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the 2016 UIL Texas high school football state championships.

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6A Division I State Championship
The Woodlands (15-0) vs. Lake Travis (14-1)
8 p.m. Saturday, December 17

Instant Recap

Game Recap

Lake Travis entered the Class 6A Division I state championship game having outscored opponents 702-94 in its last 14 games, and that dominance continued as the Cavaliers stormed past The Woodlands 41-13 in the last game of the Texas high school football season.

It was a resounding exclamation point to cap off a remarkable run since the Cavaliers rattled off 15 straight wins after a week one loss to Judson.

The win marked the sixth state title for Lake Travis, and the third for coach Hank Carter since he took over in 2010.

“They take a ton of pride, and they come into high school wanting to be great – I thank our parents for that,” Carter said after the game. “We battled until the very end, and I’m extremely proud of all three phases tonight.”

Quarterback Charlie Brewer finished his senior season with the trophy that slipped out of his hands a year ago, when Lake Travis was unable to get its offense going against Katy’s formidable defense in the title game.

The offense certainly wasn’t a problem this time around. Brewer completed 13 of his first 14 passes, finished the game with 429 total yards and four touchdowns and was named offensive MVP in the last game of his high school career.

The SMU commit threw for an impressive 4,031 yards and 56 touchdowns this season, and was named the high school player of the year by the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors on Friday.

“We came out firing on all cylinders, and started fast,” Brewer said. “I’ve worked really hard, and it’s a fairytale ending.”

The Cavaliers controlled the game from the get-go, jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, and extending it to 27-0 on a 65-yard bomb from Brewer to Maleek Barkley in the second.

The Woodlands finally found the break they were looking for just before the half when quarterback Eric Schmid connected with Dylan Casey for a 30-yard touchdown.

That touchdown was the lone bright spot offensively for the Highlanders, who struggled to find any room to work against the stout Lake Travis defense.

Despite the tough loss to close out the season, The Woodlands and coach Mark Schmid had a tremendous run through a difficult last few months of the season. The state rallied behind the program when senior linebacker Grant Milton suffered a brain injury during the team’s Nov. 26 win over Austin Bowie.

Milton underwent brain surgery, and has been hospitalized since. The Houston Chronicle published a statement from his mother prior to Saturday’s game.

There was a tribute to Milton on the video board at AT&T Stadium before the game, and the Lake Travis band used its halftime performance to form Milton’s number – “21”.

“They fought through that all through the playoffs – but at the same time he was always on our hearts and on our minds,” Schmid said. “We wanted nothing more than to give him a victory tonight, and I think that’s part of the disappointment right now – we didn’t do that.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Lake Travis reached prominence with a title streak that would span five seasons and three coaches. Head coach Hank Carter claimed the last two of those titles, and now breaks a tie with now SMU head coach Chad Morris for most titles in program history with three. There was one thing holding Lake Travis back in the conversation for best big-school team of the last decade – winning at the biggest level.

Lake Travis, much like Aledo, was considered the best of the non-Giants in the state. Sure, Lake Travis could win titles, but could it beat Katy or Allen or Cedar Hill? Lake Travis lost to Cedar Hill in the semifinals two years ago and then fell to Katy in the finals last year. The stigma grew. Had Lake Travis outgrown success?

Nope. The Cavaliers reached the mountaintop in suffocating fashion. The year started with a loss to Converse Judson. In spite of it, or maybe even because of it, Lake Travis went on a rampage. A week later the Cavaliers rebounded with an overtime victory over Cibolo Steele – a team that would play for a Class 6A Division II title earlier in the day.

After that, no team came close to matching Lake Travis. Only Smithson Valley, which lost by 19 points, finished a game within 20 points of Lake Travis from Week 3 through the state championship. The Cavaliers gave up 35 total points in district play and soundly beat Westlake twice. The offense hasn’t scored fewer than 42 points since Week 1 and the defense kept nine of its last 12 opponents in single digits.

Lake Travis stands with the giants of Texas high school football. And it is safe to assume the coronation would’ve taken place a year earlier had it not been for a historic Katy team in 2015. The last time Lake Travis broke through a championship barrier it led to a long reign. It’s up to the rest of Class 6A to keep the Cavaliers from going on a similar run.

– Mike Craven

Box Score

Lake Travis 41, The Woodlands 13

LT 20 7 7 7 41
TW 0 6 0 7 38

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 8:28

Lake Travis – 9-yard pass from Charlie Brewer to Cade Green (Cameron Dicker kick)

1st Qtr. 2:15

Lake Travis – 3-yard pass from Charlie Brewer to Garrett Wilson (Cameron Dicker kick)

1st Qtr. 0:12

Lake Travis – 24-yard pass from Garrett Wilson to Maleek Barley (2-point failed)

2nd Qtr. 9:16

Lake Travis – 65-yard pass from Charlie Brewer to Maleek Barkley (Cameron Dicker kick)

2nd Qtr. 0:25

The Woodlands – 30-yard pass from Eric Schmid to Dylan Casey (Kick failed)

3rd Qtr. 8:56

Lake Travis – 19-yard pass from Charlie Brewer to Cade Brewer (Cameron Dicker kick)

4th Qtr. 3:27

Lake Travis – 1-yard run by Maleek Barkley (Cameron Dicker kick)

4th Qtr. 0:06

The Woodlands – 9-yard pass from Eric Schmid to Connor Patrick (Lockhart West kick)

Team Stats

Lake Travis The Woodlands
First downs 22 16
Rushing yards 105 161
Passing yards 385 140
Passing 28-38-1 17-27-2
Punts – Avg. 4 – 37.8 7 – 36.3
Penalties – Yards 8 – 75 7 – 70
Fumbles – Lost 0 – 0 0 – 0
Third-Down Conversions 4 of 8 4 of 14
Possession Time 18:12 29:48

Lake Travis Individual Leaders

Rushing – Charlie Brewer 9-73, Maleek Barkley 10-33, Garrett Wilson 1-2.

Passing – Charlie Brewer 17-37-361-1, Garrett Wilson 1-1-24.

Receiving – Cade Brewer 7-76, Maleek Barkley 6-138, Garrett Wilson 6-75, Cade Green 5-72, Mac Humble 3-19, Carson Pepe 1-5.

The Woodlands Individual Leaders

Rushing – Carlos Ramos 22-92, Eric Schmid 14-69.

Passing – Eric Schmid 17-27-140-2.

Receiving – Christopher Stewart 5-33, Dylan Casey 3-46, Connor Patrick 3-36, Kesean Carter 3-4, Grant Murphy 1-8, Carlos Ramos 1-7, Jordan Talford 1-6.

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Matt Stepp's Breakdown

The grand finale of the 2016 Texas high school football season pits unbeaten The Woodlands against Lake Travis, which lost in the state title game to a historically great Katy squad a year ago.

The Woodlands pulled off a slight upset last week in taking down powerful Allen, 36-28, in a game that really wasn’t that close. The Highlanders dominated the first half, leading 20-3, and held a 33-14 fourth quarter lead before Allen rallied late to make it respectable. QB Eric Schmid was spectacular in the win, completing 18-of-29 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, and the Highlanders defense was tremendous against the run, holding a vaunted Allen ground game under 100 yards rushing.

Lake Travis continued their assault on all opponents in their way as they destroyed Humble Atascocita, 63-21. QB Charlie Brewer has been nothing short of amazing, tossing 52 touchdown passes on the year against just one interception. The Lake Travis offense has been unstoppable in the playoffs — and, really, all year long, aside from a Week 1 loss to Converse Judson. The Cavs defense hasn’t been great, but they haven’t had to be… and may not need to be this week, if Lake Travis can lure The Woodlands into a shootout.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Lake Travis QB Charlie Brewer
The SMU commit has Lake Travis back in a state championship game. His offense was slowed down in this game last year against Katy, but he’s been even better as a senior.

The Woodlands QB Eric Schmid
The leader of one of the most prolific offenses in the state, Schmid is capable of beating defenses from inside and outside the pocket. He can make all of the throws and has great confidence in his arm.

Lake Travis TE Cade Brewer
Brewer is a unique talent in an age void of tight end talent. He’s a big target, but quick enough to create separation against members of the secondary. He’s a red zone and third down threat.

The Woodlands WR Dylan Casey
One of Schmid’s favorite targets, Casey has the ability to beat teams vertically. He is also a precise route runner and has consistent hands. Casey and Kesean Carter combined for more than 300 yards receiving against Allen.

Lake Travis S Austin Hiller
The Lake Travis defense is overlooked because of its history of offense success. Hiller is one of the best safety prospects in Central Texas.

The Woodlands LB Cole Sichley
Sichley patrolled the middle of the field with brute force in a win over Allen. He and the rest of the defense face another stern test this week.

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6A Division II State Championship
DeSoto (15-0) vs. Cibolo Steele (14-1)
4 p.m. Saturday, December 17

Instant Recap

Game Recap

The Class 6A Division II state championship game looked like it was going to be a DeSoto rout early, but it turned into a thrilling shootout at AT&T Stadium.

DeSoto jumped out to a 14-0 lead and led 28-10 at the half, but the game wasn’t decided until senior Isaiah Stewart forced an Xavier Martin fumble on the Cibolo Steele 40-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

The fumble put an end to a surge of momentum Steele had captured in the second half, and allowed the Eagles to claim the first state championship in school history.

“If you don’t think you’re going to lose, you have a good chance to win,” coach Todd Peterman said. “And that’s these guys’ mindset.”

DeSoto looked unstoppable in the first half, scoring on all four of its possessions – including a 28-yard heave from Shawn Robinson to KD Nixon as time expired in the first half – to storm out to a 28-10 lead going into the break.

The second half was a completely different story.

After the big first half, Robinson fumbled the ball on the opening drive of the third quarter, giving Steele the spark it needed to score on a highlight reel 45-yard touchdown pass from Martin to CJ Williams.

DeSoto answered with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Laviska Shenault Jr. to make it 35-17, but Steele wasn’t going away without a fight.

The Knights scored two straight touchdowns – a 34-yard pass from Martin to Brenden Brady and a 20-yard run by Martin – to pull within 35-29 in the fourth quarter.

But instead of kicking the extra point while down by six, Steele coach Scott Lehnoff elected to go for two. The Knights had a perfect play drawn up, but a pass from Onyx Smith fell through the hands of a wide-open Martin in the end zone.

“It was a good play call, and something we worked all year,” Steele coach Scott Lehnhoff said. “We ran it, and it was there.”

Steele had one more shot at the end zone as time expired, but DeSoto’s game-clinching field-goal made it a two score game and effectively put the title out of reach for the Knights.

“I thought we were going to come out and win it,” Martin said. “It’s just tough – the mental mistakes. But you can’t beat yourself up.”

It was a gutsy performance by both Robinson (TCU commit) and Martin (Texas Tech commit), as the two led a pair of high-powered offenses to a combined 872-yards of offense.

Robinson – who transferred from Denton Guyer in the spring – overcame an injury in the fourth quarter to help lead the Eagles down the field, setting up the team’s late field goal. He was named the offensive MVP, and accounted for 410 total yards and three touchdowns in the win.

“I finished with a lot of pain,” Robinson said. “But it doesn’t matter. I’ll lay my body on the line for my team. It’s been a real surreal 8 months.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

DeSoto’s reputation was clear. The Eagles represented individual talent unable to able win the most important game. And now we must rebuild the narrative. DeSoto proved it can run the gambit in the playoffs, capping off an undefeated season with a scrappy victory over a game Cibolo Steele program, 38-29.

It wasn’t always pretty. DeSoto struggled in the second half. The Eagles led 28-10 at the break after Shawn Robinson, a TCU commit, capped off a stellar first half with a touchdown strike as time ran out on the second quarter. It was a back-breaking score for Steele, and it appeared it put the game to bed. But Steele never went away. And DeSoto never folded.

