There is light at the end of the tunnel as the 2020 Texas high school football season nears.
The UIL has set forth guidelines that will allow high school football teams to begin strength and conditioning workouts on June 8th in a safe and responsible manner. That date is now under a week away and the 2020 season is fast approaching.
With that in mind, here is a look back at the top 10 moments from last year’s state title games in December, the last time high school football teams took the field, to whet the appetites of Texas high school football fans for the season to come.
10. Roddrell Freeman bulldozes Hamlin defense en route to 59-yard score
Mart running back and linebacker Roddrell Freeman, a rising senior, is a bruising runner at 6’1” and 215 pounds, a physicality that has attracted offers from Texas Tech, Prairie View A&M, and Missouri State to play as a linebacker. He certainly showed off his strength on this run, bouncing off a couple of attempted Hamlin tackles before taking off for the 59-yard score. This set the tone for the rest of the game as Freeman racked up 168 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, earned offensive MVP honors, and led Mart to a 25-20 victory to clinch their third straight state title.
Freeman’s TD run: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1207713754432978944
9. Bruce Garrett leads Pleasant Grove over Wimberley 35-21
Pleasant Grove opened their showdown against Wimberley for the 4A Division II state title with an 88-yard kickoff return for touchdown by KJ Hicks. It was all Bruce Garrett after that. Garrett, who will continue his football career at BYU this fall, thrashed Wimberley’s defense for 254 yards and three touchdowns in Pleasant Grove’s wing-T offense. He was deservedly crowned as the offensive MVP for the game as Pleasant Grove avenged their title game loss to Cuero in 2018 and picked up their second title in three years.
8. Jasek Hooker’s juggling TD catch against Grandview
Pottsboro was making its debut in the state title game but it certainly wasn’t fazed by defending state champions Grandview. With the Cardinals down 14 in the second quarter, Braden Plyler lobbed it over a Grandview defender into the corner of the end zone for his receiver Jasek Hooker. Hooker bobbled the ball before controlling it and performing an impressive toe-tap along the sideline to secure an important 15-yard touchdown catch for the Cardinals. The Cardinals fell short in the end 42-35, but this was arguably the top catch from the slate of state title games.
Hooker’s juggling catch: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1207783527061704705
7. Kadrien Johnson’s winding 75 yard pick-six against Gunter
This was a critical play in the game. Gunter was already up 14 and had driven into Pewitt territory for this crucial third down. Gunter quarterback Hudson Graham overthrew his man, floating the ball right into the arms of Pewitt defensive back Kadrien Johnson. What ensued was a return that defied belief. Johnson backtracked to his own 14 to escape a Gunter tackler and even had his facemask pulled in the process before turning upfield. He then cut across the field not once but twice to dodge at least five Gunter tacklers on a remarkable return that took 20 seconds and covered nearly 200 total yards. Even though Pewitt would be shutout in the second half and fall 43-22 to Gunter, this is certainly a return that will live long in the memory of Johnson and the Texas high school football community.
Johnson’s pick six: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1207843984749412352
6. Dane Jentsch leads Grandview to second straight title, captures offensive and defensive MVP
In the days leading up to Grandview’s showdown against Pottsboro, Grandview coach Ryan Ebner said he was most impressed with Dane Jentsch’s “poise under any circumstance and his ability to lead in those moments.” Jentsch certainly lived up to that assessment with his impact on both sides of the ball. Offensively at quarterback, he threw for 218 yards, ran for 152 more, and scored on a five yard touchdown run to put the Zebras up 28-14 in the second quarter. However, arguably his most important contribution occurred on the defensive side of the ball playing safety. With four minutes to go in the third quarter, Pottsboro had a fourth and goal at the Grandview one yard line, down 28-21. Jentsch shot the gap and tackled Pottsboro quarterback Braden Plyler for a two yard loss, denying the Cardinals the chance to tie the game. Grandview would go on to score on their next possession and hold on to a 42-35 victory for their second straight state title. Jentsch would be named the offensive and defensive MVP for the game. His impressive performances in the title game in back-to-back years means the Zebras will certainly be ones to watch this year as they look to make it three straight title game appearances.
5t. Richland Springs claims record ninth state title
Heading into their 1-A division II six-man showdown against Motley County, the Coyotes were looking for a state record ninth state title, all of which have come under their current head coach Jerry Burkhart. The Coyotes proved that they were no stranger to the big stage early and often. Burkhart’s son, Landon, and Matthew Rigdon combined for 280 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Coyotes dominated, winning by mercy rule 62-16 in the third quarter. With nine titles, all of which have come since 2004, the Coyotes have certainly staked their place among Texas high school football dynasties.
