There is nothing quite like the Texas high school football playoffs. 704 UIL Texas high school football teams duking it out in 12 tournaments for 12 state championships, with a grand total of 692 win-or-go-home games stretched across six weeks. It’s a singular sporting event.
When you’ve got 692 games, you’re going to have some duds — six of those games, for example, were decided by 73 points or more. But every so often, we get the big upset, the result that nobody saw coming, and it turns the entire bracket upside-down.
At Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, our partner Jerry Forrest puts together computer projections for every Texas high school football game — Insiders get access to those picks every week on TexasFootball.com. For example, heading into the 5A Division I state championship game, Highland Park was favored by 9 points over Alvin Shadow Creek (it was pretty close; HP won by 10).
So we know who is favored in every Texas high school football game…but who were the biggest underdogs that pulled out an improbable win? We crunched the numbers and found the biggest upsets of the 2018 Texas high school football playoffs!
12. Beaumont West Brook 35, Austin Westlake 30 — 6A Division II state semifinal
The computer was skeptical of West Brook’s ability to topple Westlake and make it back to a state championship game, as the Bruins entered the 6A Division II semifinal as 17-point underdogs. But QB L’Ravien Elia and RB Robert McGrue had different ideas, cracking the code on the stout Chaps defense with three first-half touchdowns of more than 65 yards to spring the upset.
11. Hamlin 21, Wellington 18 — 2A Division II regional semifinal
As soon as the brackets came out, it sure looked like we were careening toward a Wellington vs. Mart state championship game, as both the Skyrockets and the Panthers had looked unstoppable. It’s no wonder then that while Hamlin was a widely respected team, the Pied Pipers were 18-point underdogs to the Skyrockets. But Hamlin forced four turnovers, including a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Jackson Sepeda, and held Wellington — who entered the game averaging more than 50 points per game — in check to shake up the 2A Division II bracket.
10. Eustace 59, Bonham 34 — 3A Division I bi-district
Maybe you missed this one. Eustace entered their first-round playoff game against Bonham as heavy underdogs — 18-point underdogs, to be exact — and for an understandable reason. The Bulldogs were a mere 3-7 — having won three of their final four games just to make the playoffs —facing off against a Bonham team that had finished 8-2 and looked good doing it. But it was Eustace that stood tall, taking a 35-20 lead into halftime and closing with a 21-point fourth quarter to stun the Purple Warriors.
9. Decatur 48, Dumas 21 — 4A Division I bi-district
Decatur was perhaps the biggest Cinderella story of the 2018 Texas high school football playoffs, as the Eagles — who finished fourth in their own district — soared to the state semifinals. But it all started with their playoff opener, as they took down district champ Dumas by forcing four turnovers and ringing up 541 yards of total offense led by a virtuoso performance from QB Roman Fuller. Little did we know that this upset, where the Eagles were 18-point underdogs, was just the beginning.
8. Tidehaven 17, Van Vleck 0 — 3A Division II regional semifinal
It’s always fun when rivals square off in the playoffs, and that’s what we got here when two teams from Matagorda County met for a spot in the regional final. Made all the more intriguing: this was a rematch of a game six weeks prior, when Van Vleck had soared to a 34-14 win. It was no wonder, then, that Tidehaven entered the game as 19-point underdogs against their rival. That’s what made the Tigers’ shutout win, in which they held Van Vleck to just 204 yards of total offense, all the more amazing.
7. Vega 42, McCamey 0 — 2A Division II area
Arguably, Vega wasn’t even supposed to be this far. The Longhorns finished the year 5-5 and pulled off a minor upset when they took down Tahoka in the first round of the playoffs. But this was even more shocking as Vega — which was marked as a 19-point underdog to a high-powered McCamey squad — thoroughly dominated the Badgers, forcing six turnovers and getting 203 yards of total offense from QB Carson Kirkland to earn their first area round playoff victory since 1987 in emphatic fashion.
6. Richmond Foster 41, Hutto 31 — 5A Division I regional semifinal
It had been a great run for Foster, rallying from a 4-4 start to make the playoffs, arguably upsetting Port Arthur Memorial in the first round and skipping past Manor in the area round. But this sure looked like the end of the line. Hutto was undefeated, coming off of a really impressive win over Angleton, and had just risen to No. 2 in the 5A Division I computer rankings. All of those elements combined to make the Falcons 20-point underdogs in their regional semifinal. The Falcons had other ideas, surging for 31 points in the second half and coming up with key stops to stun the Hippos and turn the bracket on its head.
5. Dallas Madison 32, Van Alstyne 26 (OT) — 3A Division I bi-district
There’s nothing like an overtime thriller. There’s nothing like a big comeback. And there’s nothing like a big upset. This one had all three, as Madison rallied from a 19-0 deficit to force overtime, and then Jaylin Thibodeaux hit Marcus Cobin-Hill for a go-ahead score in overtime, and the Trojans defense did the rest, holding on for a win. Making this all the more amazing: Madison — the fourth seed out of their district taking on district champ Van Alstyne — entered the game as 21-point underdogs.
4. Brenham 23, Boerne Champion 20 — 5A Division II bi-district
For most of the season, it looked like a pretty forgettable 2018 for Brenham. The Cubs started the year 1-3 and while they entered the playoffs at 6-4, it sure looked like they were first-round cannon fodder for a dangerous Boerne Champion team, which ranked 16th in the DCTF computer rankings in 5A Division II. Brenham was a 22-point underdog in their first-round matchup, but the Cubs didn’t seem to mind, as Tyree Jackson scored a pair of touchdowns and the defense held on late to take down the Chargers. The Cubs eventually went to the regional semifinals, not bad for a team some had written off after four games.
3. Celina 31, Stephenville 21 — 4A Division I area
The trend wasn’t positive for Celina heading into their area round matchup with Stephenville. The Bobcats’ previous two games had been a 42-point loss to district rival Argyle and a narrow 1-point win over Wilmer-Hutchins. It’s no wonder, then, that the Bobcats were 24-point underdogs against high-powered and rolling Stephenville. But the Bobcats pitched a second-half shutout and scored the final 10 points of the game to pull off the stunner, proving once again that sometimes, pedigree matters.
2. Spearman 33, Cisco 29 — 3A Division II bi-district
Every year, some people will complain that too many teams make the playoffs. From now on, you can point to this game as a counterpoint. Cisco entered the 3A Division II playoffs undefeated and no worse than a short-list state title contender. Spearman, on the other hand, backed into the playoffs after losing their final three games of the regular season. The Lynx were heavy, heavy underdogs in their first-round matchup with Cisco — per the DCTF computer, Spearman was a 24-point underdog. But that’s why the play the game, and the Lynx were up to the task, getting 416 total yards and five touchdowns from QB Reece Shields and forcing five turnovers to stun the Loboes — and the state — with a shocking upset.
1. Richardson Pearce 23, Cedar Hill 21 — 6A Division II bi-district
The numbers behind this upset are staggering. Pearce was 6-4 and ranked 142nd in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s 6A computer rankings; Cedar Hill was 9-1 and ranked 9th. Pearce was a 36-point underdog. And to cap it all off, Pearce had to play on the road at Cedar Hill, due to the higher-seeded team getting home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If you looked at it from any sort of statistical perspective, there is absolutely, positively no reason Richardson Pearce should’ve beaten Cedar Hill. But five forced turnovers and some gutty play later, you had the biggest upset in the Texas high school football playoffs in 2018…and, arguably, in quite a few years.