DeSoto never trailed, but the momentum swung in the second half. Steele’s defense started to look like Steele’s defense as the game wore on after allowing a score on all but one first half possession. DeSoto struggled to find consistency, and Robinson took a big shot in the fourth quarter, forcing him out of the game on the next play. He returned and helped lead a game-clinching field goal drive after the defense came forced a Steele turnover.

The sequence represented a change. Past DeSoto teams allow a Steele comeback. It would’ve been easy for Todd Peterman’s squad to panic as the offensive struggles resulted in a shrinking lead. Steele quarterback and Texas Tech commit, Xavier Martin, created big plays with his arm and legs in the second half. At one point, Steele made it a one possession game and had possession of the ball. That’s when the defense stepped up and forced a fumble.

The offense carried the first half. The defense came up with that fumble and a fourth-down stop to seal the game. The special teams made a late field goal to push the lead to two possessions. It was a team win. It wasn’t about an individual star, though there were plenty of those on the field.

DeSoto won a championship and killed a storyline. The Eagles are no longer the best program in the state without a title. The Eagles are now champions.

– Mike Craven

Postgame Press Conferences

Box Score

DeSoto 38, Cibolo Steele 29

Steele 0 10 13 6 29
DeSoto 14 14 7 3 38

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 5:34

DeSoto – 1-yard run by Kelan Walker (Christian Gonzalez kick)

1st Qtr. 2:41

DeSoto – 17-yard run by Shawn Robinson (Christian Gonzalez kick)

2nd Qtr. 9:58

Cibolo Steele –24-yard field goal by Matthew O’Brien

2nd Qtr. 6:24

DeSoto – 1-yard run by Kelan Walker (Christian Gonzalez kick)

2nd Qtr. 2:28

Cibolo Steele – 15-yard run by Xavier Martin (Matthew O’brien kick)

2nd Qtr. 0:00

DeSoto – 28-yard pass from Shawn Robinson to KD Nixon (Christian Gonzalez kick)

3rd Qtr. 9:10

Cibolo Steele – 45-yard pass from Xavier Martin to CJ Williams (Matthew O’Brian kick)

3rd Qtr. 7:47

DeSoto – 51-yard pass from Shawn Robinson to Laviska Shenault Jr. (Christian Gonzalez kick)

3rd Qtr. 3:57

Cibolo Steele – 34-yard pass from Xavier Martin to Brenden Brady (2-point failed)

4th Qtr. 8:22

Cibolo Steele – 20-yard run by Xavier Martin (2-point failed)

4th Qtr. 2:06

DeSoto – 24-yard field goal by Christian Gonzalez

Team Stats

Cibolo Steele DeSoto
First downs 22 23
Rushing yards 113 303
Passing yards 256 22
Passing 20-36-0 17-24-1
Punts – Avg. 3 – 40 3 – 30.7
Penalties – Yards 3 – 15 5 – 45
Fumbles – Lost 2 – 2 2 – 1
Third-Down Conversions 5 of 14 5 of 12
Possession Time 23:57 24:03

DeSoto Individual Leaders 

Rushing – Shawn Robinson 18-197, Jamonne Williams 8-44, Richie Washington 8-35, Kelan Walker 7-26, KD Nixon 2-8.

Passing – Shawn Robinson 17-24-22-1.

Receiving – KD Nixon 7-63, Laviska Shenault Jr. 6-104, Emmet Perry 3-44, Jamonne Williams 1-11.

Cibolo Steele Individual Leaders

Rushing – Brenden Brady 15-80, Xavier Martin 13-16, Travell Lumpkin 4-12, CJ Williams 1-5.

Passing – Xavier Martin 20-35-256.

Receiving – CJ Williams 9-112, Brenden Brady 3-84, Caden Sterns 3-26, Onyx Smith 3-24, Tre Collins 1-11, Trai Armstrong 1-(-1).

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Matt Stepp's Breakdown

There may not be a state championship game featuring two teams who are more familiar with each other than DeSoto and Cibolo Steele.

The two teams played non-district games in 2014 and 2015 with each team winning a close game. It’s not exactly a neutral field setting — DeSoto is just 20 miles or so from AT&T Stadium — but Steele’s faced these odds before and come out on top, beating Denton Guyer at AT&T Stadium in 2010 for their first state title.

DeSoto’s much-maligned defense came up huge last week in a 42-31 come-from-behind win over Klein Collins in Houston. Trailing 28-14 at the half, the Eagles tightened up, allowing just three Collins first downs and three points in the second half. They also forced five turnovers, with two fumble return touchdowns proving to be the difference.

Steele’s defense has been dominant in the playoffs, and that trend continued last week as they rolled past Katy Cinco Ranch in the semifinals, 35-14. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates — Steele led 35-0 for most of the second half until Cinco Ranch tacked on a couple of window-dressing scores. Steele’s defense, led by a dominant defensive line, is key to their success, but the Xavier Martin-led offense will need to be sharp as well against DeSoto.

There will be a ton of speed on the field for this one; both teams have playmakers galore.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Cibolo Steele QB Xavier Martin
The Texas Tech commit led his team back to the state semifinals for the third-straight year and will finally get to quarterback in a state title game. He’s a dual-threat quarterback with a strong arm and tremendous accuracy.

DeSoto QB Shawn Robinson
The four-star quarterback is committed to TCU. A weapon inside and outside the pocket, Robinson showed poise and leadership during the playoff run.

Cibolo Steele S Caden Sterns
One of the best juniors in the state, Sterns controls the secondary. The LSU commit is big enough to help in run support, but he’s best when allowed to patrol the middle of the field. He’ll only improve as he gets stronger.

DeSoto WR KD Nixon
Robinson’s favorite target is Nixon – a Colorado commit. The senior wide receiver is already over 1,000 yards receiving and averages 18.2 yards per catch.

Cibolo Steele DL Josh Croslen
The key to Steele’s continued success is the defensive line, and this year’s anchor is the Minnesota commit Croslen. He can play inside or outside in Steele’s odd-man front, and possesses a high motor for a big man.

DeSoto LB Kolby Watts
DeSoto’s defense is led by the unheralded Watts. He’s a productive player with a team-high 114 tackles. He also has three sacks and leads the team in tackles for loss.

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5A Division I State Championship
Highland Park (13-2) vs. Temple (12-3)
12 p.m. Saturday, December 17

Instant Recap

Game Recap

The Class 5A Division I state championship game was expected to be a heavyweight defensive battle, so it came as no surprise when a key fourth down stop inside the 5-yard line made the difference in the game.

Highland Park took a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard run by John Stephen Jones with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Temple quickly responded by driving right back down into the red zone.

Less than two minutes into the fourth, the Wildcats faced a fourth down and two from the 5-yard line with the game on the line. Temple tried to run the ball up the middle, but just as it has all season long, the stingy Highland Park defense came up with a stop when it needed one to claim its first state championship since 2005 in a 16-7 win.

“That was a huge play,” senior defensive lineman Turner Coxe said. “Our defense was pinned back there, everybody did their thing and we just made a great play and stopped them on fourth down.”

Temple had another chance to tie the game after forcing a punt on the ensuing possession, but Highland Park punter Michael Clarke pinned the Wildcats inside the 1-yard line with a coffin corner punt that made things difficult on the Temple offense.

With a seven-point lead, the Scots defense again rose to the occasion when senior Turner Coxe broke through the Wildcats’ offensive line and dragged Reid Hesse down for the game-clinching safety.

“He’s a monster,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said of Coxe. “Their front three was as good as we’ve faced. From a technical standpoint, those guys did a phenomenal job over there.”

Things got off to a rough start for the Highland Park offense, as a bad snap on the first play of the game pinned the Scots all the way back on their own 13-yard line. Highland Park managed just 1-yard of offense in the entire first quarter as the Temple defense had its way early on.

But as the game progressed, Highland Park began to wear down the bigger Wildcats’ defense.

Jemiyah Franklin gave Temple a 7-0 lead on a nifty 38-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the momentum began to shift after that. John Stephen Jones and the Scots finally got the big play they needed when the senior quarterback broke through the defense for a 36-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

“Our O-line made some great blocks, and our receivers made some big blocks downfield,” Jones said. “Great team effort on that play.”

Jones had a rough time through the air – 9-23 for 96 yards and an interception – but his impact on the ground was the difference in the game. The numbers weren’t impressive – 29 yards on 10 carries – but his touchdowns of 36 and 1-yard were all the Scots defense needed.

Jones – who also caught a pass on a trick play that went for 31-yards – was named the offensive MVP for his performance.

Defensively, Coxe took home defensive MVP honors, but the Highland Park secondary was just as crucial. The Scots came up with key plays throughout the game to prevent the Temple offense from going deep as they liked to do throughout the year.

“They played off and were going to make us chunk and dunk underneath,” Stewart said. “We didn’t execute very well today, and they had a lot to do with that.

Senior defensive back Alex Walzel had a huge game for Highland Park, finishing with three pass break-ups and a big interception near the end zone towards the end of the first half.

“I worried all week because our skill guys were going to get put into one-on-one situations on deep passes – I knew that,” Highland Park coach Randy Allen said. “I knew that we were going to have to make plays on the ball with the ball in the air. Our guys went up and found a way to keep a good receiver from getting the ball.”

The big defensive performance was a fitting end to the season for Highland Park, which allowed an average of just 10 points in six playoff games.

“When everybody was watching – almost 40,000 people – and they had to make plays against an extremely talented football team, they came through,” Allen said. “All I can tell you is they are tenacious competitors.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Region I faced off with Region III for the Class 5A Division I title. It was foreseen before the season, except few people predicted the two representatives would be Highland Park and Temple. In the end, the Scots reigned supreme and Region I claimed a sweep in Class 5A.

Class 5A appeared top heavy. Four teams controlled the landscape early, at least in perception. Denton Ryan, Aledo, Cedar Park and Manvel were contenders – the rest of the state was playing for consolation prizes. Well, not quite.

Aledo proved prognosticators right with a Class 5A Division II title. Highland Park proved why the games are played on the field rather than paper in an upset victory over Temple. Neither team was expected to win a region, much less play for a state title.

Temple reached the state championship by knocking off Manvel in the Region III final after Manvel knocked off Cedar Park a week before. Couple that with Highland Park’s upset victory over Denton Ryan in Region I and the three favorites in Division I were eliminated before the state semifinals.

Rankings are more of a compass than a map, at least in a sport with a true playoff. A compass offers direction, not necessarily a destination. That’s not to say both of these teams weren’t expected to compete. Highland Park and Temple entered the season ranked fifth and sixth, respectfully, in our preseason poll – right behind the four favorites.

Early season losses derailed momentum and offered warning signs for both teams. Highland Park lost to Waxahachie. Temple dropped a game to Waco Midway a week later and lost a second in a row when Class 6A Cedar Ridge knocked off the Wildcats. Temple and Highland Park also picked up district losses. The Scots dropped the last game of the regular season, while Temple was beaten by College Station.

None of it mattered. That’s the beauty of a playoff. Get in the playoffs and anything can happen, especially for teams considered in the top 10 before the season. Each team had history. Each team had talent. Now, Highland Park has another trophy.

– Mike Craven

Postgame Press Conferences

Box Score

Highland Park 16, Temple 7

Temple 7 0 0 0 7
HP 0 7 7 0 17

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 4:59

Temple – 38-yard run by Jemiyah Franklin (Jared Wiley kick)

2nd Qtr, 3:49

Highland Park – 36-yard run by John Stephen Jones (Matteo Cordray kick)

3rd Qtr. 1:46

Highland Park – 1-yard run by John Stephen Jones (Matteo Cordray kick)

4th Qtr. 5:00

Highland Park – Safety forced by Turner Coxe

Team Stats

Temple Highland Park
First downs 18 15
Rushing yards 104 157
Passing yards 177 127
Passing 21-33-1 10-24-1
Punts – Avg. 3 – 25.7 6 – 34.5
Penalties – Yards 3 – 25 3 – 25
Fumbles – Lost 3 – 1 1 – 0
Third-Down Conversions 6 of 15 6 of 16
Possession Time 0 of 3 1 of 4

Highland Park Individual Leaders

Rushing – Paxton Alexander 26-144, John Jones 10-29 , Jack Fain 1-4.

