UIL football state championship roundup

Records broken, Liberty Hill falls, Becky Mills honored and a Hail Mary ended it all


It was quite the eventful four-day span at AT&T Stadium where the top 24 teams in the state battled it out to see who would be crowned champions.

Although no teams from Austin County participated, there were a few moments that had implications to a few ties to the area.

In the first game of the second day of competition, the Mason Punchers emphatically staked claim to Class 2A’s Division I with a 44-6 thrashing of the previously unbeaten New Deal Lions. The Punchers ended the Brazos Cougars’ season in the regional semifinal by a 52-14 score.

In the biggest game of the year, Mason’s defense yielded just nine first downs all game to a team that had been averaging 54.2 points per postseason game heading into the state final. The Lions finished the game with just 172 yards of total offense.

Puncher Head Coach Kade Burns secured his second state title for his alma mater, while also locking up his 100th career victory at the school, posting an impressive 100-9 record since taking over in 2012.

The next day saw a multitude of records shattered, mainly courtesy of Cuero’s Jordan Whittington.

For those who still have yet to hear of the young man’s performance, just sit back and enjoy the next few sentences.

Before the stats are listed, one thing needs to be made clear; he’s listed as a wide receiver.

With that being said, Whittington carried the ball 28 times, mainly out of a wildcat set where he was snapped the ball directly, and racked up 334 yards and five touchdowns.

The wide receiver powered through state-championship records that were originally held by men named Johnathan Gray and Eric Dickerson.

Gray racked up 325 yards in a 2010 title-game victory over La Marque and ended up playing his college ball at Texas, the same school Whittington is signed on to play for next year.

Dickerson’s record is only slightly older, with his 311-yard performance leading Sealy to a 42-20 victory over Wylie in 1978.

Almost more impressively, Whittington had three more scores called back although nearly every time he followed those plays up by scoring anyway, tying a 4A record with his five rushing scores.

But coming into the final game of the season, he had registered just 31 total carries and just about matched that in this game alone.

On top of that, he did haul in a handful of receptions for 43 total yards, including a feat of athleticism, climbing the ladder to grab a catch, only to be shoved towards the boundary on his return to the earth.

A second defender joined the push, but Whittington was still too strong and extended the ball over the goal line for another score.

Oh, by the way, those were only his offensive contributions.

On defense, he racked up 11 tackles and was all over the field again, earning defensive MVP honors on top of the offensive MVP.

He ended his game with an ice bath of his coach, bringing a 4A Division II state championship back to Cuero for the first time since 1987.

In 4A’s Division I final, it was the team that ended Sealy’s season in the regional semifinal that met with a former district foe, but Liberty Hill was unable to hoist the trophy, finally meeting its match.

Waco La Vega was first on the scoreboard but the Panthers tied it going into the halftime break, and the Pirates put together a third quarter that provided all the space they needed.

It started with the kickoff that was returned to the end zone and was followed by a pair of aerial scores from Ara Rauls to Malachi Wright, one for 90 yards and the other for 61.

Despite two second-half rushing touchdowns from Liberty Hill quarterback Jacob Cearley, there wasn’t enough time on the clock for the full comeback and for the first time all year, the Panthers were held under 35 points.

La Vega Head Coach Don Hyde noted that the familiarity with the Liberty Hill slot-T offense began when the teams shared a district and the Pirates have now secured five straight wins over the Panthers over the last four years.

The final day of the stretch included the upcoming honorees of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame being introduced to the state championship crowds following the first game of day four.

After Highland Park took down Shadow Creek 21-17, the soon-to-be members of the group stood at midfield and got a deservedly loud ovation from the throngs of people in attendance.

T.J. Mills will be one of the coaches inducted to the hall and his wife Becky was on hand to be greeted with the warm welcome ahead of the May ceremonies.

In that final day of competition, seemingly the best was held for the last, as the 6A Division I championship between Duncanville and North Shore was in the primetime slot and held up its expectations.

Even the game that preceded it, Longview vs. West Brook, went down to the wire and ended with Lobos from Longview claiming their first title since 1937 by a 35-34 final score.

Then, two high-powered offensive attacks went blow for blow, ending the first quarter with a blistering 22-17 score with an 80-yard throwing score beating the first-quarter buzzer.

More than 30 of the athletes on the field will head to the top tier of college football next year and it was clear these two heavyweights were in for a full four rounds.

Although there was no scoring in the third frame, the final quarter started with Duncanville grabbing 10 points in the first few minutes, cutting the deficit to 35-30 with just under ten minutes to go.

North Shore put the ball in the end zone but failed to convert the two-point try and the Panthers pounced on the opportunity to grab a lead but also could not punch in a two-point conversion and only held a 36-35 lead with 1:02 remaining to play.

However, the Mustangs of North Shore were not finished and used every last trick they had, finishing things off with a desperation throw to the end zone.

Sitting on the Duncanville 45-yard line, Mustang quarterback Dematrius Davis avoided pressure and heaved one for the end of the field and a cluster of four athletes, two from each team, leaped to try to make a play on the ball.

A.J. Carter actually ended up in front of his teammate but most importantly, came down with the pass to crown North Shore champions of Texas.

The entire stadium erupted as one side was in a state of pure ecstasy while the other was in utter disbelief.

Everyone in between could just sit back and enjoy the moment, capping off an outstanding year of high school football.


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