– To get to the Class 5A Division I state championship, the Carroll (Southlake)
football team had to overcome second-half deficits in three of its five playoff games. Last week, it had to recover an onside kick and score two touchdowns in the final two minutes to keep its season alive.
So when Carroll trailed early in the fourth quarter Saturday at Cowboys Stadium, it had no reason to panic. The Dragons, who are No. 8 in the Xcellent 25 rankings, only had reason to expect a turnaround in their matchup with
Fort Bend Hightower (Missouri City)
Carroll got that turnaround, and its eighth state title, with a 36-29 victory over Hightower in front of a crowd of 42,822.
"I've always heard that to win the big game, you've got to conquer these close games," Carroll coach Hal Wasson said.
Carroll (16-0) now has matched Celina for most state titles in University Interscholastic League history.
After Hightower quarterback
scored on an 80-yard touchdown to give Hightower (13-3) a 29-28 lead late in the third quarter, Carroll's chance for the title appeared to be slipping away. That was especially true after Carroll punted on its next drive, giving Hightower the ball back with 11:01 to go.
Hightower was back on the field with Addison, who is orally committed to Texas A&M, leading an offense that was almost unstoppable in the first half.
On Hightower's first play of the possession, however, Carroll linebacker Will Davis
knocked the ball free from receiver Ryan Nelson and recovered it at the Hightower 29-yard line.
"We try to come out more intense in the second half," Davis said of the defense. "It's just part of being a Carroll defender."
Five plays later, Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill
scored on a six-yard run and added the two-point conversion to give the Dragons a 36-29 lead with 9:18 left.
Carroll's defense then came up with its biggest stop of the night. On a second down, cornerback
broke up a pass near the end zone. On third down, Davis and fellow linebacker Jeff Miller
combined to sack Addison and force a punt.
Carroll never gave the ball back. Helped by six runs from Hill, who passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 117 yards and two scores, the Dragons wiped the final 4:42 off the clock.
"The resiliency," Wasson said. "I don't have a script for it. I call it the ‘it' factor. I see teams that don't have it and I see teams that do."
Carroll had it in the playoffs, and now it has an eighth state title.Class 4A Division IIAledo 49, Manvel 28
After scoring 69 touchdowns in the first 15 games of the season, Aledo star running back Johnathan Gray
only ran for one in the state championship. But that was enough to break the national record for career touchdowns, and his 240 rushing yards were enough to break Manvel's back in front of 43,369 at Cowboys Stadium.
Gray was once again the workhorse for Aledo, which lost its first two games of the season before winning 14 straight to claim a third straight state title. Gray's only touchdown run was a 36-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, but it gave him 205 touchdowns in his four years at Aledo, breaking the mark of 204 set by Onondaga (Nedrow, N.Y) star Mike Hart in 2003. Hart later starred for the University of Michigan and played for the Indianapolis Colts.
The touchdown also gave some breathing room to Aledo, which took a 28-7 halftime lead before Manvel (15-1) rallied. Manvel cut the lead to 35-28 with a 1-yard run by Shane McCarley
with 9:35 left.
Aledo responded with a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Gray, who is committed to Texas, breaking through an arm tackle and beating a pair of defenders to the end zone.
Manvel's McCarley rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown and also threw two touchdown passes. But he only completed 14 of 34 passes and his one interception was returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Aledo's Todd Christian
Class 5A Division IDekaney (Houston) 34, Steele (Cibolo) 14
In just its fourth season as a varsity program, Spring Dekaney capped its first playoff run with a state title in front of 15,092 in the nightcap at Cowboys Stadium.
The star for Dekaney (14-2) all season was running back Trey Williams
, the senior who had run for 3,687 yards and 45 touchdowns. But against Steele (15-1), the defending state champion that had won 28 straight games, Dekaney's defense was the star.
Dekaney allowed only 164 total yards to Steele, which scored three minutes into the game but didn't score again until three minutes remained. Dekaney also picked off two passes and recovered a fumble.
Most of the offense for Dekaney was provided by Williams, who is orally committed to Texas A&M. The senior rushed 25 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
When Dekaney ended the regular season with a 38-31 loss to Westfield, a state title never seemed in the works. But the Wildcats rallied to win six straight playoff games. After a 27-21 win over College Park to open the playoffs, Dekaney was never really threatened.
They finished No. 20 in the final Xcellent 25 national rankings
presented by the Army National Guard.