Passing – John Jones 9-23-96-1, Michael Clarke 1-1-31.

Receiving – Hudson Wood 3-38, John Jones 1-31, Ryan Waters 1-27, JT Dooley 1-14, Jack Toohey 1-10, Matt Gahm 1-5, Parker Alexander 1-3, Paxton Alexander 1-(-1).

Temple Individual Leaders

Rushing – Jemiyah Franklin 20-78, Zion Leach 9-39, Anthony Jefferson 3-9, Reid Hesse 3-0.

Passing – Reid Hesse 21-31-177-1, Jared Wiley 0-1.

Receiving – Xavier Johnson 8-58, Terrance Johnson 5-53, D’Yonte Heckstall 4-31, Zaccheus Johnson 3-27, Jemiyah Franklin 1-8.

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Matt Stepp's Breakdown

If you picked Highland Park vs. Temple in the 5A Division I state title game, you might be the only one. Both of these teams knocked off prohibitive favorites to get this point, but make no mistake: these are two true blue blood programs in Texas high school football, with nearly 1600 wins combined.

Highland Park upset Denton Ryan last week, 31-24, as the Scots defense held a potent Ryan offense in check, while the offense used a methodical and high-execution approach to move the ball against Ryan’s defense. RB Paxton Alexander ran for 137 yards and two scores while QB John Stephen Jones threw for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Scots.

Temple, who stunned Manvel two weeks ago, took out another unbeaten team from Houston last week as the Wildcats beat Richmond Foster, 31-24. After taking a lead on a short touchdown run from Anthony Johnson, Temple’s defense — which has been sensational all year — forced turnovers on Foster’s final two drives to secure the victory.

Both defenses have played extremely well down the stretch, so this game comes down to which offense can make a few plays late.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Temple QB Reid Hesse
Hesse completes more than 50 percent of his passes, and he’s asked to pass a lot. He is well over 3,000 yards passing, throwing 21 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions.

Highland Park QB John Stephen Jones
The grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is the Scots’ signal-caller, and the junior has been effective and efficient in his first year at the helm.

Temple RB Jemiyah Franklin
The X factor for Temple’s offense is the running back Franklin, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He averages 6.2 yards per carry and has 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Highland Park NG Turner Coxe
The heartbeat of the physical defensive front, Coxe has turned into one of the DFW area’s most feared run-stuffers. He’s got terrific feet for a player his size.

Temple DE Taquon Graham
The Longhorn commit is a menace along the defensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Graham is a handful for offensive linemen. He’s quick and powerful as a pass rusher.

Highland Park LB Matt Gahm
A Virginia commit, Gahm has the ability to play defensive line or linebacker at the next level. He is tied for the team lead with six sacks and should record more than 100 tackles on the year.

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5A Division II State Championship
Aledo (15-0) vs. Corpus Christi Calallen (14-1)
8 p.m. Friday, December 16

Instant Recap

Game Recap

Much like West Orange-Stark in the Class 4A Division I game at the beginning of the day, Aledo entered its matchup against Calallen as an overwhelming favorite.

But just as Sweetwater surpassed expectations before eventually falling to WO-S, the Wildcats and legendary coach Phil Danaher battled until the bitter end in a 24-16 loss to Aledo.

The Bearcats claimed their seventh state championship in school history – and sixth since 2009 – after doing just enough down the stretch to pull away from Calallen.

“These kids are unbelievable,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “Look at our fans – it’s a neat place to be. It’s as good as it gets.”

After forcing a punt on Aledo’s opening possession, the Wildcats came up with a big interception early in the first quarter. But in the process of the return, Calallen fumbled the ball deep in its own territory to set up the eventual icebreaker for Aledo on a 5-yard touchdown run by Rhett Harris.

The Wildcats’ offense promptly responded with a classic Danaher drive, marching down the field on 15 plays and taking 7:14 off the clock before settling for a field goal to bring the game within 7-3 in the second quarter.

Aledo added another field goal late in the second half as the Calallen defense continued to step up and hold the explosive offense in check, but the Bearcats’ dynamic freshman Jase McClellan finally got going in the third quarter.

McClellan busted off a 59-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 17-3, and the freshman finished with a game-high 98-yards on the ground.

“I think it made a big difference to come out after halftime with a big play,” McClellan said. “We went into halftime we told ourselves we had to pound them, and that’s what we did. We got on the board, and got up quick.”

Even after the McClellan touchdown appeared to put the game out of reach, Calallen bounced right back behind the physical leadership of quarterback Gaige Lamb. Lamb’s 32-yard touchdown run made it 17-10 in the third, and the Wildcats forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set up a real opportunity to tie the game.

However, the Aledo defense – led by a monster performance from the interior defensive line – forced a punt.

The Bearcats were able to close the game out from there in the fourth quarter to escape in what turned into a much closer game than most expected.

“Those boys came to play,” Wood said of Calallen. “Those boys came to play over there. They are the real deal. We are very fortunate to have won this football game.”

In his first appearance on the biggest stage, McClellan took home offensive MVP honors for his performance. The freshman finished the season with 1,528 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.

“This award means everything,” McClellan said. “Coming out here as a freshman and receiving the offensive player of the game award feels amazing.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Most of the time, Goliath wins. That was the case when Aledo beat Calallen to capture another Class 5A Division II title. It is the program’s sixth title since 2009 and seventh overall. Steve Wood’s team didn’t win it with flash. The Bearcats got the job done with physicality.

“We knew they were going to try and run the ball. We knew we had to step up,” Aledo defensive tackle James Williams said. “Our job was to take on the double teams, make plays and let our linebackers scrape free. We got it done.”

Leading the charge was Williams and fellow defensive tackle Wes Harris. Calallen is a physical running team, but the two forced the Wildcats to focus their rushing efforts on the outside. Williams was overwhelming in the first half, while Harris, just a junior, showed flashes of dominance throughout the game. Harris a senior committed to TCU.

“We communicated a lot on the field and we had a lot of guys step up,” Williams said.

Williams is undersized for the position at sub-6 feet, but he makes up for it with motor and production. He was awarded Defensive MVP for his performance.

“I stepped my game up. Coach always tells us the most physical team is going to win,” Williams said. “We were the more physical team.”

Oh, and both led the way for Donnie Evans’ game-clinching touchdown.

“The first two times we ran the ball, they were talking trash so we had to get it right,” he added. “It felt good (to lead block on the last touchdown). We needed to make it a two possession game so I found my guy and rolled him up.”

– Mike Craven

Box Score

Aledo 24, Calallen 16

Aledo 7 3 7 7 24
Calallen 0 3 7 6 16

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 4:09

Aledo – 5-yard run by Rhett Harris (Quinn Daivs kick)

2nd Qtr. 8:55

Calallen – 20-yard field goal by Grant Gonzalez

2nd Qtr. 6:49

Aledo – 35-yard field goal by Quinn Davis

3rd Qtr. 8:14

Aledo – 59-yard run by Jase McClellan (Reed Vierling kick)

3rd Qtr. 5:44

Calallen – 32-yard run by Gaige Lamb (Grant Gonzalez kick)

4th Qtr. 5:43

Aledo – 2-yard run by Donnie Evans (Quinn Davis kick)

4th Qtr. 1:34

Calallen – 3-yard run by Alec Brown (Kick failed)

Team Stats

Calallen Aledo
First downs 8 15
Rushing yards 134 117
Passing yards 95 74
Passing 4-5-0 3-12-1
Punts – Avg. 4 – 40.2 3 – 43.3
Penalties – Yards 9 – 66 6 – 52
Fumbles – Lost 2 – 2 1 – 1
Third-Down Conversions 5 of 12 3 of 8
Possession Time 30:01 17:59

Calallen Individual Leaders

Rushing – Alec Brown 20-53, Zach Hawkins 4-43, Gaige Lamb 21-34, Colton Duff 1-4.

Passing – Gaige Lamb 4-5-95.

Receiving – Alec Brown 1-39, B. Broughton 1-30, John Gaddis 1-17, Colton Duff 1-9.

Aledo Individual Leaders

Rushing – Jase McClellan 13-98, Donnie Evans 8-32, Rhett Harris 1-5, Hunter Rosson 1-(-2), Michael Jordan 1-(-6).

Passing – Dillon Davis 3-12-74-1.

Receiving – Logan Bridges 1-56, P. Jefferis 1-11, Logan Peterson 1-7.7

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The championship pedigree between these two programs is quite different.

Aledo has won six total state championships, including five since 2009. Calallen has never brought a state title back to the Coastal Bend, and this is only the second time the Wildcats have advanced to the title game. What Calallen does have in their corner is a legend on the sidelines in coach Phil Danaher, the state’s all-time leader in wins.

Aledo pulled away from a scrappy Mesquite Poteet squad, winning 38-14. Freshman RB Jase McClellan continues to emerge as a force for the Bearcats, as he ran for 183 yards and a touchdown in the victory. QB Dillon Davis accounted for three total touchdowns as well.

Calallen — led by QB Gaige Lamb — pulled off a slight upset of unbeaten College Station, 31-30, at the Alamodome. Leading by one late in the game, Calallen’s defense stepped up twice and stopped College Station near midfield, preventing a potential game-winning field goal attempt.

Calallen’s not particularly big nor fast, and Aledo’s size up front with two FBS recruits leading the way could plow through a scrappy Calallen bunch. If this game is close at halftime, don’t be surprised if we see some Danaher magic. 

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Aledo QB Dillon Davis
Davis averages seven yards per rush, but he does most of his damage through the air. His progression helped the Bearcats become two-dimensional and the senior quarterback is approaching 50 touchdowns passes on the season.

Calallen QB Gaige Lamb
The Calallen quarterback is a dangerous runner and a capable passer when called upon to move the ball through the air. His toughness is unquestioned and he’s reliable in pressure situations.

Aledo OLs Wes Harris and Chuck Filiaga
Any good quarterback needs protection and Davis is blessed with two titans to provide time to work the ball down the field. The two four-star recruits also maul defenders in the run game to combine as one of the best offensive line duos in the state. Harris is committed to TCU.

Calallen RB Alec Brown
Brown’s ability as a running back opens the rest of the offense up. In the state semifinal win over College Station, Brown had 141 yards on three carries.

Aledo LB Will Trawick
Trawick is a model of consistency from his linebacker position. The senior leader of a dominant defense, Trawick is more productive than flashy. He can make plays to both sidelines and takes on blockers at the point of attack. His instincts result in a big plays.

Calallen DE/LB Lawrence Mann
The Calallen defense needed players to step up after losing the bulk of last year’s unit and the senior defensive end became one of the leaders on a good defensive squad.

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4A Division I State Championship
Abilene Wylie (12-1) vs. Carthage (13-2)
4 p.m. Friday, December 16

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Game Recap

Defense was expected to be the difference, and after giving up 14 first quarter points, Carthage forced six turnovers and finally got the pro-style offense going in the second half on the way to a 31-17 win over Abilene Wylie in the Class 4A Division I state championship.

Carthage got to the title game by the skin of its teeth, winning three straight playoff games by a total of just nine points. This time, the Bulldogs were able to pull away down the stretch for the fifth championship in school history.

“I could only dream of one, and we’ve got five,” Carthage coach Scott Surratt said. “It’s just great coaches and great players, and it’s hard work.”

Wylie entered the game with the talented duo of Zach Smith and Brooks Pepper expected to receive the bulk of the work on the ground, but it was the passing attack that gave the Bulldogs a spark early in the game.

