Saturday's Texas 6A Division I high school football championship game was a back-and-forth flurry for 18 minutes. After that, No. 4 Westlake (Austin)
dominated, scoring 31 unanswered points en route to its second straight title and third overall with a 52-34 victory over No. 10 Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas)
at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The game had it all in terms of storylines. It was the first Texas state championship game pitting father and son head coaches — Westlake's Todd Dodge and son Riley at Carroll. It also had a compelling quarterback matchup with junior Cade Klubnik
of Westlake outdueling junior Ohio State pledge Quinn Ewers
, the nation's No. 1 Class of 2022 prospect.
Klubnik, a fleet and poised 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, was nearly flawless, completing 18 of 20 passes for 220 yards while rushing for 97 more. He accounted for three touchdowns.
(12 carries, 137 yards) set the tone with a 75-yard touchdown run on Westlake's first play from scrimmage. The Chaparrals never really slowed down from there, piling up 528 yards of offense – including 308 on the ground.
added 74 yards rushing including touchdown runs of 39, 4 and 5 yards as the Chaps (14-0) flipped a 2006 championship game result versus the same Southlake Carroll program.
The Dragons won that 5A Division I title game 43-29 when Todd Dodge was the coach and Riley was his quarterback. It was Dodge's fourth championship as coach for the Dragons and after the game he went the college route before landing at Westlake in 2014. He's gone 84-12 since and is now 218-70 overall with six state crowns.
In his third season as head coach, Riley (38-4) was hoping to lead the Dragons (12-2) to their ninth state title and first since 2011. Instead he got a bear hug from his dad afterward and a second-place trophy in Texas' largest classification.
"I told him I loved him," Todd Dodge said in a postgame interview on Fox Southwest TV. "I told him I was so proud of him. I told him he had one heck of a football team. ... It was a slug-fest. Our defense answered the bell the second half. That was one for the ages right there."
It was especially tight and entertaining in the first 18 minutes with the game tied at 21-21.
But that's when the Chaps caught fire, scoring the game's next 31 points to go up 52-21 late in the third quarter, the last score on a 5-yard run by Nakfoor, his 20th of the season. It's just what Todd Dodge asked for at halftime, "to keep scoring," because of the Ohio State-bound Ewers and the Dragons' how powered offense.
The 57-year-old Dodge still feared Carroll would comeback and they did with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ewers to R.J. Maryland
, a recovered onside kick and a second short touchdown run by sophomore Owen Allen
But it was too little too late for the Dragons, who last week upset a Duncanville that had eliminated them the last two seasons in the playoffs.
They simply couldn't match Westlake's power up front or the balance on offense, orchestrated beautifully by Klubnik, rated the seventh best pro-style quarterback in the country. Judging from his speed and elusiveness — Todd Dodge calls him "twitchy" — Klubnik looks more of a dual threat than strictly a pocket passer.
The Chaps averaged 7.9 yards per carry, compared to 2.1 for Carroll, plus Klubnick was precise on his passes. "That's the best game we've played offensively all year," Todd Dodge said.
The first four possessions of the game produced four touchdowns and it took less than nine minutes.
Allen capped a 75-yard, 10-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown to give Southlake Carroll a 7-0 lead. But it took just one play and 12 seconds for Westlake to respond as the speedy Minors zipped around right end 75 yards for a score to tie it at seven.
Back came Ewers, firing a 49-yard touchdown bomb to Minnesota-bound wideout Brady Boyd
, making it 14-7. Undaunted, the Chaps drove 79 yards, finished off with a 39-yard touchdown run by Nakfoor, tying the score at 14-14 with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
Westlake finally got a stop and then took its first lead, when impressive 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore receiver Jaden Greathouse
(five catches, 103 yards) hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Klubnik, making it 21-14 with 10:51 left in the half.
Figuring stops were at a premium, Riley Dodge went for it on a 4th-and-1 call from his own 34 and Ewers delivered with a 26-yard completion to tight end Maryland. That set up Ewers' second TD connection with Boyd (12 catches, 189 yards), this one from 28 yards, tying the game at 21-21 with 6:44 left in the second quarter.
Ewers finished 23 of 39 for 350 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw a pair of picks, both by the defensive Player of the Game, Michael Taaffe
. One led to a touchdown, the other prevented one.
Klubnik and Chaps showed some determination on their next drive, fighting off three key penalties, one nullifying a touchdown, to take a 28-21 halftime lead on a 75-yard scoring drive. Klubnik finished it off with a 1-yard keeper with 1:12 left in the second.
Ewers was intercepted by Taaffe right before halftime to keep Westlake in front. By that time, Westlake had piled up 298 total yards, including 171 on the ground. Carroll had 250 yards.
Westlake struck twice quick in the third quarter.
Nakfoor finished off a 75-yard drive with his second touchdown, a 4-yard run, making it 35-21. A 44-yard scamper by Klubnik keyed the drive.
Klubnik rushed for his second touchdown less than three minutes later on a 4-yard run, giving the Chaps a 42-21 lead. That score was set up by Taafee's second interception, a tremendous, leaping one-handed grab, that gave Westlake the ball at the Carroll 24. Four plays later the Chaps had a three-touchdown edge with 6:48 left in the third quarter. They were on their way from there.
Taafee said the Chaps won it for their coach, but said "He tells us to do it for each other. I wish I could put into words how much we put into this."
They had to put in even more after the Dragons piled up 250 of their 399 total yards in the first half.
"That quarterback they have is one hell of a player and frankly I was a little nervous," Taafee said. "They kicked us in the mouth with those first couple drives. We had to ask ourselves 'do we want them to keep it up or our we going to stop them?' We did a better job the second half."
Said Todd Dodge: "We had to will our way to this win. We survived a shootout early."
The game was the last of 12 state championship contests in Texas, which delayed its season for large schools by six weeks due to the pandemic. Riley Dodge missed his team's 34-27 semifinal victory over Duncanville after a positive test for the virus.
"Obviously we're super disappointed in the outcome tonight," Riley Dodge told the Dallas Morning News
after the game. "I'm proud of the way our kids fought, they never gave up. I thought our kids had great character tonight."
Before the game, Elizabeth Dodge, Todd's wife and Riley's mom
told Fox Southwest, "This is the most awesome moment of my life. It's
overwhelming really. I just want both teams to play well."
Clearly, the Chaparrals played a little better, though they were flagged 13 times for 117 yards. Three of those penalties nullified three touchdowns, including a scintillating 62-yard touchdown run down the left sideline by Klubnik in the third quarter.
Westlake shook off the penalties and persevered when it needed to most. Much like when it dethroned two-time defending 6A-1 champion North Shore (Houston) 24-21 last week. North Shore took its first lead of that game with 4:30 remaining — Westlake's first deficit of the entire season — only for the Chaps to drive 69 yards for the game-winning touchdown three minutes later on a touchdown run by Klubnik.
"Collectively this group loves football more than any team I've ever
seen," Todd Dodge said. "Like every team in American, they've had so
many things to overcome this season. I can't tell you how proud of them I am. That was one hell of a game tonight."