by Senior Writer, Adam Ogburn
The final game of the week at the UIL State Championships belonged to Tito Byce and the Argyle Eagles.
Byce rushed for Argyle’s first four touchdowns on the night as the Eagles jumped out to a 28-0 lead and never looked back en route to a commanding 49-21 victory over Lindale for the 4A Division I state title.
Byce finished the night with 152 yards rushing and those four touchdowns, earning Offensive MVP honors. It was a dream ending to Byce’s high school career as he overcame a Torn ACL that he suffered last season.
“It’s been a crazy journey after I tore my ACL. I went right to work after I got surgery,” Byce said. “All of my teammates and my coaches just pushed me super hard and I had the whole community behind me and it turned out great like we wanted it to.”
“He’s a great guy. He’s a great friend. He’s one of the most selfless guys on the team,” Argyle quarterback CJ Rogers said of Byce. “It’s always great to see someone like that succeed and overcome something. Really happy for him.”
For Argyle, it was its first state title since 2013.
“It’s a joyous event. I’m proud of my football team. I think they played like champions tonight,” Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said. “They were really focused the entire week. It was amazing to go out there and apply it in such an unusual environment. This is the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of all year. We loved it.”
Lindale never really got going from the first whistle as it was outgained by Argyle 571-287 on the night.
“Offensively we couldn’t ever really free [running back] Jordan [Jenkins] up and honestly that’s what got us here,” Lindale head coach Chris Cochran said. “We were trying to play action them a good bit and couldn’t do that. They were pressuring [quarterback] Sam [Peterson]. He couldn’t really get comfortable in the pocket.”
Byce helped Argyle jump out to a 14-0 lead with two short touchdown rushes before Lindale compounded its misery by fumbling a kickoff at its own two yard line. That gifted Byce his third score of the night and gave Argyle a 21-0 lead heading to the second quarter.
Lindale had a chance to get back in the game in the second quarter but two turnovers on downs either side of another Byce rushing touchdown meant the Eagles trailed 28-0 at halftime.
The second half was more even as the teams traded scores, but the damage had already been done.
Peterson opened the quarter with a six-yard touchdown run on a read option for Lindale, but Argyle quickly countered, moving the ball down the field before quarterback CJ Rogers found Jasper Lott for a two-yard score off a play action pass.
With their offense beginning to get its feet underneath it, Peterson found his receiver Jacob Seekford on a perfect ball down the seam for a 38-yard touchdown, but Rogers calmly responded by dropping a dime to his receiver Ward McCollum for a 43-yard score on the ensuing possession to give Argyle a comfortable 42-14 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Rogers found Lott wide open again for another play action touchdown, this one from four yards out, and Lindale capped off the scoring as its star running back Jordan Jenkins finally broke free for a 25-yard rushing score with just over a minute to go.
Jenkins has put up some video game numbers on the year, but he was frustrated most of the night by the Argyle defense as he was held to 112 yards on 26 carries.
“We have done a great job of stopping the run all year. We didn’t have to change our defense or change our coverages or anything like that. We just got some good reads on their offense,” Rodgers said. “You’re never going to stop a great running back like that. You just need to slow him down a whole bunch and kind of take him out of the game per se. And we were able to do that.”
That meant Lindale had little chance of keeping up with Byce and Rogers, who finished with 357 yards passing on the night and three touchdowns.
It was yet another impressive performance for Rogers, who stepped into the starting role this year and led this Argyle football team which did not trail in a single game all year long.
“He really stepped out in the pandemic and was instrumental in getting the receivers together. Just really leading from the front,” Rodgers said of Rogers “He’s been a fabulous quarterback and an amazing leader on our team, and I’m glad it all turned out that way for him and the rest of the people that did the work when nobody else was watching.”
For Lindale, the night capped off a memorable season where it reached its first state title game in school history.
“We wanted it to end a little bit differently, but I’m so proud of what these young men have done. The way that they have just brought an electricity to our town and to our school,” Cochran said. “It’s been an unbelievable ride and one that we’re always going to be really really proud of.”
On the field, the night belonged to Argyle as the Eagles dominated in all three phases of the game to clinch its first state title in seven years.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially that this team is so close to each other,” Rogers said. “We want everyone to succeed, so it’s awesome.”