While offense may get the headlines, especially in the high-octane world of Texas high school football, the path to glory lies on the defensive side. Don’t believe us? While 11-man Texas high school football team scored 27 points per game on average in 2018, the ten state champions allowed just half that — 13.5 points per game.
Which puts a premium on defensive improvement. So let’s take a look at the most improved defenses in Texas high school football of 2018 — we’re doing this by comparing the points-allowed-per-game average (shorthand: PAPG) from 2017 to their points-allowed-per-game average from 2018 of every UIL 11-man Texas high school football team.
Honorable mentions to this list include: Emory Rains (-20.8 PAPG); San Antonio Wagner (-21.1 PAPG); Fort Bend Willowridge (-21.1 PAPG); San Antonio Roosevelt (-21.4 PAPG); Austin Anderson (-22.1 PAPG); Cayuga (-22.4 PAPG); and San Angelo Lake View (-22.4 PAPG).
Without further ado, here are…
The 10 Most Improved Defenses in Texas High School Football in 2018
10: San Angelo Grape Creek
You’ve gotta start somewhere. Grape Creek is a tough place to win – the Eagles have one winning season since their inception in 1998 — but first-year coach Tanner Thiel put something together in 2018, improving one of the state’s worst defenses in 2017 (53.3 PAPG) to allow just 30.5 PAPG. That’s a 22.8-point improvement. OLB Ben Armendariz and DB Edgar Huerta led the Eagles’ improvement, which saw them go from one win to three. It may not catch the headlines, but Grape Creek’s improvement was clear. — Greg Tepper
9: Fort Worth Polytechnic
In Jeff Green’s first season after coming over from Burleson, the Parrots’ defense took a big leap forward from 2017 and 2018, going from 47.5 PAPG to 24.3 in 2018, a 23.1-point improvement. The Parrots allowed fewer than 10 points three times in 2018 and posted the team’s most wins since 2011. If Green’s first season is any indication, Polytechnic is headed in the right direction. — Ishmael Johnson
Too often, we define success with wins and playoff appearances, but what the Wildcats did between the last two seasons is remarkable, even if their record doesn’t jump off the page. In his second year at Scurry-Rosser, Jeff Cleveland took his team from 0-10 in 2017 to 3-6. How’d they do it? Defensive improvement played a huge part, as the Wildcats went from allowing 57.2 PAPG in Cleveland’s first year to 33.2 PAPG in year two. That’s a huge 23.9-point improvement, and the difference between going winless and building toward something bigger, one stopped drive at a time. — Max Thompson
7: Archer City
Larry McMurtry would be proud of the town that inspired The Last Picture Show, as the local eleven showed vast improvement in 2018. Coach Shad Hanna took over a program that allowed an unsightly 40.5 points per game in 2017; he — along with district defensive MVP Coltin Knobloch and others — fueled them to a 24-point improvement to just 16.4 PAPG in 2018. The result: an 8-3 record — the most wins for the Wildcats since 2010 — and a feeling that this is only the beginning. — Greg Tepper
It’d make sense that Seguin’s offense got most of the headlines with former Houston and UTSA offensive coordinator Travis Bush heading the program, but it was the experienced defense led by seniors like Carson Jenkins and Dorien Shannon that really surged in 2018 — a 24.2-point improvement from 42.3 PAPG to 18 PAPG — and gave Seguin its first district title since 2006. The Matadors held opponents to 14 points or less five times including three district games where opponents scored less than 10. — Ishmael Johnson
The Jack Rabbits were quietly one of the biggest surprises in 2A in 2018. Following a 3-7 campaign in 2017, Kevin Sherrill’s squad went from surrendering 38.3 PAPG to 13.3 in just a year (a 24.9-point improvement). It resulted in an unbeaten district championship and a 9-2 record. Ralls even snuffed out one of the team’s most improved offenses — Tahoka — to win the District 4-2A DII title. Only an unlucky draw against Clarendon in the first round (a team that would ultimately require state runner-up Gruver to dispatch them) could snuff out the momentum. Not every team on this list walked away with milestones to go with the impressive defensive improvement. The Jack Rabbits were special in that regard. — Max Thompson
4: Galena Park
While their school district bunkmate North Shore was getting most of the headlines, the Yellowjackets stealthly put together a huge turnaround, going from 1-8 in 2017 to 4-6 in 2018 under second-year coach George Young. The biggest difference was on defense, which went from unsightly (47.3 PAPG in 2017) to downright solid (22 PAPG in 2018, a 25.3-point improvement) in the span of just a year. Linebackers John Juneau and Pedro Saldana led the surge for the Yellowjackets, who could have people talking about them next year. — Greg Tepper
Talk about a turnaround — Wharton’s defense was hard to watch in 2017, allowing 51.7 points per game in 2017. Just a year later, the Tigers allowed just 26.2 PAPG — a 25.5-point improvement — and the results showed on the field. The Tigers rolled to a perfect 5-0 record last year and a bi-distict title after a one-win season in 2017 in no small part thanks to Chad Butler’s incredibly stingy defense that allowed a mere 8.2 points per game in district. — Ishmael Johnson
Following a 2-8 record in 2017, but with 16 starters returning, we expected Todd Patmon’s Bears to take a step forward and earn a playoff berth. They did that, but we couldn’t have predicted their monumental defensive progress. Bastrop surrendered 48.6 PAPG in 2017, but flipped that by more than half with just 23 PAPG in 2018 — a 25.5-point improvement. The irony was meeting the high-flying Kerrville Tivy offense in the first round of playoffs, and falling in a 63-62 overtime thriller to the Antlers. — Max Thompson
1: Red Oak
It was a year of change in Red Oak. The biggest alteration was the arrival of new coach Chris Ross, who helped build Cedar Park into a Central Texas powerhouse. And he brought the defensive thunder with him, as the Hawks became the state’s most improved defense — 39 PAPG in 2017 to 10.8 PAPG in 2018, a staggering 28.1-point improvement. Between DT Xzavier Augustus, DE Swinton Jackson, LB Preston Young and CB Jacob Proche, the Hawks went from defensive pushover to defensive juggernaut, helping them with their biggest change of all — going from one win in 2017 to nine in 2018. — Greg Tepper