Stepp: UIL State Day 3 Sights and Sounds

DCTF'S HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL INSIDER TAKES A LOOK AT THE FINAL DAY OF THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
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One last look as the lights go out on the 2016 Texas high school football season.

The final day of the 2016 Texas High School Football season ended in grand fashion at AT&T Stadium with the three largest state champions crowned in 5A Division I, 6A Division I and Division II. In the opening game, Highland Park won their fourth state title in their illustrious school history with a defensive clinic, beating Temple 16-7. QB John Stephen Jones, (yes the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) ran for a pair of scores and earned offensive MVP honors.

There was some social media controversy after the game as Highland Park parents and students stormed the field. Obviously the UIL was put in an awkward spot, and there was no good solution in that situation considering the circumstances. Ultimately, the host venue is in control of issuing credentials.

In the middle game, DeSoto and Cibolo Steele met up in a thriller won by the Eagles, who capped off a 16-0 regular season with a 38-29 win over Steele. Another late fumble recovery with DeSoto up by just six points proved critical as the Eagles defense once again came through with a big play. DeSoto’s title was sealed on a short field goal from Cristian Gonzales with little more than two minutes remaining. There’s some irony in that considering DeSoto’s special teams woes in years past have been well documented and head coach Todd Peterman mentioned he wanted to improve in that area when he was hired last year.

It’s been a wonderful 2016 for DeSoto athletics, bringing home state titles in boys and girls track along with boys basketball, but there was no football title for the Eagles until Saturday. DeSoto graduates a fantastic group of seniors, but there’s no doubt the Eagles will again be very talented.

– The season finale was a bit anti-climactic as Lake Travis blew past The Woodlands 41-13 to close out the 2016 Texas High School Football season. LTHS QB Charlie Brewer and an incredible cast of offensive weapons jumped out to a quick 27-0 lead and never looked back in the romp. It’s Lake Travis’ sixth football state title and first in the state’s largest classification.

– Overall attendance numbers certainly saw a jump this year in the game’s return to AT&T Stadium. In 2015 at NRG Stadium, the 2A-6A games drew a total of 156,143 fans for an average of 15,614 per game, while total attendance in 2016 was 235,311 for an average of 23,531 fans per game.

Keep in mind numbers in Houston were limited for multiple reasons. Three schools playing in the 5A games that were less than eight years old, and that certainly hurt along with the additional travel required for many smaller schools to get to Houston. In addition, let’s face it, AT&T itself is an attraction. It’s a destination point for football fans in general, and many fan bases flock to Arlington just to see the stadium. One interesting note is at least at the 6A level, Houston did outdraw AT&T Stadium. Last year, 72,559 attended the two 6A games while 70,331 attended the two 6A games at AT&T. However, one of the 6A games in 2016 featured Lake Travis and The Woodlands, which are both non-local teams. The 2017 title games will be back at AT&T Stadium as the UIL signed a two year contract to have the games in Arlington, but with the Alamodome renovations due to be completed in November of 2017 in anticipation of the 2018 Final Four, don’t be surprised if San Antonio gets a look at hosting the title games in December of 2018.

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Matt Stepp is the Texas High School Football Inside for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Find him on Twitter: @Matt_Stepp817.

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