One of the best moments of every Texas high school football season is the very last one, when the victorious squad hoists the state championship trophy. Imagine the emotion of that moment for that newly crowned champion — months and years of work, culminating in an historic achievement. Imagine the exultation.
For many Texas high school football programs, though, imagining is all they can do — they’ve never reached the mountaintop, never gotten that moment of exultation with a state championship trophy in hand.
There are hundreds of Texas high school football programs that have never won a state championship…so let’s rank them! We crunched the numbers to find the best TXHSFB programs without a title. Keep in mind that these are based on the entire history of Texas high school football, so new programs (like Alvin Shadow Creek, who went 15-1 and played for a state championship in its first varsity season) won’t show up here.
Before we get to the top 10, let’s hand out some…
Alice (600 all-time wins, 40 playoff appearances)
Baytown Lee (570 wins, 32 playoff appearances)
Bellville (583 wins, 33 playoff appearances, 2 runner-up finishes)
Belton (589 wins, 34 playoff appearances)
Burnet (30 playoff appearances, 3 runner-up finishes)
Corpus Christi Calallen (36 playoff appearances, 2 runner-up finishes)
Christoval (30 playoff appearances, 4 runner-up finishes — most all-time without a championship)
Clifton (614 wins, 33 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Crockett (583 wins, 36 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Devine (582 wins, 34 playoff appearances)
Elysian Fields (29 playoff appearances, 3 runner-up finishes)
Floydada (567 wins, 28 playoff appearances)
Forney (597 wins, 33 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Georgetown (566 wins, 24 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Graham (590 wins, 32 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Groom (21 playoff appearances, 3 runner-up finishes)
Holliday (40 playoff appearances)
Marlin (573 wins, 24 playoff appearances, 2 runner-up finishes)
McCamey (37 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Perryton (570 wins, 38 playoff appearances)
Rankin (445 wins, 30 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Roscoe (567 wins, 33 playoff appearances, 2 runner-up finishes)
Rule (3 runner-up finishes)
Sherman (648 wins, 34 playoff appearances)
Sinton (39 playoff appearances, 1 runner-up finish)
Smithson Valley (23 playoff appearances, 3 runner-up finishes)
Taylor (616 wins, 39 playoff appearances)
Without further ado, here are the 10 best Texas high school football programs without a championship.
10: Ballinger Bearcats
Runnels County sure loves its Bearcats, and for good reason: there’s been plenty of winning going on at Bearcat Stadium for a long time. Ballinger has racked up 632 all-time wins — more than teams like Canadian, Stephenville and San Angelo Central — and have 40 playoff appearances, one of only 38 teams in Texas that can boast that feat. They’ve come close — the 1953 Bearcats surged to the 2A title game, only to be beaten by Huntsville, and they were in contention deep in the playoffs consistently from 1983 to 1995 — but the biggest prize of all has eluded Ballinger. — Greg Tepper
9: Harlingen Cardinals
Arguably the most successful program out of the Rio Grande Valley, the Cardinals (674 all-time wins, 41 playoff appearances) also hold claim to one of the most successful programs in the entire state with the 20th most wins all-time. Led by head coach Manny Gomez Harlingen’s best season was also the banner year for RGV football in 2011 when they made it all the way to the regional semifinals and posted the 13th best offense in 6A history averaging over 50 points per game. — Ishmael Johnson
8: Gregory-Portland Wildcats
The Wildcats (42 playoff appearances, one title game appearance) are Coastal Bend royalty in large part to the late, legendary head coach Ray Akins, who is contemporarily known as the grandfather of Saints and former Westlake QB Drew Brees, but will forever be known as the man who built G-P. He coached them from 1965 to 1988, winning a state record 12-straight district titles and led them to that lone title appearance. Appropriately, the stadium is now named after the man, and the quest for the elusive title marches on. — Max Thompson
7: Rogers Eagles
