Debates on the best of the best in Texas high school football history never cease to end. The best running back of all-time, the best quarterback, best coach, best dynasty and even the best mascot. Then there’s the best team of all time.
We scoured data of nearly 100 years of high school football in Texas and developed a rather lengthy list of potential “best teams of all time.” We then whittled it down to the top 10, although many will disagree based on the eye test, geographical location, personal bias or other collective reasoning.
To make the TexasHSfootball.com list, the teams needed to be an undefeated state champion — no losses or ties — and recognized as the state champion by the UIL. This list doesn’t include private schools or the PVIL, either. These are single-season teams and not necessarily a school that went on a dynasty run. Having star power played into the selection, as did a dominant defense.
Though there are many dynasty teams that didn’t make the list (cue up 1920’s Waco teams, the Amarillo squads from the 1930’s, Wichita Falls in the 1950’s, Brownwood in the 1960’s, Big Sandy in the 1970’s, Plano in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Fort Hancock, La Marque and Sealy in the 1990’s, and teams of the new millennium like Aledo, Carthage, Bremond and Canadian). Other perennial powers like Converse Judson, West Orange-Stark and Highland Park didn’t make the list, either.
So here’s the breakdown of the top 10, and let the debate begin (or continue):
One of the first “mythical national champions,” Abilene went 14-0 with its third of four-consecutive state championships. Abilene went 14-0 and outscored its opponents by a 496-64 margin. They were named “Team of the 20th Century” by The Dallas Morning News.
1973 John Tyler
Many regard Earl “The Tyler Rose” Campbell the greatest high school back of all-time in Texas, and he had tight end Ronnie Lee on this squad as well. Lee himself played in the NFL for 14 seasons. The Lions went 15-0 and beat a very good Austin Reagan team for the state title.
This team had perhaps the best defense on the list, which puts them in this conversation, and the offense wasn’t too shabby. While going 16-0, Daingerfield outscored its opponents, 631-8 (not a typo), and had 14 shutouts, including 13 in a row to end the season. Its non-district opponents were Carthage, Kilgore and Gilmer.
1985 Houston Yates
It’s a daunting task to beat a team that has five future NFL players on it, and the Yates Lions went 16-0 with that kind of talent. They scored 659 points and allowed just 79 on the season. To top it off, they destroyed defending state champion Odessa Permian, 37-0, for the Class 5A state title.
1989 Odessa Permian 16-0 (627-97)
Of all the Permian state champion teams, this one was selected because of defense and an undefeated record. Just one year after losing to Dallas Carter in the famous “Friday Night Lights” game from the book and movie, the Panthers went 16-0 and rolled to a state championship. They scored 627 points on the season while collectively allowing just 97.
1996 Austin Westlake
Before Drew Brees slung the ball at Purdue and began his NFL career, this future hall of famer directed the Chaps to a 16-0 record and 55-15 trouncing of Abilene Cooper for the state championship. Westlake averaged a little more than 41 points a game while giving up 11 per contest.
1999 Midland Lee
The Rebels won three state championships in a row (1998-2000), but they only went undefeated once. Led by running back Cedric Benson, Lee went 15-0 and thoroughly handled Aldine Eisenhower, 42-21, for the state title.
2006 Southlake Carroll
Carroll has won multiple state championships in various divisions, but this was their best. The Dragons went 16-0 and their average margin of victory was 44-8. But equally as impressive is the list of teams they beat along the way, including Dallas Lake Highlands and Shreveport’s Evangel Christian in non-district, and then through the playoffs they beat Lewisville, Euless Trinity, Odessa Permian, Colleyville Heritage, Allen and Austin Westlake.
The Eagles won three-straight state titles with Kyler Murray at quarterback, but their best team was his junior year when Allen scored 807 points on the season and allowed 298. Allen bullied Pearland in the 5A Division I state championship, 63-28, before moving to 6A the next year and winning that Division I title.
If Daingerfield’s defense was the gold standard last millennium, then Katy’s 2015 team set it for the current days of teams throwing the ball all over the yard. Katy went 16-0 and allowed only 62 points all season. Katy, which shut out 10 opponents that year, put an exclamation point on the season by thumping Lake Travis, 34-7, for the 6A Division II state title.
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