Smith connected with Gatlin Martin on touchdown passes of 32 and 5-yards – the second of which was hauled in by Martin as he fell out of bounds in the corner of the end zone – and Wylie stormed out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

But after that early success for Wylie through the air, Carthage settled down and got into a rhythm. Kason Davis hit Dewaylon Ingram on a 25-yard touchdown pass late in the first, Keontay Ingram punched in a 2-yard touchdown at the beginning of the second and Brandon Medrano punched through a 26-yard field goal to cap off a run of 17 straight points for Carthage in the first half.

Wylie’s Cameron Hanna tied the game at 17-17 with a 17-yard field goal just before the break, but the second half was all Carthage.

“We had a lot of big plays,” Wylie coach Hugh Sandifer said. “What a great first half by both teams – for them to take the lead 17-14, and for us to take it down and tie it up. But second half – hats off to them.”

Carthage forced five turnovers in the second half, including three straight tip-drill interceptions in the fourth quarter, to stifle the Wylie offense. Austin Russell was named the defensive MVP after a performance that included a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

“It’s phenomenal,” Surratt said. “That’s great defense. [Defensive coordinator] Darren Preston and his staff – you have to give those guys credit. Offensive guys and the head coach get way too much credit, but our defense won this thing.”

The defensive dominance sparked the Carthage offense to get things moving in the second half as well, as the offensive line began to take control of the battle in the trenches. The line opened consistent holes for Keaontay Ingram, who finished as the game’s offensive MVP after rushing for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a bounce back performance for Ingram, who had three fumbles in a close win last week.

“I think I owed it to the team,” Ingram said. “I knew coming into this game that we can’t afford turnovers. I give all my credit to the offensive line, which helped me take care of the ball.”

Just a week after losing the turnover battle 5-1 and needing triple overtime to knock off China Spring 26-20 in the semifinals, Carthage flipped the script to force six turnovers and give up just one in the win over Wylie.

The Bulldogs scored 21 points off those turnovers, and Sandifer said that was the difference.

“They put a lot of pressure on us defensively,” Sandifer said. “Just way too many turnovers either by our doing or their doing or too many tipped balls – you just can’t do that and give a team like that the ball continually.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Styles win fights. Carthage’s style is built to win big games. That’s exactly what the Bulldogs did again at AT&T Stadium on Friday, beating Abilene Wylie, 31-17. It didn’t start well for Scott Surratt’s squad. The normal ground-heavy Wylie offense beat Cartage over the top for 14 quick points in the first quarter. Carthage would score 31 of the next 34.

“We knew it’d be a long game,” Surratt said. “We were in tough spots for most of our games this year. We were used to close games and our guys never panicked. Our offensive line played great and we wore them down throughout the game.”

Carthage is a slow burn. It marinates opponents. It’s the Carthage way and it led to another championship – this one a little unexpected. Most people close to the Carthage program will tell you that the Bulldogs are a year ahead of schedule. Quarterback Kason Davis is a senior, but star running back Keaontay Ingram will return as one of the top rated 2018 running backs in the state of Texas. The offensive line should be young, but improved. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the state.

The defense stole the show in the second half. For the game, Carthage created six turnovers – four interceptions. Three of those interceptions came off tipped passes – a sign that Carthage was rallying to the football. Defensive lineman Austin Russell recorded two fumble recoveries and defensive back Mekhi Colbert – one of many star juniors set to return – swooped in for two key second-half interceptions.

Carthage peaks at the right time. A positive reflection of Surratt, no doubt. He’s now 5-0 in state title games as a head coach after winning in his lone appearance as offensive coordinator at Texas High. Surratt schedules tough non-district games. He challenges his team. The competition in district also prepares his squad for tight moments. Carthage was in close games all year, and even lost two in district play. But the adversity made the team stronger. It does that with proper leadership.

“Five championships in one program is special. It’s hard work. We went 0-2 in district and now we’re state championships. It’s unbelievable,” Surratt said. “I’m proud of this group. Not a lot of people thought we’d be here.”

Carthage’s fifth title was its most unexpected. Even if it was done in a fashion predictable for Carthage.

– Mike Craven

Postgame Press Conferences

Box Score

Carthage 31, Abilene Wylie 17

Carthage 7 10 0 14 31
Wylie 14 3 0 0 17

Scoring Summary 

1st Qtr. 10:09

Abilene Wylie – Gatlin Martin 32-yard pass from Zach Smith (Cameron Hanna kick)

1st Qtr. 5:55

Abilene Wylie – Gatlin Martin 5-yard pass from Zach Smith (Cameron Hanna kick)

1st Qtr. 0:23

Carthage – Dewaylon Ingram 25-yard pass from Kason Davis (Brandon Medrano kick)

2nd Qtr. 11:55

Carthage – Keaontay Ingram 2-yard run (Brandon Medrano kick)

2nd Qtr. 2:08

Carthage – Brandon Medrano 26-yard field goal

2nd Qtr. 0:04

Abilene Wylie – Cameron Hanna 27-yard field goal

4th Qtr. 8:10

Carthage – Kason Davis 1-yard run (Brandon Medrano kick)

4th Qtr. 3:49

Carthage – Keaontay Ingram 14-yard run (Brandon Medrano kick)

Team Stats

Carthage Abilene Wylie
First downs 18 10
Rushing yards 201 73
Passing yards 141 147
Passing 13-22-1 9-18-4
Punts – Avg. 3 – 40.3 1 – 36
Penalties – Yards 5 – 55 5 – 30
Fumbles – Lost 1 – 0 2 – 2
Third-Down Conversions 4 of 13 2 of 8
Possession Time 31:16 16:44

Carthage Individual Leaders

Rushing – Keaontay Ingram 28-182, Mekhi Colbert 2-20, Kason Davis 11-14.

Passing – Kason Davis 12-21-134-1.

Receiving – Dewaylon Ingram 4-67, Keaontay Ingram 3-23, Josh Gradberg 3-14, Mekhi Colbert 2-30, Kason Davis 1-7.

Abilene Wylie Individual Leaders

Rushing – Brooks Pepper 10-45, Zach Smith 10-25, Cason Grant 1-3, Cameron Hanna 2-0.

Passing – Zach Smith 9-18-147-4.

Receiving –Tyler Henson 2-64, Gatlin Martin 2-37, Ethan Smith 2-13, Cason Grant 2-12, Jonas Lunsford 1-21.

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A classic East vs. West battle as Abilene Wylie and their vaunted defense hooks up with Carthage, who has made a living recently winning close playoff games.

Abilene Wylie’s defense doesn’t get the headlines that West Orange’s crew gets, but the Bulldogs are plenty good, led by DE Dion Novill and a physical cast in the back seven. Last week, they were the difference in a 21-13 slugfest against Kennedale. The Bulldogs forced four turnovers and Zach Smith’s two touchdown runs proved to be enough to send Wylie to their first title game since 2009.

Carthage has certainly made things interesting in the past three weeks, winning by a total of nine points, including last week’s 26-20 triple overtime win over China Spring. Keontay Ingram’s touchdown run (his second of the day) was the difference in the third overtime period. He finished the evening with 168 yards on the ground.

Carthage’s pro-style offense, led by Ingram and QB Kason Davis, is a tough group to slow down, and that balance could be key against Abilene Wylie’s defense, which has chewed up and spit out one dimensional offensive units this year. Expect an extremely close game between these two, who are evenly matched, but I like Carthage’s balance to be the difference.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Carthage RB Keontay Ingram
The Carthage offense is built around its all-purpose running back. He’ll end the season with more than 2,000 yards rushing and is approaching a 1,000 yards as a receiver.

Abilene Wylie DB Gatlin Martin
Martin recorded three interceptions in a quarterfinals win, returning one for a touchdown. The Wylie defense creates turnovers and will need to again this week.

Carthage QB Kason Davis
The Bulldogs’ signal-caller is in complete command of the offense. He passes for around 200 yards per game and has thrown just seven interceptions compared to 27 touchdowns.

Abilene Wylie RB Brooks Pepper
Only quarterback Zach Smith recorded more offensive touches against Kennedale than Pepper. He rushed the ball 11 times and caught four passes; he will be the go-to guy in the Bulldogs attack.

Carthage LB Mykel Gates
The junior linebacker is a three-star recruit with plenty of early recruiting attention. He’s one of many reliable defenders for the Bulldogs.

Abilene Wylie QB Zach Smith
Smith rushed for two touchdowns in last week’s victory over Kennedale. He’s not the explosive take-over-a-game QB some teams have, but Smith can come up with the tough plays when you need them.

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4A Division II State Championship
Sweetwater (13-1) vs. West Orange-Stark (15-0)
12 p.m. Friday, December 16

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Nobody outside the Big Country gave Sweetwater any chance against West Orange-Stark, but the Class 4A Division II state championship game was an absolute battle from start to finish. West Orange-Stark pulled away for a 24-6 victory, but got all it could handle from Sweetwater on the third day of UIL championship games at AT&T Stadium.

The win made two straight state championships for WO-S, as Lamar commit Jack Dallas closed out his career with 27 straight wins. Dallas was named the offensive MVP, and was visibly emotional as the clock wound down in his final high school game.

“I know what these guys have been through,” West Orange-Stark coach Cornel Thompson said. “He’s got that leadership knack, these guys believed in him, followed him and we got it done.”

While Dallas and WO-S pulled away on the scoreboard in the second half, the game was much closer than it appeared.

On the opening possession of the game, WO-S quickly marched down to the 1-yard line to set up what should have been an easy touchdown run. Instead, Sweetwater forced a fumble and senior Luke James returned it 99 yards in a play that set the tone for four quarters of dominant defensive football.

Sweetwater didn’t convert the 2-point conversion attempt, but the Mustangs grabbed a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter and proceeded to hold the WO-S offense completely in check for the majority of the first half.

The turning point the WO-S offense came through some trickery, as WR Keion Hancock threw a 40-yard pass to Jay’Len Matthews late in the second quarter. Matthews adjusted to the throw at the last second and hauled it in with one hand, giving WO-S the momentum needed to punch in its first score of the game.

Before that play, WO-S was almost completely bottled up by Sweetwater. A 2-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Shaw gave WO-S a 7-6 lead with 0:29 left in the first half.

“I thought that was huge going into the dressing room,” Thompson said. “That was huge for us to go down and score to make it 7-6 before the half. We talked about what was going on, and our guys came out and finished the deal.”

WO-S looked to seize control of the game when defensive back Jarron Morris stepped in front of a screen pass and intercepted it deep in Sweetwater territory on the opening play of the third quarter. But the Mustangs’ defense again held strong in the red-zone and forced a WO-S field goal.

Sweetwater got another big red-zone stop later in the second half when Dallas attempted to throw a ball out of the back of the end zone only to have it intercepted by Kobe Clark.

It was a gutsy performance from the Sweetwater defense on the biggest stage of the year, and drew significant praise from coach Shane Mobley.

“All year long, you’ve seen them,” Mobley said. “We felt like we contained them. We wanted to make sure we went out and earned respect. I’m just so proud of these guys – not one time did we lay down.”

After the interception, Sweetwater had the momentum again. But any chance of a late comeback ended when star quarterback Chris Thompson fumbled the ball on the ensuing possession after taking a big hit and going down with an injury.

Thompson was the focal point of the Sweetwater offense and one of the team’s biggest leaders, and WO-S rattled off 14 straight points when he was forced out of the game at the 10:26 mark of the fourth quarter.

“When Chris went down, that kind of changes what we can do,” Mobley said.

For the WO-S defense, it was an appropriate end to a dominant season. WO-S held an opponent without an offensive touchdown for the ninth time this season, and held the explosive Sweetwater offense to just 151 yards of offense.

“We’ve had to play every week with a target on our back,” Thompson said. “They responded positively, and they did well.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Dominance starts with ‘d’, and so does the West Orange-Stark football program. A season of defensive excellence was capped off with a state title victory over Sweetwater. West Orange-Stark won 24-6, but the defense didn’t allow a single point. A fumble recovery and return resulted in Sweetwater’s only points. And it wasn’t too surprising.

