Carroll (Southlake, Texas)
squads of the mid-2000s, the 2011 Dragons entered the season as afterthoughts in the Class 5A state title chase.
They closed the season as undefeated, Class 5A-I state champions poised to push for a repeat performance in 2012.
The architect of the team's magical season was Hal Wasson, the 2011 National Coach of the Year.
Wasson emerged from the prodigious shadow of former Carroll head coach Todd Dodge, who led Carroll to a state title in four of his last five seasons, by carving his own name into the proud legacy of one of the state's most-revered programs. Unlike the title-winning teams of years past, this year's Carroll's squad used a well-balanced effort to grind out victories.
"Carroll didn't blow away opponents with its offense like it often did during the Todd Dodge reign," Dallas Morning News preps writer Matt Wixon told MaxPreps. "This year's Carroll team played excellent defense, had a star quarterback, and maybe most important, it had a mental toughness that reflected its coach."
Unranked to start the season, Carroll slowly crept into the national landscape with victory after victory against stiff competition from the Lone Star State.
Wins over Arlington Bowie and Martin set up a showdown with Skyline, then ranked No. 5 nationally, in the Class 5A semifinals. Trailing by 10 with less than 2 minutes remaining, Wasson's team scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick, and scored another touchdown in a span of 21 seconds to come away with a 28-24 victory
Then in the Class 5A-I final, Carroll outlasted Fort Bend Hightower
, and U.S. Air Force All-American Bralon Addison, 36-29.
The improbable title run sent shockwaves around the state.
"Coach Wasson led a Southlake Carroll squad that had the potential to be a state champion and did it under the shadow of programs such as Euless Trinity and Allen standing in the way," said Christopher Lyke of TexasHSFootball.com. "To win a state title in what is perhaps the toughest playoff routes in the country is very impressive to say the least."
Fort Bend Hightower vs. Southlake Carroll
Whenever it faced adversity, Carroll always seemed to respond. Under Wasson, resiliency was a defining characteristic of the 2011 Dragons.
"Carroll trailed in the second half of four of its six playoff games," Wixon said. "It trailed Arlington Bowie by 17 points in the first half and rallied to win. It trailed Skyline by 10 with 2 minutes left in the state semifinals and came back to win, and it got a fourth-quarter touchdown to knock off Fort Bend Hightower in the championship."
Carroll finished the season ranked No. 6 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
, further solidifying its return to national prominence, which it achieved with only one all-state player and one all-area performer.
The 2012 season could be another special year for the Dragons
"Losing Will Davis and Sabian Holmes will hurt in the short run. Having Kenny Hill back in 2012 will certainly give Southlake Carroll a big shot in the arm for another potential state title run," Lyke said.
Having Wasson at the helm doesn't hurt either.