up, with Zach Riola picking off Keris Alexander on the first play to set up Yoe at the Daingerfield 9. From there, it took a Jason Kopriva-to-Zach Felts touchdown pass to put the Yoemen up 7-0. Next possession: Daingerfield is forced to punt from its own end zone, but the snap is bobbled, and Yoe’s Edgar Luna pounces on the ball. 14-0. After a few defensive stops, Yoe received a Daingerfield punt on the Daingerfield 31. Keaton Denio burst for a 31-yard touchdown run. 21-0, Yoe in the first quarter. Daingerfield only had 20 points. Sure, Daingerfield clawed back, with Keris Alexander and Edwin Mims posting strong games alongside RB Shawn Hooks. But the Yoe defense, led by Luna and LB Somari Wright, was too much, and Offense Player of the Game Denio (who finished with 163 yards) and Kopriva were too sound to let this thing get away. The Yoemen won their second title in school history, and their first in 31 years.
Class 2A Division II – East Bernard 56, Corsicana Mildred 14
I’ll be completely honest: there were a couple games this weekend that I thought could have been blowouts. This, however, wasn’t one of them. But goodness gracious, what a complete performance by East Bernard. Let’s start with the defense, because I think that’s what ultimately led them to the title. Corsicana Mildred has a great offense, especially QB Nic Shimonek, but you wouldn’t know it because of the constant assault he was under from the East Bernard front. Defensive MVP Cody Rosales, LB Zach Stavinoha, DL Justin McGuire and LB Jack Delmar helped to comprise, quite simply, the most dominant unit I saw this weekend, plain and simple. Shimonek had no time, and the Mildred running game could get essentially no traction to take the pressure off of him. From there, the East Bernard offense took over. Ty Slanina is a special, special player, completely deserving of Offensive MVP honors, and played much bigger than he looks. The Slot-T was working to perfection, with Slanina and Grant Aschenbeck leading the way. To me , though, the iconic play of the game came late, with the game already well decided. East Bernard was threatening again when an inside give was fumbled, and the ball squirted out to the right. Slanina, the man who had handed the ball off, caught up to it, knocked it forward in an attempt to grab it, eventually grabbed it and ran in for a 12-yard touchdown. Sometimes, it’s just your night, and on Thursday, it was the Brahmas’ night.
Class 1A Division I – Stamford 35, Mart 28
The game of the weekend? I think you could certainly argue that to be the case. A tremendous back-and-forth affair that came down to the wire and, like we figured, featured two of the best quarterbacking performances of the weekend. Mart started faster, as QB De’Narian Thomas – who played like a sixth-year senior instead of the sophomore he really is – led the Panthers to an early lead, but it wasn’t just on the ground (though he ran for two scores). Thomas was excellent through the air as well, gashing the Stamford defense for 224 yards and a touchdown passing, helping the Panthers to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. But back come Stamford, and it’s the Hagen Hutchinson show. The senior QB’s 43-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter (and ensuing two-point conversion) pulled the Bulldogs even at 21, and we had ourselves a ballgame. Thomas and the Panthers quickly answered, as Thomas ran for a 1-yard score, but Isaiah Llewellyn’s touchdown run pulled the Bulldogs back to a 28-28 tie. And in the final minutes, that’s where Hagen Hutchinson’s legacy as one of 1A’s finest players ever was sealed, driving the Bulldogs down the field and capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs the lead with 32 seconds left. Mart made it interesting, driving deep into Stamford territory, but Thomas’ last-gasp pass was intercepted by – who else? – Hagen Hutchinson to seal the championship. Hutchinson, deservingly, took home both Offensive and Defensive MVP honors, running for 132 yards and two scores, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns (both to James Washington, who made a fantastic one-handed grab on one of them) and racked up 16 tackles. It was the best game of the weekend, and a fitting coronation for the Bulldogs.
Class 1A Division II – Munday 42, Tenaha 14
Believe it or not, this game was tied at halftime, and it felt like it could go either way. Tenaha’s offense had answered both Munday scores with scores of their own, a Chavis Gregory run and J.R. Hill’s 12-yard touchdown pass to D’Andre Thomas. But from there…it was all Moguls, and it wasn’t just superstar QB Dee Paul. Sure, Paul was fantastic, earning Offensive MVP honors by busting off jaw-dropping touchdown runs of 57, 55 and 60 yards, but this was a true team effort. RB Roddrick Taylor carried the load in the running game and hit paydirt twice. And the defense was extraordinary after the half, gobbling up the Tenaha rushing game and even scoring itself, as DE L.J. Collier made a sensational tip-drill interception that he returned 35 yards for a score. Munday was so impressive in the second half that it makes the numbers look like this game was never close. And, in the end, that’s a terrific analogy for this Munday team, the most dominant team in the state, in my opinion: it may have looked like it at times, but when all was said and done, no team in Class 1A Division II was close to the Moguls.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.