“These are the same guys that have been playing together since we were five years old, so we always knew what we were capable of even when other people didn’t. We put in the work,” defensive lineman Morris Joseph said. “That’s why we get the results we get right now.”

West Orange-Stark strung together one of the most impressive defensive seasons in state history. Just like Katy in 2015, West Orange-Stark controlled opponents from Week 1 through the championship game. Opponents scored 69 points on West Orange-Stark in 2016. The six points allowed in the state title game raised that average and the defense isn’t even the group that allowed the points.

The Mustangs began the season with four consecutive shutouts. It would’ve been five, but the offense surrendered a safety in the Sept. 23rd matchup with Silsbee. West Orange-Stark only allowed 21 points to Kennedale. The same Kennedale team that went four rounds deep in the Class 4A Division I bracket.

It starts up front with the defensive line. Nose tackle Mandel Turner-King is a unique talent for the positon. Most nose tackles win with brute force. Turner-King wins with athleticism and awareness. It’s a theme seen across the starting 11 on defense. The whole team can run, even the nose tackle. Turner-King demonstrated this in the fourth quarter when he chased down an opposing runner along the sideline.

“He brings speed and athleticism to our defense. Along with a high football IQ because he’s a four-year letterman,” Joseph said. “He has more heart than everybody else. That’s the thing about West Orange-Stark – we have more heart than anybody else. From the coaching staff to the fans to the players – we have more heart.”

Joseph, a UTSA commit, is also a staple on the defensive line. He also starts at offensive tackle.

“I take all the pride in starting both ways. KJ Miller and I start both ways and it’s about doing whatever is necessary to help this group win. We sacrifice and burn our body to play every play 100 percent,” Joseph said.

The strong defensive performance propelled West Orange-Stark to a second straight title. West Orange-Stark allowed nine points combined in those two victories. Kennedale and Robinson were the only two teams to score in double-digits against West Orange-Stark in 2016. The 6-0 deficit today was the biggest the team faced all year.

“We didn’t feel any pressure. We had a job to do,” Joseph said. “I just wish I had 48 minutes left to play with these guys.”

– Mike Craven

Postgame Press Conferences

Box Score

West Orange-Stark 24, Sweetwater 6

WO-S 0 7 3 14 24
Sweetwater 6 0 0 0 6

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 7:44

Sweetwater – 96-yard fumble return by Luke James (2-point conversion failed)

2nd Qtr. 0:29

West Orange-Stark – 2-yard run by Jeremiah Shaw (Chad Dallas kick)

3rd Qtr. 10:14

West Orange-Stark – 20-yard field goal by Chad Dallas

4th Qtr. 7:58

West Orange-Stark – 1-yard run by Jack Dallas (Chad Dallas kick)

4th Qtr. 5:38

West Orange-Stark – 31-yard interception return by Justin Brown (Chad Dallas kick)

Team Stats

WO-S Sweetwater
First downs 18 9
Rushing yards 174 79
Passing yards 138 69
Passing 15-23-1 10-22-2
Punts – Avg. 2 – 39.5 4 – 26.8
Penalties – Yards 6 – 45 5 – 40
Fumbles – Lost 1 – 1 1 – 1
Third-Down Conversions 5 of 9 3 of 11
Possession Time 26:39 21:21

West Orange-Stark Individual Leaders

Rushing – Jeremiah Shaw 13-89, Kavyn Cooper 8-44, Keion Hancock 4-22, Jack Dallas 6-19, Kentavio Miller 1-8.

Passing – Jack Dallas 14-22-98-1, Keion Hancock 1-1-40.

Receiving – Keion Hancock 4-60, Jay’len Matthews 4-53, Kentavio Miller 2-13, Blake Robinson 2-8, Ronald Carter 1-5, Jeremiah Shaw 1-1, Dominique Tezeno 1-(-2).

Sweetwater Individual Leaders

Rushing – Chris Thompson 8-39, Jordan McGee 1-29, Jacoby Hunt 10-26, T. Longoria 1-3, Luke James 1-(-5), Alex Gallegos 1-(-8).

Passing – Chris Thompson 9-20-67-1, T. Longoria 1-2-2-1.

Receiving – Jordan McGee 4-23, Luke James 3-14, Kiante McCoy 1-19, Kobe Clark 1-11, Hunter Mobley 1-2.

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West Orange-Stark will have the chance to cement their legacy as one of the greatest teams of all time in their classification with a win Friday.

The “Chain Gang” defense has been the best group in the state top-to-bottom as they’ve thrown up historically good numbers, most notably allowing just 63 points on the year and pitching eight shutout.

Last week was more of the same as WOS blew past Geronimo Navarro 49-7 at NRG Stadium. The Mustangs held the vaunted Navarro Slot-T offense to less than three yards per carry and the offense, led by QB Jack Dallas, hummed along at their usual pace. Dallas, who has led WOS to 26-straight wins, is guiding the Mustangs to their third straight state title game.

Standing in the way is another set of Mustangs. This group is from the Big Country as Sweetwater plays in their first state title game since 1985. If there is an offensive scheme to beat the vaunted WOS defense it is Sweetwater’s. They have a good dual threat QB, an up-tempo system and a group of quick and shifty receivers. Last week, Sweetwater proved they can also play some defense, intercepting five passes and running past Gilmer 48-35.

This game is simple, and it comes down to Sweetwater’s offense. If they can move the ball early and plant even a seed of doubt in the West Orange-Stark defense, maybe they can pull the upset, but my gut tells me WOS comes out early and establishes dominance. Sweetwater may get a score or two late, but it could be long after the game is decided.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

West Orange-Stark QB Jack Dallas
The quarterback with a name built to quarterback high school football in the state of Texas has his team one game away from a repeat. The Mustangs defense gets most of the press clippings, but Dallas’ ability to create plays on offense provides balance to a great team.

Sweetwater QB Chris Thompson
Thompson keys the offense at the quarterback position. Entering the state title game, Thompson has recorded 2,750 yards passing and 973 yards rushing. He’s accountable for 52 touchdowns.

West Orange-Stark LB Justin Brown
Brown leads a stifling defense. He’s not the biggest player and his 5-foot-9 frame probably keeps his offer list down, but he makes plays. West Orange-Stark had eight shutouts this year and Brown was a big reason why. His consistency and effort are contagious.

Sweetwater RB/LB Jacoby Hunt
Hunt is a two-way stud. On offense, he recorded over 1,000 yards before the state title game. He has 105 tackles on defense.

West Orange-Stark NG Mandel Turner-King
The defensive dominance displayed by West Orange-Stark starts with the defensive line. The success in the trenches starts with Turner-King. He’s not the biggest defensive tackle you’ll watch at the state title game, but he’ll be the most athletic and maybe the most destructive.

Sweetwater LB Hunter Mobley
Mobley should end the season with more than 160 recorded tackles. That type of production can’t be ignored. He contributes on offense, as well.

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3A Division I State Championship
Mineola (13-2) vs. Yoakum (11-4)
8 p.m. Thursday, December 15

Instant Recap

Game Recap

In the final game of a Texas high school football quadruple header at AT&T Stadium, senior Jeremiah Crawford ignited a wild Mineola crowd with 276 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 35-14 over Yoakum for the Class 3A Division I state championship.

Crawford scored on runs of 1, 40, 5 and 5-yards while displaying the combination of speed and physicality that helped guide Mineola to 14 straight wins after an 0-2 start.

It was the second state championship appearance in school history (2014), and Crawford – who lost as a sophomore quarterback in the finals to Cameron Yoe two years ago – put on a show for Mineola’s first state title.

“I finally came out victorious,” Crawford said. “I’m very happy. We were young, and we were shocked. Coming back my senior year, we have 19 seniors – we are mature. We just came out and played.”

The Yellow Jackets scored on a methodical opening drive to set the tone early, driving 60-yards in 10 plays while chewing up almost five minutes off the clock. Yoakum answered with an even longer drive, going more than six minutes before scoring on a 25-yard halfback pass from Henry Enoch to Jordan Moore.

Yoakum added just one more touchdown midway through the second quarter before Crawford took over.

Crawford’s second half touchdown runs of 40, 5 and 5-yards put the game out of reach.

While the Yellow Jackets run game torched the Yoakum defense, the Mineola defensive unit stepped up as well to help the Bulldogs in check after two first half scores. Mineola allowed just 193 total yards to the Bulldogs’ traditionally dynamic offensive attack.

“They scored two on us in the first – we didn’t know what they were trying to do,” Crawford said. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Our defense came out and played tonight.”

For coach Joe Drennon, it was a big moment as Mineola took home the first state championship in school history.

“I’m awful proud of these kids for being here and doing what they needed to do tonight,” Drennon said. “We had a lot of freshman and sophomores in 2014, and they came back tonight and did the unfinished business.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Mention Yoakum football to the casual Texas high school fan and the first names off the tongue will be Josh and Jordan Moore. Mention Yoakum to an observer of a Bulldogs football game and Henry Enoch becomes the focal point. Rarely do star players on state runner-up teams get overlooked. Enoch is one of those rarities.

“He was a great football player for us. Every day, he works hard at practice and in the class room. Honestly, I don’t think he gets enough credit,” junior Joshua Moore said. “He’s 100 percent at whatever he does. He brings us passion at running back and linebacker. He’s a monster.”

Enoch made an impact on both sides of the ball. The senior finished with 121 yards on 14 carries. He also added a touchdown pass to Jordan Moore. Defensively, Enoch was third on the team with six tackles.

“It was a great feeling to be a part of this team. Win or lose, I feel great about this team and I know they’re going to do big things next year,” Enoch said. “I tried to bring as much heart as I had to this team and the last couple of games we showed that heart. We didn’t have it tonight.”

Enoch is one of numerous players Yoakum must replace before next season. Don’t bet against a Bulldogs return, however, at least according to Joshua Moore.

“We’ll be back next year. That’s all I’m saying.”

– Mike Craven

Box Score

Mineola 35, Yoakum 14

Mineola 7 14 7 7 35
Yoakum 7 7 0 0 14

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 7:17

Mineola – 1-yard run by Jeremiah Crawford (Cameron Sorenson kick)

1st Qtr. 0:56

Yoakum – 25-yard pass from Henry Enoch to Jordan Moore (Jose De Los Santos kick)

2nd Qtr. 11:53

Mineola – 6-yard run by Chantz Perkins (Cameron Sorenson kick)

2nd Qtr. 5:09

Yoakum – 1-yard run by Jordan Moore (Jose De Los Santos kick)

2nd Qtr. 2:20

Mineola – 40-yard run by Jeremiah Crawford (Cameron Sorenson kick)

3rd Qtr. 8:26

Mineola – 5-yard run by Jeremiah Crawford (Cameron Sorenson kick)

4th Qtr. 8:41

Mineola – 5-yard run by Jeremiah Crawford (Cameron Sorenson kick)

Team Stats

Yoakum Mineola
First downs 9 20
Rushing yards 148 438
Passing yards 45 17
Passing 6-4-1 3-2-0
Punts – Avg. 2 – 36.5 0 – 0
Penalties – Yards 3 – 15 5 – 50
Fumbles – Lost 2 – 1 3 – 0
Third-Down Conversions 2 of 5 4 of 8
Possession Time 19:51 28:09
Red-zone Scores – Chances 1 of 1 4 of 5

Mineola Individual Leaders 

Rushing – Jeremiah Crawford 27-276, Chantz Perkins 20-121, Kourtland Sinches 2-34, Michael Drennon 1-6.

Passing – Jeremiah Crawford 2-3-17.

Receiving – Noah Sneed 1-11, Michael Drennon 1-6.

Yoakum Individual Leaders

Rushing – Henry Enoch 14-121, Tyron Brooks 3-29, Montreal Jones 3-12, Josh Moore 2-5.

Passing – Bryson Hagan 3-5-20-1, Henry Enoch 1-1-25.

