Searching for Cinderella
In honor of the NCAA Tourney, who were HS football's top Cinderellas in 2012?
I’m a believer in the idea that our brains, as they relate to sports, are kind of like gas tanks. Some of us have a bigger tank than others – that’s to say, we’re willing to devote more of our mental energy into sports than others – but regardless of the size of our tank, it’s finite. And once it’s used up or spoken for, it’s gone.
Take my brain, for example (“Please!” said my wife). I have a very large amount of mental energy devoted to sports. I work in football, so there’s a huge chunk of it gone. I’m a big baseball fan, so there’s another hunk of the energy out the door. Combine that with a passing interest in hockey and soccer, and all of my mental energy is spoken for.
Which means, I’ve decided, that there just isn’t room for basketball.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy basketball; I do! But as far as following it closely and devoting the mental energy necessary to being a true fan, that’s just not how I want to allocate my mental energy.
But as you may have noticed, the nation is abuzz with basketball fever, as the NCAA Tournament begins in earnest today. It’s an exciting time to be a sports fan, whether basketball is your thing or not.
And the one thing that sports fans love more than anything in the NCAA Tournament – the thing that brings fans back year after year – is a Cinderella.
You know what I’m talking about: the underdog, the team that everyone counted out, that goes on to make a deep run in the tournament and capture the attention – and adoration – of the nation. In recent years, there’s been George Mason and Butler and Virginia Commonwealth; all teams that earned the title of Cinderella.
But one of the great things about Texas high school football is, well, we have a tournament, too. It’s called the playoffs. And with the playoffs, you bet we can have some Cinderellas.
So, who best fits the description of the “Cinderella” from the 2012 playoffs? Here are, in my opinion, the four biggest Cinderellas from the 2012 Texas high school football playoffs.
We might as well start with the smallest classification – six-man – to find one of the biggest Cinderellas. To say that the Mountaineers began the year off of our radar would be a colossal understatement. In their last four seasons, they had gone a combined 11-29; not exactly a shining beacon of optimism. In fact, in our internal rankings, we started Santa Anna ranked 52nd out of 67 teams. But then, something clicked, and Cameron Norris’ crew began to hum behind junior spreadback sensation Michael Valencia, who ran for2,914 yards and 46 touchdowns on the year and threw for another 25 scores. They were unstoppable, rolling all the way to the state quarterfinals and an 11-2 record.
From the smallest classification to the biggest, there was no bigger surprise than Plano West, especially once they hit the playoffs. The Wolves were one of the last teams into the postseason, going 3-2 in district and just 6-4 overall in the regular season. But when the playoffs came around, they turned into an entirely different team. QB Travis Korry and RB Sotonye Jamabo (a proud member of the All-Name team) led the way offensively as the Wolves beat Lake Highlands, South Garland and Lufkin en route to a berth in the regional finals (and a very, very close loss to Austin Westlake).
Down in Class 1A, Woodsboro entered 2012 fresh off a disappointing 2-8 season. The Eagles weren’t necessarily screaming “regional final” material entering the season, but that soon changed. It was the explosive offense, anchored by the connection of QB Tyler Quesada to WR Logan Moses, that guided the way for the Eagles past the first three rounds of the playoffs, with impressive wins over Bartlett and Bruni in back-to-back weeks. Sure, the Eagles fell short against Falls City in the regional final, but the slipper most certainly fit for Woodsboro in 2012.
I’m not sure there’s any doubt that Leander Rouse is the Cinderella of the 2012 season. Still a young program – the school opened in 2008 – Rouse wasn’t even considered the best team in its own city, let alone in its region. But after winning the season finale against Cedar Park Vista Ridge to get into the playoffs, the Raiders beat Austin McCallum…then upended San Antonio Brackenridge…then upset Gregory-Portland…then shut-out Corpus Christi Flour Bluff (fresh off their upset of district bunkmate Leander). And all of a sudden, Rouse was in the state semifinals. It ended there, but there’s no doubt that the Cinderella of the year was the Raiders.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.