The Five Best UIL State Championship Games to take place at AT&T Stadium

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Twenty-four teams and their communities punched tickets to Jerry World and the 2023 UIL State championships starting on Wednesday in semifinals across the Lone Star State. Since 2010, AT&T Stadium (named that in 2011) has hosted all but one of the 12-game state championship slate. The football cathedral played host to several classics over that 10-plus year history. We look back at five of the most memorable ahead of the 2023 games

1. Galena Park North Shore 41, Duncanville 36 – 2018 Class 6A Division 1

The original is always the best, especially when a successful Hail Mary is involved. Duncanville led 36-35 thanks, in large part, to a heroic effort by quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson against a North Shore defense stacked with FBS talent. As time ticked off the clock, a 45-yard heave by sophomore quarterback Dematrius Davis found the arms of wide receiver A.J. Carter, who secured the “Catch Heard ‘Round Texas” and a win for the Mustangs. 

Davis finished the game 19-of-28 for 333 yards and five touchdowns to earn the Offensive MVP. Shadrach Banks, now a linebacker at TCU, caught nine passes for 179 yards and a pair of scores. Zach Evans ran the ball 21 times for 96 yards. Jackson led Duncanville with 228 rushing yards on 18 carries. Trysten Smith ran for three touchdowns and 153 yards. 

The two teams will meet for the fifth time in six seasons on Saturday afternoon to determine the Class 6A Division I championship. North Shore won the first three, including that 41-36 thriller in 2016. The Mustangs won by 14 in 2019 and by a touchdown in 2021. Duncanville ended the streak last season with a 28-21 win. North Shore outscored Duncanville by a combined total of 110-91 in the previous four meetings. 

2. Navasota 42, Argyle 35 in double overtime – 2014 Class 4A Division I

A Lee Fedora led Navasota squad captured their second straight state championship and broke Argyle’s 31-game winning streak in the process during the double overtime win. The Eagles did their damage on the ground, rushing the ball for 236 yards in the game. Running back Nick Ralston ran for 229 yards and four touchdowns on an eye-popping 54 carries. It was the Rattlers’ air attack that won out, however. Quarterback Shelton Eppler threw for 493 yards and four scores. He added to rushing touchdowns.  

An interception with under three minutes left in the game provided Navasota with a chance at a comeback, and the Rattlers capitalized. Navasota wide receiver Tren'Davian Dickson racked up 177 yards and four touchdown catches – two in overtime. He set a national record with 39 receiving touchdowns on the year. Eppler entered the Texas record books with 71 touchdown passes. 

3. Highland Park 53, Manvel 49 – 2017 Class 5A Division I  

John Stephen Jones, the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, led a Highland Park comeback win over favored Manvel to win back-to-back titles for the first time in school history. Jones’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Cade Saustad with 34 seconds left proved to be the game winner. Manvel needed 31 yards to score on the last play and steal back the victory, but wide receiver Jalen Preston was tackled after 30 yards on the one-yard line as time expired. 

Jones finished the game with a UIL state championship game record 564 yards passing on 58 attempts. He set records for most attempts and completions in a game while become the first player to top 500 yards passing at the state championships. Saustad recovered an onside kick with 2:06 remaining to give Highland Park a chance trailing 49-46. He later caught the game winning touchdown pass. 

4. Ennis 38, Cedar Park 35 – 2014 5A Division II 

The Friday of the 2014 state championships at AT&T Stadium might be the best singular day in the decade-plus of holding multiple title games in the same venue on the same day. The Lions jumped out to a 17-0 lead over Cedar Park with most of the second quarter remaining after a pair of Devin Smith touchdown passes. The Timberwolves rallied to take a 21-17 lead with a touchdown pass and run by Amir Alzer, and a 76-yard touchdown run by Thomas Hutchings. 

The two teams traded touchdowns until Cedar Park led 35-31 with 4:40 left in the game after a 21-yard touchdown pass by Alzer to Davis Fiala. The Lions fumbled the ensuing kickoff in what looked like the final nail in their coffin, but a missed field goal by the Timberwolves with 1:38 left in the game gave Ennis life. The Lions overcame a 3rd and 19 with a brilliant hook and lateral play on the game-winning drive that ended on a 36-yard touchdown reception by the 6-foot-6 Donta Thompson. 

5. Windthorst 22, Mart 21 – 2020 Class 2A Division II 

The classics aren’t reserved for the larger classifications. A wild and wacky 2020 season was capped with one of the bigger state championship upsets in recent memory when a two-point conversion with under a minute left in the game gave underdog Windthorst its first state championship since 2003. The loss prevented Mart from becoming the fifth program in Texas history to four-peat. 

Mart took a 21-14 lead after a seven-minute scoring drive to start the fourth quarter as most in the crowd at AT&T figured the Panthers came out of halftime ready to overwhelm its opponent, but it never happened. Windthorst hung around, and then the Trojans seized an opportunity. Cy Belcher scored with under 30 seconds remaining to cut the Mart lead to 20-19. 

The intention wasn’t to go for two. The game-tying extra point missed, but Mart was offside. That moved the ball to the one-yard line and head coach Chris Tackett to call a two-point play. Belcher got into wildcat and romped into the end zone. A Mart Hail Mary fell incomplete as time expired.

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