Receiving – Jordan Moore 2-34, Josh Moore 2-11.

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Mineola is playing about as well as any team in the state. After losing their first two games of the year to good 4A teams, the ‘Jackets have rattled off 13 wins in a row.  The last two weeks have been incredibly impressive as in wins over outstanding teams from Pottsboro and Wall, Mineola has outscored opponents an incredible 96-11. The ‘Jackets duo of Chantz Perkins and Jeremiah Crawford accounted for seven touchdowns in Mineola’s 50-8 demolition of Wall.

Even more impressive was Mineola’s ability to shut down the Wall flexbone offense, which had been putting up great numbers of late. Wall was only able to manage 127 yards offense and they turned the ball over five times.

They will get a big test in the title game against a surging Yoakum squad whose 11-4 record is deceiving. It’s Yoakum’s first trip to the state title game since 1952. The Bulldogs’ four losses are to Cuero and Giddings (4A quarterfinalists), Hallettsville (who finished 13-1 and lost to Yoakum in the quarterfinals and Edna (an area finalist) by two points. Since that loss, Yoakum has rattled off nine straight wins including a 28-24 win over previously unbeaten Malakoff last week.

Twin superstars Jordan and Josh Moore again made key plays down the stretch to carry Yoakum, as Jordan Moore had a touchdown reception and the game-clinching interception late, and Josh threw a touchdown pass when inserted at QB late in the game.

Yoakum has the speed to keep up with Mineola, but Mineola’s depth in the trenches and experience is key in this one.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Mineola QB Jeremiah Crawford
The quarterback likes to run, and he does it well. Crawford rushed 28 times for 262 yards and four touchdowns in the semifinal victory. He went 4-of-9 for 55 yards through the air.

Yoakum ATHs Jordan and Josh Moore
The twins are the two most athletic players on the field at all times. The duo locks down opposing wide receivers and provide most of the big plays on offense.

Mineola RB Chantz Perkins
If Crawford isn’t running the ball he’s usually handing it off to Perkins. Perkins rushed the ball 23 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win.

Yoakum RB Henry Enoch
The Moore twins get the press clippings, but no one was more responsible for the upset victory over Malakoff than Yoakum’s power back.

Mineola DT Ian Thompson
Thompson forced one of the five turnovers Mineola caused in the state semifinal win over Wall. Mineola’s defense plays well as a unit, but Thompson is a game-changer.

Yoakum DB Tyron Brooks
Another junior to start both ways for Yoakum, Brooks is a strong member of the secondary on defense and can do a bit of everything as a weapon on offense.

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3A Division II State Championship
Gunter (15-0) vs. Boling (13-2)
5 p.m. Thursday, December 15

Instant Recap

Game Recap

It may have been Gunter’s first state championship appearance, but the Tigers wasted no time showing the 18,812 fans at AT&T Stadium who the best team in Class 3A Division II was this season.

Gunter stormed out of the gates quickly while building a 21-0 lead over Boling by the midway point of the second quarter, and the Tigers coasted to a 43-7 win to claim their first state title in school history.

“To push through and break through that ceiling this year was unbelievable,” Gunter coach Jeff Fieszel said. “It’s just been an unreal season. We’re super proud of our kids, and our community has just totally rallied around us.”

Boling received the opening kickoff of the game, but Gunter forced and recovered a fumble deep in Bulldogs’ territory just four plays later. That was the calm before for storm for the Tigers’ offense, as Gunter racked up 29 first half points behind a dominant performance on the ground.

Trey Carr was the first to reach the end zone, as the senior quarterback punched in a one-yard touchdown to cap off a quick 34-yard drive. Later in the first half, Colson Stovall reeled off touchdown runs of one and five yards to extend the Gunter lead to 14-0.

Stovall finished the game with 236 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and he rushed for 150 yards in the second half after coming back from what appeared to be an ankle injury late in the second quarter. He was named the offensive MVP after the game.

“Colson was Colson,” Fieszel said. “That’s what he’s done all year long. He’s a workhorse for us.”

It was the Stovall show for the Gunter offense, but the Tigers’ defense was just as stout on the other side of the ball. Gunter held the Boling offense – which entered the game averaging more than 40 points per game – to just 58 yards in the first half.

The lone bright spot for the Bulldogs came on an explosive 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ronald Krushall in the second quarter. Krushall was injured later in the second half, but returned to a standing ovation from the Boling crowd.

“I could see it opening up,” Krushall said. “When I caught it, I was already looking downfield. My blocks laid out perfectly, and that was probably the best feeling of my life – scoring at AT&T Stadium on live television.”

In its two losses prior to the state championship game, Boling was held to seven or fewer points. Gunter matched that formula for success, bottling up Vernon Jackson and holding the Tigers to seven points and just 146 total yards in the game.

Peyton Lowe was named the defensive MVP of the game after finishing with a game high 9 tackles.

“We knew we would have to be really physical at the line of scrimmage,” Fieszel said. “Our gameplan was just to attack their blocks and stop their feet behind the line of scrimmage. Our kids did a really great job of that.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

A new wave of offense was shown off in Gunter’s thumping victory over Boling. The Tigers run a familiar pattern of plays. The triple-option, or at least a variation of it, is nothing new to high school fan around the state. The way Gunter runs the triple option – out of the Pistol formation – gives the Tigers an edge.

It’s built on space and numbers. The idea behind option football is to create a numbers advantage at the mesh point. Offenses running the option want to create lopsided blocking patters. The goal is get one defender isolated and exploit his no-win decision. Take away the initial give and the quarterback races. Take away the quarterback and the pitch man beats the safety or linebacker to the edge. Take all of that away and the traps will exploit the middle of the field.

The University of New Mexico runs the same style under former head coach Bob Davie. The Lobos lead the FBS in virtually every rushing category. Football is a copycat sport. It is known for imitation as much as it is innovation. Gunter’s offense is a combination of both. It took an old idea – the triple option – and added the modern element of a quarterback separated from the center.

But this isn’t like the zone-read shotgun offenses made popular in Texas this century. This isn’t a read-option offense with a running back starting east or west. The Pistol solves that problem. By lining up a running back behind the quarterback, Gunter’s running backs are allowed to go downhill. Nothing changes for the offensive linemen. For them, it might as well be 1965.

Gunter rode the offense to its first state title and it won’t be the last program in the state to adopt the system. It’s modern enough to utilize elite athletes, but old-school enough for smaller programs to run on a yearly basis. It doesn’t require a four-star quarterback with a rocket arm. The offense is an equalizer.

The spread has a misguided reputation. It doesn’t require a team playing soft. Gunter runs the ball. And then it runs it again. The Tigers racked up over 300 yards rushing in the state title game, passing the ball just four times in a 43-7 win. It’s a unique way to run an old staple. Gunter proved it can carry a program to new heights.

– Mike Craven

Box Score

Gunter 43, Boling 7

Gunter 14 15 7 7 43
Boling 0 7 0 0 7

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 9:03

Gunter – Trey Carr 1-yard run (Nick Gonzales kick)

1st Qtr. 0:58

Gunter – Colson Stovall 1-yard run (Nick Gonzales kick)

2nd Qtr. 5:48

Gunter – Colson Stovall 5-yard run (Nick Gonzales kick)

2nd Qtr. 5:34

Boling – Ronald Krushall 80-yard kickoff return (Francisco Olvera kick)

2nd Qtr. 4:04

Gunter – Colson Stovall 22-yard run (Trey Carr 2-point run)

3rd Qtr. 1:50

Gunter – Colson Stovall 2-yard run (Nick Gonzales kick)

4th Qtr. 6:29

Gunter – Dylan Jantz 26-yard run (Nick Gonzales kick)

Team Stats

Boling Gunter
First downs 6 21
Rushing yards 105 475
Passing yards 41 58
Passing 3-7-1 4-4-0
Punts – Avg. 5 – 37 1 – 36
Penalties – Yards 10 – 91 2 – 25
Fumbles – Lost 1 – 1 1 – 0
Third-Down Conversions 2 of 8 7 of 9
Possession Time 19:59 28:01
Red-zone Scores – Chances 0 of 0 4 of 5

Gunter Individual Leaders  

Rushing –Colson Stovall 24-236, Trey Carr 16-107, Dylan Jantz 6-48, Braiden Clopton 2-26.7

Passing – Trey Carr 4-4-58.

Receiving – Tyler Rigsby 1-21, Peyton Lowe 1-18, Layke Reed 1-11, Dylan Jantz 1-8. 

Boling Individual Leaders

Rushing – Kade Bickham 8-51, Vernon Jackson 11-39, Elijah Gooden 5-9, Craig Acosta 2-4, Ronald Krushall 5-2.

Passing – Vernon Jackson 3-7-41-1.

Receiving – Luis Mares 1-35, Ronald Krushall 1-5, Chris French 1-1.

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Gunter is playing for their first-ever state title after knocking off Canadian last week, 44-34. The win was historic in many ways for the Tigers, but it ended an incredible 15-game playoff winning streak for Canadian who, despite moving up to Class 3A, ended up winning Region I.

Gunter’s ground-based option offense stayed patient despite falling behind early as Coalson Stovall ran for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 31 carries. Gunter showed plenty of resilience in the win as they fell behind 21-10 late in the second after a 99-yard fumble return for a score, but after that, Gunter outscored Canadian 34-13 to pull away.

Boling and their Slot-T offense won an absolute thriller over Arp 19-18 last week. QB Vernon Jackson Jr., at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, is a handful for the Bulldogs’ opponents, and their defense managed to contain Arp’s speedy playmakers in the win. Jackson even showed he’s capable on defense as he notched the game-winning interception late.

This game will be a physical test of will. Gunter isn’t big, but they are incredibly tough and well-coached. They come at you from all angles with multiple backs, while Boling’s fortunes rest on Jackson for the most part. Gunter’s defense hasn’t seen anything like the Boling QB, but they will be laser focused on making someone else beat them. If Boling’s secondary weapons rise to the challenge, they will win a state title, but I’m betting on the Gunter defense.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Gunter RB Coalson Stovall
The Tigers’ option offense runs through Stovall; he’s the focal point of an explosive offense with plenty of weapons.

Boling RB Elijah Gooden
Gooden rushed for 45 yards and the game-winning touchdown in last week’s win over Arp. He’s an important component of the both the offense and defense.

Gunter QB Trey Carr
Carr leads an explosive attack. He’s a tough player with a high football IQ. He’s capable of beating teams with his arm and his legs.

Boling QB Vernon Jackson
Jackson is the undisputed leader of the team, and he’s their most important offensive weapon. In the one-point win over Arp, Jackson rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown. He’s a capable passer when asked.

Gunter ATHs Peyton Lowe and Zach Lowe
The brothers each returned a kickoff for a touchdown to help clinch a regional championship for Gunter. The two provide quality on offense and defense.

Boling RB Ronald Krushall
The power back in the Bulldogs’ multiple-weapon rushing attack, Krushall gets the tough yards when they need him. Expect to see him in short yardage.

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2A Division I State Championship
Crawford (14-1) vs. Refugio (14-1)
1 p.m. Thursday, December 15

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Game Recap

Both Crawford and Refugio entered the 2A Division I state championship game with offenses averaging more than 42 points per game this season, but it wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that the offenses really emerged.

In a game that was an old school, power football thriller for the better part of four quarters, Refugio did just enough down the stretch to sneak past Crawford 23-20 and claim the state title.

The Bobcats drove 74 yards in 4:26 after Crawford tied the game at 20-20, and Diego Gonzales hit an 18-yard field goal with just eight seconds remaining to clinch it for Refugio.

It was the third state championship appearance in four years for Refugio, and the Bobcats took home their first championship since 2011.

“They’re always special, and they never get old,” Refugio coach Jason Herring said. “But I wanted this one for the kids. They’ve been here twice, but what we didn’t have was a championship. What I wanted more than anything was to send them off with a ring.”

