ARLINGTON, Texas —
Four months ago, the Allen (Texas)
Eagles opened their $60 million state-of-the-art football stadium.
Now they have a nice addition for its trophy case.
Senior running back Marcus Ward
scored on touchdown runs of one and 67 yards in the second half to lead the Eagles to a tense 35-21 victory over Lamar (Houston)
for the Class 5A Division I state title Saturday night in front of 48,379 fans at Cowboys Stadium.
It was the third championship game of the day and final of nine since the championship extravaganza began on Thursday.
Allen (15-1) never trailed in the second half, but never felt very comfortable either because Lamar (Houston) refused to go away.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game,'' said Allen coach Tom Westerberg. "That's a really good team we played tonight. This game was more about the big plays.''
Ward's 67-yard touchdown bolt with six minutes remaining did provide some two-score comfort, increasing the lead to 14 points. It came on the first play after Lamar, trailing by just a touchdown, turned the ball over on downs at the Allen 33.
"I told the coaches on the sideline to give me the ball,'' said the 5-8, 170-pound Ward. "It's a play where the guard leads in the hole. Kyler
[Murray, the Allen quarterback] had some trouble with the snap and that scared me for a second, but he was able to get the handoff to me.''
Ward finished with 117 yards on 16 carries. Murray did most of his damage in the first half with two long touchdown runs. He ended the night with 143 yards on 16 carries.
The Eagles couldn't completely relax until linebacker Tay Evans
' fourth-down stop of Lamar's Nicholas Richardson
inside the Allen 5 with 28 seconds remaining.
For Allen, No. 6 in the Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings
, it was a second state title. The Eagles also won in Class 5A Division I in 2008.
Lamar (15-1) came up short in its bid to become the first state football champion from the Houston ISD in 27 years.
"Our seniors did great all year,'' said Lamar coach Tom Nolen, "but we're basically a young team with a lot of guys coming back.
One of those is junior quarterback
, who was injured late in the game, but not before he threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 19 times for 126 yards and a score.Cory Mitchell
and Beau Wells
had touchdown receptions for the Redskins. Running back Ronnie Wesley
chipped in with 95 yards on 21 carries.
Lamar had Allen backed up for much of the third quarter and it finally paid off when Colbert threaded an 18-yard touchdown pass to Beau Wells to tie it, 21-21. The extra point kick was wide.Oliver Pierce
turned momentum back in Allen's favor with a 77-yard kickoff return to the Lamar 16. Five plays later, Ward scored on a1-yard run for a 28-21 Allen lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Allen's only loss came in the fifth game of the season at Coppell, 27-24.
"It's always hard to compare teams,'' said Westerberg. "The 2008 title was the first. But this team is special, too.''