Which state semifinalists were truly underestimated?
It’s one of the great social disconnects of sports and sports fans: they demand respect, and yet, every fan loves to be disrespected.
It’s a truism across the spectrum, not just of sports, but in life. Everybody likes to be the underdog — or, in some cases, the victim. It’s easier that way, you know? You’re in a position of power when you’re perceived to be less powerful.
What I’m saying is, everybody likes to think that nobody believed in them. It’s a better story that way.
I hear it all the time writing for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, from every fan base. That I have it out for their team. That I’m underestimating their team. That I’m not giving their team enough respect.
It’s all silliness, of course. I don’t have it out for anyone’s team, nor am I intentionally underestimating any one team.
But every year, there are teams that we do underestimate, that we don’t recognize how good they are until, well, they’re proving how good they are on the field. Call them underrated, call them overachieving, but they’re bucking our preseason predictions of them.
Now that we’ve wrapped up another high school football season, I wanted to revisit our preseason projections of each of the 40 teams that made it to a state semifinal (a mark of, in my opinion, undeniable excellence). Before the season, we here at DCTF — along with our rankings expert, Jerry Forrest — rank every team in every class.
So, which teams are we most surprised to see here? Who started off lowest in our rankings, only to soar into the state semifinals?
We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, some other findings from studying the preseason rankings of the 40 state semifinalists:
- In the 2012 summer edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, we put out seven sets of rankings — 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A DI, 2A DII, 1A DI and 1A DII. Of the 40 state semifinalists, only eight teams began the year outside the 25 of their respective classes.
- Five of the eight teams pegged as preseason No. 1 reached the semifinals — Denton Guyer in 4A, Stephenville in 3A, Cameron Yoe in 2A DI, Mart in 1A DI and Munday in 1A DII. Four of them won titles, with Mart coming tantalizingly close.
But, of course, nobody wants to hear about where our predictions were right. Everyone wants to know about who we underestimated, which teams we didn’t think would be here.
Here are the top five biggest surprise teams that made the state semifinals:
Leander Rouse (4A Division I; preseason ranked No. 157 out of 248)
And I think even Raiders fans are surprised they’re here. After going just 2-7-1 last season, the young program wasn’t expected to do much. Yet they marched all the way to the 4A Division I state semifinals before coming up short against Georgetown.
Manor (4A Division II; preseason ranked No. 96 out of 247)
What a year it’s been for the Mustangs, fighting through a difficult District 17-4A and proving week after week in the playoffs that they belong. Their incredible journey only ended in the state semifinals with a loss to eventual state champ Cedar Park.
Graham (3A Division II; preseason ranked No. 60 out of 183)
Sure, we picked the Steers to win their district, but we never thought that QB Ben Davis would light up the scoreboard like he has this season. It was eerily reminiscent of their run to the 2009 state title game, though this run ended in the state semifinals with a loss to Gilmer.
San Antonio O’Connor (5A Division I; preseason ranked No. 57 out of 245)
We picked the Panthers to finish third in their own district, but the experience — they had nine starters returning on offense, and seven on defense — paid major dividends. Just ask San Antonio Madison, which experienced it firsthand in their upset win in the quarterfinals.
Georgetown (4A Division I; preseason ranked No. 56 out of 248)
Man, 4A has sure been a jungle. Georgetown has soared to an undefeated mark, and while we knew that QB Jake Hubenak was special, the defense has been much, much better than we anticipated. That run took them all the way to Cowboys Stadium, where they came up just short of a title.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.