The Bobcats’ offense was dominant all season, but it was the defense that made the early impact on the biggest stage of the year. Robert Ortiz and D’Mond LaFond flew around and made several big hits in the secondary, and Herring’s son, Kobie, was named the game’s defensive MVP after finishing with six tackles and a sack.

Refugio held Crawford to -12 yards of offense in the first half, and the Pirates didn’t get anything going offensively until Gage Pearson connected with Cade Johnston for a 21-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 78-yard drive late in the second quarter.

The Bobcats led 13-6 at the half before Crawford tied the game in the third quarter to set up a thrilling finish in the fourth. The two teams were both looking to use a punishing attack down the stretch to shorten the game, but as the fourth quarter rolled around, Refugio’s size advantage in the trenches showed.

“We’re real similar – both of us play great defense, both of us like to pound the rock and both of us like to big play you with play-action passes,” Herring said. “It could have gone either way.”

After struggling to break through in the run game for a significant portion of the contest with Jaylon Mascorro, the Bobcats turned to quarterback Jacobe Avery as a workhorse in the fourth quarter.

Avery finished the game with 20 carries for 116 yards and two rushing touchdowns, along with 80 yards and a touchdown through the air. The junior’s biggest play of the game came just after he got sick on the field, bouncing back after a timeout to pound in a 17-yard touchdown run.

“He’s like a tailback playing quarterback, honestly,” Herring said. “He can really run the football. We just rode him and rode him and rode him.”

Crawford tied the game on the ensuing possession, but Refugio ate up the majority of the clock on its game-winning field goal drive. Crawford held the Bobcats out of the end zone, and Gonzales hit an 18-yard field goal with just :08 remaining.

It was the first state championship appearance for Crawford since 2004, and the Pirates gave Refugio all it could handle.

“I told the guys, I’m disappointed for them,” Crawford coach Delbert Kelm said. “But I’ll never be disappointed in them.”

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Refugio’s seniors solidified their position in history. But it took a junior to get it done.

The 2017 class finished 54-6 in its Refugio football career. It is the winningest group of seniors in Refugio history. Four seniors – Trace and Jaylon Mascorro, Kobie Herring and Austin Moya – spent a majority, if not all, of their high school careers at the varsity level. And the group did a lot of winning. Refugio reached a state title game in 2013 and 2015, but fell short each time. It almost happened for a third time in four years.

Crawford persisted despite Refugio’s obvious advantages. The Bobcats were bigger and faster, yet Crawford tied the game at 20 when Garret Dutschmann scored on an inspired screen pass from Gage Pearson. Refugio had 4:36 left to win a state title. So it turned to junior quarterback Jacobe Avery.

“Our quarterback can really run the football. He’s like a tailback playing quarterback,” Refugio head coach Jason Herring said. “The work of guys like Jaylon Mascorro for three quarters opened things up for Jacobe (Avery) and he made the plays.”

The dual-threat talent accounted for all three Refugio touchdowns. He threw for the first touchdown and ran for two more. He led the team in rushing and passing, finishing with 195 yards of total offense. Beyond the pure athleticism and talent was poise. Poise usually resigned for seniors. Avery completed 5-of-6 passes for 80 yards. He had 115 yards on 19 carries, taking over in the second half on designed runs.

“I just told myself I would come out and fight my guts out for these seniors because it was their last football game at Refugio,” Avery said. “I’ve been with them all my life, basically. So I told them we’re going to fight. And that’s exactly what we did.”

– Mike Craven

Postgame Press Conferences

Box Score

Refugio 23, Crawford 20

Refugio 6 7 0 10 23
Crawford 0 6 7 7 20

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 1:58

Refugio – 43-yard pass from Jacobe Avery to Robert Ortiz (Kick failed)

2nd Qtr. 1:40

Crawford – 21-yard pass from Gage Pearson to Cade Johnston (Kick failed)

2nd Qtr. 0:31

Refugio – 4-yard run by Jacobe Avery (Diego Gonzales kick)

3rd Qtr. 7:26

Crawford – 2-yard run by Garrett Dutschmann (Coleson Foss kick)

4th Qtr. 6:26

Refugio – 17-yard run by Jacobe Avery (Diego Gonzales kick)

4th Qtr. 4:36

Crawford – 44-yard pass from Gage Pearson to Garrett Dutschmann (Coleson Foss kick)

4th Qtr. 0:08

Refugio – 18-yard field goal by Diego Gonzales

Team Stats

Refugio Crawford
First downs 17 10
Rushing yards 249 82
Passing yards 80 168
Passing 5-7 6-12
Punts – Avg. 3 – 33.7 3 – 39.7
Penalties – Yards 7 – 65 0
Fumbles – Lost 1 – 0 3 – 1
Third-Down Conversions 9 5
Possession Time 30:26 17:34

Refugio Individual Leaders

Rushing – Jacobe Avery 20-116, Jaylon Mascorro 22-99, Ysidro Mascorro 8-27, Robert Ortiz 2-6, Casey Hendron 1-3, Jamel LaFond 1-(-2).

Passing – Jacobe Avery 5-6-80, Jaylon Mascorro 0-1-0.

Receiving – Robert Ortiz 1-43, Trent Ross 1-22, Jamel LaFond 1-12, Jaylon Mascorro 2-3.

Crawford Individual Leaders

Rushing – Garrett Dutschmann 11-47, Jeff Ward 7-40, Noah Bleything 4-7, Dillion Daniel 4-5, Gage Pearson 3-(-17).

Passing – Gage Pearson 6-12-168.

Receiving – Jeff Ward 2-60, Cade Johnston 2-56, Garrett Dutschmann 2-52.7

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In what should be one of the most physical state title games of the weekend, once-beaten Crawford hooks up with Refugio who only has a single loss to 4A semifinalist Geronimo Navarro.

Crawford ripped past upstart Abernathy 42-7 using a big playoff offense instead of their powerful and methodical ground game. WR Jeff Ward proved to be the difference as he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He hauled in a 61-yard touchdown pass, then he had a 65-yard run, which set up his short seven-yard run to all but put the game away for the Pirates. QB Gage Pearson, who normally ends up handing the ball off, actually tossed three scoring passes in the win.

The Pirates defense will have a big challenge with Refugio, who went back to the future last week in a 38-14 win over Centerville. After abandoning the spread for a more methodical ground-based offense in the offseason, Refugio decided to go back to the air and threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Trent Ross and D’Mond LaFond were on the receiving end of those four scoring passes, but one concern is turnovers. The Bobcats turned it over five times last week, and in two of their last three games, they’ve had issues with turnovers.

If the Bobcats continue that trend of carelessness, Crawford wins this game, but I anticipate a renewed focus from Refugio as they’ll look to erase the bad taste of last year’s state title loss to Canadian. If Refugio hangs on to the ball, they have the playmakers and defense to bring a state title back to the Costal Bend.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Refugio RB Jaylon Mascorro
Mascorro was once a prolific quarterback leading Refugio in a state title game. Now, the senior is the focal point of a revamped rushing attack. It is unclear where the three-star recruit will play in college, but he’s big and athletic enough to play multiple positions on offense and defense.

Crawford WR Jeff Ward
Crawford is known for grinding out opponents, but wide receiver Jeff Ward is more than capable of making big plays. He scored three touchdowns in last week’s win.

Refugio LB Kobie Herring
The UTEP commit is the leader of a hard-nosed Refugio defense. At 6-foot and 220 pounds, Herring is big enough to take on most offensive linemen at the 2A level. He’s also athletic enough to chase down plays to the outside and play against the pass.

Crawford RB Dillon Daniel
The bruising nature of Crawford’s style lends itself to Dillon Daniel. He’s a tough runner with a nose for the end zone and he’s rarely pushed backwards.

Refugio DL Trace Mascorro
Also a UTEP commit, Trace Mascorro is one of the playmakers for Refugio’s defensive line. He’s a bully against the run and surprisingly athletic when he’s allowed to rush the passer. Mascorro does a good job of occupying blocks to unselfishly allow linebackers and safeties to make plays.

Crawford QB Gage Pearson
Crawford doesn’t ask the quarterback to light up the box score. Pearson’s ability with his legs and arm make the Crawford offense hard to defend.

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2A Division II State Championship
Iraan (15-0) vs. Bremond (15-0)
10 a.m. Thursday, December 15

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Game Recap

Iraan gave Bremond all it could handle for about two and a half quarters of the 2A Division II state championship, but Roshauud Paul took over in the second half to lead the Tigers to their 47thstraight win and third consecutive state title.

Paul, this year’s Mr. Texas Football, accounted for 396 total yards and six touchdowns in the game – five rushing, one passing – and cemented his place in state history by closing out his career with an unblemished 47-0 record as a starting quarterback.

Bremond broke the ice late in the first quarter when Joe Williams hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Paul. The Tigers turned the ball over on downs on the opening possession of the game as Canon Andrews and the Iraan defense came up with a big stop inside the 5-yard line, but Bremond went on to score on its next three possessions to take a 21-14 lead into the break.

The Braves looked as though they were in position to tie the game on the opening possession of the third quarter after a 14-play, 7:31 touchdown drive brought Iraan within 7 points before the half.

But after being stopped deep in its own territory on the opening kickoff of the third, Iraan was forced to punt back to Paul and the Tigers offense.

From there, it was all Bremond.

Paul scored on touchdown runs of 51, 4 and 50-yards in the second half to help the Tigers pull away, and did so while taking a beating from the Iraan defense.

Iraan’s senior quarterback Clayton Kent put in a physical performance and finished with 149 yards on the ground in what was an emotional final game in a special season for Iraan.

It was the team’s first state championship appearance since 1996.

There was a moment of silence before the opening kickoff to honor the late Liz Pope – the school’s cheer sponsor who was killed in a Dec. 2 bus crash after the Braves quarterfinal win.

After the game, Paul was selected as the offensive MVP for the third straight year. The Texas A&M commit 47-0 record eclipsed the mark of former Allen star Kyler Murray, who went 42-0 as a starting quarterback.

 Brady Keane

A Closer Look

Box scores tell fibs. A quick look at Joe Williams’ game against Iraan reveals one important moment. The senior caught a 40-yard pass from Roshauud Paul in the first quarter to give Bremond an early lead. He didn’t catch another pass or make a single tackle. And that’s okay. Williams wasn’t supposed to return this year after ACL surgery following a Week 3 injury.

“He’s a senior and went out early this year with injury and he’s been doing really well in rehab. On Monday he came and asked if he could play. I was pretty apprehensive about that,” Bremond head coach Jeff Kasowski said. “But, he’s a senior. His parents were adamant that they wanted him to play. I couldn’t keep him out if he is a senior and wants to play. That first (touchdown) he put on the board was big for us.”

Williams entered the season as a key member of a two-time defending state championship team. Williams earned Defensive MVP of the 2014 and 2015 state championships. Even though he was limited, he was a big part of the 47-game winning-streak Bremond capped off in the victory over Iraan.

“The doctor called him a five percenter. Only five percent of people can recover from that surgery in three months,” Kasowski said. “He’s a freak of nature.”

The decision was made Monday. Williams walked into his coach’s office and asked to play. All he needed was his parents’ approval.

“My mom was probably the hardest one (to convince). I had to talk them into it, but I’ve known since they told me I had three months of recovery that I was going to play in state,” Williams said. “I knew my team was going to make it this far. It was up to me to put in the work in rehab to get back.”

A bitter season turned sweet thanks to a third trophy.

“It was tough. I wanted to play. We’ve all worked so hard and it was tough watching my teammates. But, I knew this moment would come,” he said. “We won three state championships, man. These are the best memories of my life.”