5t. Aledo repeats against Fort Bend Marshall in a shootout, claims ninth state title
Richland Springs, however, did not last long alone atop the record books. Aledo took on Fort Bend Marshall three days later in a rematch of the 2018 title game, looking for their ninth state title. Fort Bend Marshall traded blows with the Bearcats as Texas A&M commit Devon Achane racked up 171 yards on the ground and Arkansas commit Malik Hornsby added 157 more through the air. However, the Bearcats’ offense was simply too much to overcome. Aledo quarterback Jake Bishop threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns and Alabama commit Jase McClellan ran for 218 more, including a 17-yard touchdown with six minutes left that put the Bearcats up 45-27 and effectively sealed the game. By holding on to the 45-42 victory, the Bearcats capped their decade of dominance with seven titles between 2010 and 2019 as they tied Richland Springs for the most Texas high school state titles ever with their ninth overall.
3. Duncanville and North Shore rematch without two of their top players
The 2018 edition of this game was an instant classic as Dematrius Davis found now Utah State wide receiver A.J. Carter for a 45-yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired to snatch the state title away from Duncanville in a 41-36 victory. This time, however, two crucial pieces were missing. Duncanville quarterback and Texas commit Ja’Quinden Jackson had torn his ACL the week before in the semi-finals against Rockwall. Then, hours before the game, North Shore announced that their five-star running back Zach Evans would not play due to a violation of team rules. Once kickoff came, both teams saw their backups rise to the occasion. Freshman Chris Parson was given the nod at quarterback for Duncanville and threw for 100 yards, ran for a touchdown, and did not commit a turnover. His touchdown rush in the second quarter gave Duncanville a 14-10 lead and the Panthers went into the locker room tied at 17 with North Shore. In the second half, Evans’ backup, senior Roger Hagan, found paydirt from one yard out to put the Mustangs up by 7 before Davis, an Auburn commit, found a wide open Charles King for a 44-yard touchdown to seal the game with just over two minutes remaining. Although there was no Hail Mary this time, there was still plenty of talent on the field as these two teams battled right into the closing minutes of the ballgame for the second year in a row.
2. Blum stuns McLean for first state title with late touchdown
This was arguably a David vs. Goliath matchup in the 1A Division I state title game. McLean was back in the state title game to defend their title from a year prior with arguably the best six-man player in the state in running back Ben Crockett, while Blum was making its state title game debut. Sixmania.com had McLean as a 45-point favorite heading into the game, yet Blum showed exactly why games are not played on paper. It didn’t start great for Blum as Crockett had a 43-yard passing touchdown and a 78-yard rushing touchdown in McLean’s first two series to put them up 14-0. Blum kept its calm and found a way to respond. Koby Clinkscales caught two touchdowns and Coltin Gonzales added three more on the ground to help turn the Bobcats’ 14-0 deficit into a 40-22 lead. The teams traded blows in the second half and Crockett, who finished with 215 yards on the ground and 254 yards through the air, scored on an eight yard scamper with two minutes to go to knot the score up at 52. However, Blum would not be denied. Gonzales took a pitch to the outside and turned up the sidelines, going 29 yards for the score to put Blum up for good 58-52 with under a minute to go. This sealed Blum’s first ever title as they knocked off the defending state title in a game where barely anyone had given them a chance.
Gonzales’ game-winning TD run: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1207381310576029696
1. Shadow Creek edges Denton Ryan in a game full of trickery and chaos
This game had everything you could ask for in a state title game from the first whistle to the last. It all started after Shadow Creek opened the scoring. On the ensuing kickoff, Denton Ryan ran a deceptive reverse that gave the ball to Tra Smith, who raced off to the house for a 91-yard score. The Raiders weren’t done yet. On the extra point attempt, the Raiders ran a swinging gate play that resulted in Drew Sanders barreling his way into the end zone from two yards out to give Denton Ryan an 8-7 lead. In the second quarter with Ryan still up 8-7 came arguably the most iconic play of the 2019 state title games. Ryan lined up to punt, but the snap went over the head of their punter Riley Nuzzo. With Shadow Creek defenders converging on him, Nuzzo kicked the football off the ground like a soccer ball, sending it flying to the Ryan 36 yard line. After a second, Shadow Creek return man Randy Masters scooped up the ball that was still live and returned it for the score, putting the Sharks up 14-8. The chaos wasn’t done. In the closing seconds, Ryan trailed 28-22 at their own 38. The Raiders pulled out a hook and ladder play, reminiscent of Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma in 2007. Billy Bowman Jr., a Texas commit, caught a pass ten yards downfield and pitched the ball to an onrushing Drew Sanders, who raced towards the sideline before pitching it again to Ja’Tavion Sanders, who was then hit late out of bounds, a fifteen yard penalty that put Ryan at the Shadow Creek 25 with just seconds left. Unfortunately for the Raiders, their Hail Mary intended for Drew Sanders, their big bodied Alabama commit, was swatted away from his hands as Shadow Creek held on for their first state title. This game had it all from trick plays to future NCAA talent to a Hail Mary attempt coming up agonizingly short. This is why it sticks out as the top moment from last year’s state title games. Here’s to hoping the 2020 season brings just as many memorable moments like these.
Ryan’s kickoff return reverse: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1208199169447301120
Randy Masters’ punt return for TD: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1208211108319780864
Failed Hail Mary attempt: https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1208242035951464449