That sound you hear is Texas high school football fans scrambling to Google to prove this entry wrong. Oh come on…Rogers HAS to have a championship! We were as surprised as you are! But sadly, the Eagles haven’t been able to capture the crown. In fact, Rogers has only ever appeared in one title game — a 33-7 loss to Stanton in 1997’s 2A championship. This is despite having 596 wins to their name, a staggering 42 playoff appearances and one of Texas high school football’s all-time great coaches in Donald Godwin (259-117 record over 35 seasons). — Greg Tepper
6: McGregor Bulldogs
The Bulldogs (636 all-time wins, 37 playoff appearances) are historically one of the premier small schools in the Waco area thanks in part to the 1980s teams coached by Rudy Phillips and later Grady Williams who led McGregor to its only two state title appearances in 2A and 3A. They’re the 30th winningest program in the state with nine unbeaten regular seasons to their name. — Ishmael Johnson
5: Jasper Bulldogs
The Bulldogs were our 2018 preseason No. 13 and finished 12-1 after a regional semifinals loss to West Orange-Stark. Their current trajectory under head coach Darrell Barbay may be surprising if you don’t know the history of the program, but the Bulldogs (633 all-time wins, 48 playoff appearances — 2nd-most among teams without a title, one title game appearance) had a stretch between 1982 and 2004 where they had double-digit wins 10 times. It’s a consistently good program that has pushed the cusp of greatness often, and are getting after it yet again. — Max Thompson
4: El Campo Ricebirds
Oh, Ricebirds. The pride of Wharton County has everything that a Texas high school football superpower should have — an outrageous number of wins (682, sixth-most all-time in Class 4A), a seemingly permanent place in the playoffs (37 postseason berths), deep playoff runs (including a pair of runner-up finishes in 1967 and 2012) and an iconic blood feud with archrival Bay City (the state’s longest-running rivalry). The one thing that’s missing: a state championship trophy. — Greg Tepper
3: Childress Bobcats
Childress (650 all-time wins, 41 playoff appearances, two title game appearances) finished the year at No. 7 in our 3A Division II rankings and that’s become more or less the standard for the Bobcats thanks to what legendary head coach Charles Johnston built over the course of 35 consecutive seasons. The only thing missing from Childress’ and Johnston (the eighth-winningest coach in Texas high school football history) massive résumé is a championship. — Ishmael Johnson
2: Brenham Cubs
The Cubs (635 all-time wins, 43 playoff appearances, three title game appearances — the second-most among teams without a title) are all but synonymous with the crowned royalty of Texas high school football — they’re just missing the crown. Much of that reputation was built up under former head coach Glen West from 1999 to 2017, a stretch that saw nine double-digit win seasons and all three title appearances. It’s tough to come so close and not hoist the hardware, but at least recent history shows it can be done. — Max Thompson
1: Hondo Owls
Any way you slice it, the Owls are one of Texas high school football’s most decorated programs in every way except state championships. The Owls have 684 all-time wins — the most of any team without a title, more than teams like Wichita Falls, Stamford and Garland, and just two fewer than legendary 4A bunkmates Gilmer and Sweetwater. The Owls have been to the playoffs an astonishing 52 times — the third-most of any program in history, including more playoff berths than Refugio, Plano, Mart, Temple and Allen. And they’ve been tantalizingly close — a state championship loss in 1956 to Stinnett (their lone title game berth); state semifinal losses to Rosebud-Lott in 1971 and Liberty Hill in 2006; and quarterfinal losses in 1952 (Deer Park), 1954 (Deer Park), 1981 (Port Isabel), 1983 (Sweeny), 1999 (Sealy) and 2005 (Wimberley). But perhaps most cruel for the Owls are the should’ve-beens — in 1955, for example, the Owls never lost a game, yet were eliminated in the area round of the playoffs by virtue of a 20-20 tie with Hebbronville (the game was decided by penetrations). And there is a small asterisk here — the Owls do have regional titles back when that was the highest achievement possible, accomplishing the feat in 1932, 1934, 1942 and 1945. But in the end, the Hondo Owls remain the best Texas high school football program without a state championship. — Greg Tepper
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