– Mike Craven

Box Score

Bremond 49, Iraan 28

Bremond 7 14 14 14 49
Iraan 0 14 7 7 28

Scoring Summary

1st Qtr. 3:56

Bremond – Joe Williams 40-yard pass from Roshauud Paul (Gerardo Ponce kick)

2nd Qtr. 11:53

Bremond – Kaidyn Peralez 37-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

2nd Qtr. 11:04

Iraan – Kyle O’Bannon 43-yard run (Daryel Lozoya kick)

2nd Qtr. 8:59

Bremond – Roshauud Paul 2-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

2nd Qtr. 1:21

Iraan – Daryel Lozoya 3-yard run (Daryel Lozoya kick)

3rd Qtr. 7:19

Bremond – Roshauud Paul 2-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

3rd Qtr. 5:05

Iraan – Kyle O’Bannon 9-yard run (Daryel Lozoya kick)

3rd Qtr. 4:18

Bremond – Roshauud Paul 51-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

4th Qtr. 11:54

Bremond – Roshauud Paul 4-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

4th Qtr. 10:38

Bremond – Roshauud Paul 50-yard run (Gerardo Ponce kick)

4th Qtr. 6:05

Iraan – Kyle O’Bannon 26-yard pass from Clayton Kent

Team Stats

Bremond Iraan
First downs 16 15
Rushing yards 309 311
Passing yards 153 26
Passing 6-13-1 1-4
Punts – Avg. 0 2 – 36
Penalties – Yards 3 – 25 5 – 30
Fumbles – Lost 0 2 – 1
Third-Down Conversions 8 of 12 3 of 10
Possession Time 22:41 25:19
Red-zone Scores – Chances 3 of 4 2 of 2

Bremond Individual Leaders

Rushing –Roshauud Paul 32-231, Kaidyn Peralez 10-74, Josh White 1-4.7

Passing – Roshauud Paul 6-13-153.

Receiving – Josh White 3-84, Joe Williams 1-40, Kaidyn Peralez 1-22, Michael Pruitt 1-7.

Iraan Individual Leaders

Rushing – Clayton Kent 17-149, Daryel Lozoya 25-98, Kyle O’Bannon 5-62, Canon Andrews 2-3.

Passing – Clayton Kent 1-4-26.

Receiving – Kyle O’Bannon 1-26.7

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Matt Stepp's Breakdown

What a story the Iraan Braves have been on and off the field, and it culminated last week in front of a massive crowd in Abilene as Iraan rolled past Wellington 42-21.

Iraan managed to outgain Wellington 357 yards to 345 yards, despite only running 30 offensive plays to Wellington’s 75. The Braves big plays were key as RB Daryel Lozoya ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries, and Kyle O’Bannon chipped in 83 yards rushing and a score and he also returned a kickoff for a score.

The Braves defense has the challenge this week of trying to slow down Bremond QB and Texas A&M commit Roshauud Paul. The incomparable senior has led Bremond to 46 consecutive wins and he’s looking to close out his high school career at 47-0 as a starting QB. Bremond got a scare last week from former district rival Burton, but the Tigers pulled away 50-31. Paul ran for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the win, but he also got it done with his arm, throwing a pair of touchdown passes. When Burton’s defense crashed down on Paul, RB Kaidyn Peralez proved he was more than capable of gashing the defense with 215 yards rushing, as well.

On paper, these two teams look to be very evenly matched with one notable exception and that’s at QB, where Bremond just has a guy that no one in Class 2A Division II can account for. That’s the difference, Bremond’s unbelievable QB who should lead his team to a third straight title.

Mike Craven's Players to Watch

Bremond QB Roshauud Paul
Paul is chasing his third-straight title as quarterback. He’s a winner who’s controlled the smallest 11-man division of football in the state of Texas. The dynamic playmaker is as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm. He’s committed to Texas A&M.

Iraan RB Daryel Lozoya
Lozoya rushed for a game-high 189 yards on just 14 carries in last week’s victory over Wellington. He’s tough to tackle and capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

Bremond RB Kaidyn Peralez
Bremond does most of its damage on the ground. Paul, a quarterback, leads the team in rushing. Peralez is second on the team. The senior is averaging more than 10 yards a carry and is the clear second-option when teams slow down Paul.

Iraan RB Kyle O’Bannon
When Lozoya isn’t getting the ball, Iraan usually relies on O’Bannon. He had 84 yards in the win last week and is one of the best defenders on the team.

Bremond ATH Michael Pruitt
Pruitt helps out on offense as a runner and a receiver, but he makes his largest impact on the defensive side of the ball. He has a nose for the football and leads the team in tackles. Pruitt’s versatility becomes even more valuable in a classification needing two-way players. He can line up almost anywhere

Iraan QB/LB Clayton Kent
Iraan doesn’t ask Kent to win games with his arm. He’s asked to make the right read in the running game and take advantage of opportunities. He threw a 43-yard touchdown pass in last week’s win. He’s also a key defensive contributor.

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1A Division I State Championship
Borden County (13-1) vs. Jonesboro (14-0)
7 p.m. Wednesday, December 14

Instant Recap

Game Recap

Don’t tell Borden County that six-man football is an offense-first game.

Behind a bruising defensive effort and physical running attack, the Coyotes stormed to a resounding 60-12 win over Jonesboro to capture the 1A Division I state championship.

The Borden County defense put together one of the most dominant defensive efforts in six-man title game history, holding a usually potent Jonesboro attack to just 197 total yards and shutting them out in the second half. Corbin Sumners and Hunter Jones led the way with eight tackles apiece — Jones earned Defensive MVP honors — and Trace Richey hauled in a highlight-reel one-handed interception in the third quarter to put an exclamation point on an exceptional defensive performance.

Sumners and Jones were the stars on offense as well. Sumners rumbled for 135 yards and three touchdowns to pace the rushing attack, while Jones added 152 yards on the ground. Perhaps appropriately, the duo finished off the game in style, connecting on a game-ending 31-yard touchdown pass — Jones to Sumners — to end the game by 45-point mercy rule with 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Borden County won its fourth championship in program history, its first since going back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

Robert Robuck was one of the few bright spots for Jonesboro in its first title game appearance, running for a team-high 59 yards and both touchdowns. Wyatt Young paced the defense with 9 tackles in the loss.

Greg Tepper

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Leman Saunders' Breakdown

Both these teams have battled through injuries to key players in the playoffs and have survived near upsets in the process. Jonesboro held off Lometa, 40-32 in bi-district and came from a 24-0 deficit to beat Union Hill in the final minutes of the semifinal matchup.

Likewise, Borden County survived a double overtime battle in the second round to beat Buena Vista, 40-32, and then came back with a huge second half rally to beat Garden City 66-48 in the quarterfinals. It is safe to say both these teams are very glad to have had an extra week to heal up before the state championship.

Borden County may strike you as a run-first team, having run for 3,220 yards on the year — 66 percent of their total offense — but don’t let that fool you. Coyotes QB Hunter Jones can thread a needle with the best of them. Borden County’s kicking game, a hard commodity to come by in six-man, is second to none as kicker Easton Edwards is 30-for-31 with PATs and 2-for-2 with field goals in the playoffs. The Coyotes will need to make the best of their offensive possessions as Jonesboro will likely try to control the clock as much as possible.

Jonesboro is one of those hard-nosed, trench-warfare teams that thrives on the physical aspects of the game. A major key for Jonesboro in this game will be to avoid early mistakes that have put additional pressure on their defense. The Eagles’ defense has stepped up when the chips were down, but it will be difficult to overcome early mistakes against Borden County.

Leman Saunders' Players to Watch

Borden County RB Corbin Sumners
The speedy running back who has rushed for 1,859 yards and 31 touchdowns, and is a big receiving threat out of the backfield. He’s been known to throw the ball as well. Sumners was the workhorse in Borden County’s toughest playoff games against Buena Vista and Garden City, recording 50 carries in those two games, and he should carry the load for the Coyotes in the title game as well.

Jonesboro RB/DE Robert Robuck
Robuck has missed 3 games this season due to injury, including the Eagles’ first two playoff games, but he has been making a steady recovery and should be at full force for the title game. The hard-hitting senior is a leader on both sides of the ball and is a major threat on special teams; he’s returned four punts for touchdowns this season. In the semifinal comeback win over Union Hill, Robuck notched season highs in rushing yards (216), rushing TDs (4) and tackles (16).

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1A Division II State Championship
Balmorhea (14-0) vs. Richland Springs (13-0)
4 p.m. Wednesday, December 14

Instant Recap

Game Recap

Walker Tippie ran and ran and ran, and ran Richland Springs into Texas high school football history.

Tippie ran for 414 yards and tied a state title game record with 8 rushing touchdowns, adding a pair of passing touchdowns to power Richland Springs to a 96-50 win over Balmorhea in the 1A Division II state championship.

The title is the eighth for the Coyotes — all since 2004 — and ties Katy, Southlake Carroll and Celina for the most in state history.

Tippie broke touchdown runs of 58, 41, 50, 34, 58, 37, 63 and 33 yards in the romp,

Balmorhea threw the first punch when Marco Martinez hit Danny Vazquez for a 10-yard touchdown to take an early lead. The Bears, making their first state championship appearance, held up in large part in the first half, as Martinez threw three of his four passing touchdowns to help Balmorhea stay within 40-30 of the defending champs at the half.

But the third quarter was when Richland Springs took over, outscoring the Bears 24-0 in the frame on — what else? — three Tippie touchdown runs.

In a secondary role for Richland Springs, Hutton Lusty ran for 109 yards and two scores, catching a touchdown pass as well. The game ended with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter via 45-point mercy rule after Lusty’s 41-yard touchdown scamper and Jared Martin’s extra point.

Jordan Burkhart earned defensive MVP honors for the Coyotes, notching 8 tackles and a sack.

Martinez finished with 175 yards through the air for Balmorhea, and Kyle Garcia ran for 135 yards and accounted for three touchdowns — two passing and a rushing score — in the loss.

Greg Tepper

Postgame Press Conferences

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Leman Saunders' Breakdown

This is Richland Springs’ ninth trip to the title game (they’re 7-1) and eighth under the coach Jerry Burkhart, who boasts a perfect 7-0 record in the finals. In contrast, while this will be the first trip to a title game for Balmorhea, their head coach Vance Jones is no stranger to the title bout — this will mark his sixth trip to State with his fourth team, boasting a 3-2 record in title games.

The defending champion Richland Springs comes in riding a 28-game win streak and assumes the role of heavy favorites. As a team, Richland Springs has commanded the offensive line in every game and have been near unstoppable on offense, rushing for nearly 3,500 yards for an average of 267 yards per game. Furthermore, this comes against a schedule almost exclusively comprised of playoff teams, and arguably the toughest playoff road in six-man football. Equally impressive: the Coyotes’ defense held those opponents to just 14.6 points per game.

Balmorhea’s defense has been great this season as the Bears have held opponents to 14.3 points per game, pitching four shutouts along the way. The most staggering statistic: Balmorhea is allowing under 40 yards per game on the ground, a remarkable feat in six-man football. Their offense, much like Richland Springs, features a solid running attack, bruising to 4,263 yards on the season. But the aerial attack is in play for the Bears as well, throwing 46 touchdowns on the season.

Leman Saunders' Players to Watch

Richland Springs RB Walker Tippie
In the playoffs, Tippie has been playing like a man on a mission, running for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s also thrown for three touchdowns in that span. He has a knack for finding running lanes and making big plays for the Coyotes whenever they needed them. In the biggest game of the year on the biggest stage, he might just have the biggest game of his life. As the Richland Springs broadcast crew says: whenever he touches the ball, it’s “Tippie Time.”

Balmorhea RB Marcos Mendoza
Mendoza can do it all offensively: with just 93 touches this season, he has notched 1,650 yards of total offense and scored 34 touchdowns. Mendoza is also the Bears’ defensive standout, notching a team-high 161 tackles, three fumble recoveries, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. Oh, and he’s the team‘s kicker. In total, he’s accounted for 348 points this season, and if Balmorhea has a shot of knocking off the defending champs, Mendoza will play a pivotal role.

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