Stepp: UIL State Day 2 Sights and Sounds



— The final Friday of the Texas high school football season began with the crowd at AT&T Stadium witnessing true greatness as the West Orange-Stark Mustangs capped off their second straight state title with a 24-6 win over Sweetwater. The WOS defense was considered one of the state’s best all year, and they cemented their legacy as a legendary unit by shutting out a Sweetwater offense that was averaging more than 43 points per game in the playoffs.

Sweetwater’s only score of the game was on the opening series when Luke James picked up a WOS fumble and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.  The remainder of the afternoon, the WOS defense — which only allowed 69 points all year — simply dominated. With eight shutouts on the year, West Orange-Stark joins the likes of 1983 Daingerfield, 1980 Pittsburg, 1985 Houston Yates and 2015 Katy as among the best ever.

— In the middle game of the day, Carthage and Abilene Wylie put on quite the show as Carthage, on their strength of a defense that forced five second half turnovers, knocked off Abilene Wylie 31-17 to win their fifth state title in school history. All five titles have been won in the Scott Surratt era — since 2007; in fact, during Surratt’s tenure in Panola County, Carthage is an incredible 40-5 in playoff games. Carthage lived on the edge all night, as they were a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions, which proved to be key in the first half as Wylie jumped out to a quick 14-0 advantage. From that point on, Carthage totally dominated outscoring their opponents from the Big Country 31-3 the rest of the way.

— The final game of the day featured Aledo, who won their seventh state title in school history, knocking off Corpus Christi Calallen, 24-16. Calallen, under legendary head coach Phil Danaher, was seeking its first state title and entered as a significant underdog. But the Wildcats  played the prohibitive favorites toe-to-toe and, if not for two turnovers that led to 14 Aledo points, we could be discussing possibly the biggest upset in state title game history. In the end, Aledo just had a bit too much and freshman running back Jase McClellan’s long touchdown run in the second half was the highlight of what was an incredibly physical game. McClellan — again, just a freshman — earned the offensive MVP honors.

— Once again, attendance numbers on the day were quite strong, as 67,775 fans showed up for the three games today, pushing the two-day average to 18,556 fans, well exceeding last year’s average of 15,614 fans per game at Houston’s NRG Stadium. There’s no question that the teams who made to AT&T have large fan bases and travelled en masse, but the local unattached high school football fans continue to show up in sizable numbers as well. A large crowd in Saturday’s Temple-Highland Park showdown should surpass the 2015 total attendance number of 156,143, through seven games in 2016 attendance numbers are at a total of 129,891.

— From a time perspective, this year’s UIL title games are on a tremendous pace of being on schedule for the first two days. The second and third games of the day both started on time as scheduled at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Day 1, when there were four total games played, the fourth and final game — which didn’t kickoff until 10:15 p.m. a year ago — kicked off at 9:05 p.m.

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