A weekend to remember
DCTF's Greg Tepper ranks the nine state title games at Cowboys Stadium in terms of excitement for the viewer.
It's so hard to take sides when it comes to high school football games, especially with regards to the ever-elusive "excitement" category. Every game is exciting in their own way, and this past weekend, with nine state championship games in three days at Cowboys Stadium, we were overloaded with excitement.
But it's true: some games were more exciting -- or, quite frankly, more interesting -- than others.
I had the distinct pleasure of live-blogging all nine of the games on TexasFootball.com, so I know these games like the back of my hand. As a result, I feel like I've compiled the definitive rankings of the nine games at Cowboys Stadium, at least in terms of how good the games were for the spectator.
So, without further ado, here's how I saw the games in terms of excitement, from least- to most-exciting.
9) Class 2A Division II -- East Bernard 56, Corsicana Mildred 14
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy watching the Ty Slanina Show, as the Brahmas sliced and diced an excellent Mildred defense. But the relentless East Bernard defense made sure that this game was basically over in the second quarter, and it was a matter of running out the clock from there.
8) Class 3A Division II -- Navasota 39, Gilmer 3
This was most certainly unexpected -- I thought this would be the closest game of any this weekend -- but as soon as it became apparent that the Navasota defense wasn't going to give Gilmer an inch, and WR Austin Collins started his explosive assault on the Gilmer defense, it was all over but the singing.
7) Class 1A Division II -- Munday 42, Tenaha 14
At least this game was exciting for the first half, as the Moguls and Tigers went to halftime tied and, believe it or not, Tenaha appeared to have the momentum. But Dee Paul, Roddrick Taylor and the incredible Moguls offense made sure the second half was basically a formality, blowing away Tenaha after halftime.
6) Class 2A Division I -- Cameron Yoe 38, Daingerfield 20
I'm not sure the final score is actually indicative of how close this game felt. Cameron Yoe jumped out to a 21-point first quarter lead thanks to a combination of defense, special teams and RB Keaton Denio, but it always felt like Daingerfield was on the verge of hitting the big play to get back into it. Alas, the big play never came -- or, at least, when the Tigers did hit a big play, Yoe was always there to answer.
5) Class 5A Division I -- Allen 35, Houston Lamar 21
Now we're getting to the next level, of games that were all really, really exciting. Houston Lamar's defense and the heroics of QB Darrell Colbert helped the Redskins hang around against (in my opinion) the heavily favored Allen squad, tying the game at 21 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter when Colbert hit Beau Wells for an 18-yard touchdown pass. But from there, Allen hit the gas -- shutting down Lamar defensively, and getting a pair of Marcus Ward touchdown runs to put the game away, including a 67-yard backbreaker in the fourth quarter.
4) Class 4A Division I -- Denton Guyer 48, Georgetown 37
The shootout of the weekend nabs the No. 4 spot, as Jerrod Heard of Guyer and Jake Hubenak of Georgetown went toe-to-toe for signal-calling supremacy. At one point, Georgetown lead 30-14 in the third quarter, but back came Guyer, using three Heard touchdown runs in the span of 5 minutes in the third quarter to retake the lead, and sealing the school's first state championship with a 7-yard touchdown scamper with 5:16 remaining. We figured that this game could get up in the 40s, and we were not disappointed.
3) Class 4A Divison II -- Cedar Park 17, Lancaster 7
There are two things that I will always remember about this game. The first: a pair of suffocating defenses. We knew Cedar Park's defense would be exceptional, but the game that Lancaster played, especially Defensive MVP Daeshon Hall (the only player from a losing team to take home MVP honors), was exceptional. The other thing: a couple of controversial calls, specifically the shenanigans on Lancaster's punt that ended up giving Cedar Park the ball deep in Tiger territory, and Lancaster's touchdown that wasn't in the fourth quarter that would've pulled the score to within 17-14. In any case, Cedar Park was the better side, but this game was nip-and-tuck the whole time, and with explosive playmakers on both sides like Ethan Fry and Demarcus Ayers, it felt much, much closer than the final score.
2) Class 5A Division II -- Katy 35, Cedar Hill 24
I can tell you from firsthand experience that when Damion Hobbs hit Brandon Harris for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 9:22 left in the game to give Cedar Hill a 24-21 lead, every jaw in the press box dropped. Katy was perhaps the weekend's biggest favorite, and here they were, trailing for the first time in the second half of a game all season. But Katy would not be denied, and it manifested itself in what I think was the play of the weekend: 4th and 1 on their own 44, Katy goes for it and Adam Taylor bursts for a 56-yard go-ahead touchdown with 6:46 remaining. He salted the game away with a 42-yard touchdown scamper later, but this was a fantastic game, full of twists, turns and big plays. Cedar Hill played its guts out, but Katy was just a little too much. This would've been the best game of the weekend, if it weren't for...
1) Class 1A Division II -- Stamford 35, Mart 28
Oh man, what a fantastic game this was, one that's sure to go down as one of the great state title games of this era. The quarterbacks took center stage in this one, with Mart's De'Narian Thomas and Stamford's Hagen Hutchinson doing the heavy lifting. And for a while, it looked like Mart had figured out the Stamford defense, as Thomas' 1-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the third quarter gave the Panthers a 28-21 lead in a nip-and-tuck affair. But back game Stamford in the fourth quarter, getting key defensive stops and tying the game early in the fourth on Isaiah Llewellyn's 8-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. After a few defensive stops by each team, it came down to the final drive, where Hutchinson sealed his legacy, mounting a 7-play, 51-yard drive in 2:36, capping it with a 9-yard touchdown run on 3rd and 6 with just 32 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a lead. But Mart had one more shot, and Thomas made the most of it, driving the Panthers from their own 15 to the Stamford 35 in just two plays! With 8 seconds left, it came down to one last play, but Thomas' pass to the end zone was intercepted by -- who else? -- Hagen Hutchinson, to give Stamford the state title in what was the best game of the weekend.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.