After three blowouts to open the 5A and 6A state championship games, it was refreshing to see Westlake and Southlake Carroll locked in a close 28-21 game at the half.
However, the final 24 minutes belonged to Westlake as the Chaparrals produced a 24-0 run to open the half on the way to a 52-34 state title victory in the 6A Division I state title game.
“What an unbelievable game that that was. We knew going into it that we were going to be in a knockdown drag-out and we were,” Westlake head coach Todd Dodge said. “My football team, I’ll tell them every time I get an opportunity that collectively they absolutely love the game of football, they have a passion for the game, and it was such a big deal for us.”
It was a victory that gave Todd Dodge bragging rights over his son Riley, the head coach for Southlake Carroll.
“Riley and I both were honored to be a part of the first time that had ever happened in the state of Texas: a father and son meeting in the state championship game,” Todd Dodge said. “But this was not about us. This was about the Westlake Chaparrals and the Southlake Carroll Dragons. A bunch of kids that their hearts were bigger than this stadium and they got after each other, and that’s what it was about.”
Southlake Carroll struggled to stop Westlake all night as Cade Klubnik threw for 220 yards and a touchdown and Zane Minors added 135 yards on the ground to lead the Chaparrals offensively.
“Cade is a big-time player. He stepped up big time tonight, and he’s done it all year long. He’s got a fabulous skill set,” Dodge said. “He’s got a very live arm and obviously you saw tonight the speed and suddenness that he has. And he’s a guy that has turned into a tremendous leader. He’s got a tremendous style of leadership, a very encouraging style of leadership.”
Making his performance even more impressive was the fact that Klubnik came into this showdown nursing a shoulder injury.
“He didn’t throw a ball this entire week. He was injured coming into this game and he didn’t practice very much at all this week and he stepped up as a warrior tonight,” Dodge said. “We had a lot of kids out there tonight that weren’t 100% physically, but they played and they played their hearts out.”
The game initially looked like it was going to be a roller coaster ride of a contest as the teams traded scores in the early going.
Dragon running back Owen Allen struck first on a three-yard run after Southlake Carroll marched down the field on its first possession, but Minors answered with a 75-yard touchdown sprint on Westlake’s first play to even proceedings.
Highly touted Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers struck next as he found Brady Boyd, who spun free from two Westlake defenders for a 49-yard score. Yet again though, Westlake responded as Grey Nakfoor found a hole and raced 38 yards for a touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Carroll’s offense sputtered for the first time and that allowed Westlake to nab its first lead of the game as Klubnik hit a wide open Jaden Greathouse for a 15-yard touchdown one minute into the second quarter.
Carroll’s dangerous tandem struck again four minutes later as Ewers lobbed a pass up and Boyd came down with a nice back shoulder grab for a 27-yard reception that knotted the score back up at 21.
Ewers finished the night with 351 yards passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Boyd led the Carroll receivers with 12 catches for 190 yards and those two touchdowns.
After that, Westlake began to gain control. Klubnik finished the next Chaparral drive off with a one-yard quarterback keeper before Westlake defensive back Michael Taaffe snatched an underthrown pass by Ewers with the seconds waning in the first half to ensure that Westlake held a seven-point lead at the interval.
In the third quarter, the floodgates opened and there was little Carroll could do as it tried to fight off the Westlake barrage.
Klubnik broke free for a 44-yard run to open the quarter, which allowed Nakfoor to score his second touchdown of the night on a four-yard scamper.
On the ensuing possession, Taaffe came up with another game-changing play as he skied for a one-handed interception to give Westlake great field position.
“It came my way and I made the play, but it would be super selfish and just factually wrong if I said that I did this myself,” Taaffe said. “Without the defensive front, without getting that pressure on that five-star quarterback, Quinn Ewers, we wouldn’t have made those plays in the back end.”
The Chaparrals took full advantage as Klubnik scored on yet another quarterback keeper to extend the Westlake advantage to 42-21 just five minutes into the quarter.
For Westlake, the points kept on coming as kicker Mark Sayegh booted a field goal and Nakfoor added his third touchdown to cap off a huge run that left the Chaparrals with a comfortable cushion, up 52-21, with eight and a half minutes still to play.
And although Ewers connected with R.J. Maryland on a fade route and Owen Allen found paydirt from three yards out after an onside kick recovery for late consolation touchdowns, the damage had already been done as Westlake held on for a 52-34 victory.
“We’re super disappointed on the outcome tonight. Proud of the way our kids fought. Never gave up. I thought our kids had great character tonight. They could’ve rolled over and quit and they kept fighting,” Southlake Carroll head coach Riley Dodge said. “It was a tall task late in the third quarter, but our kids fought hard. I thought we did a great job in the first half, but we just couldn’t get them [Westlake’s offense] off the field and we turned the ball over backed up.”
Despite the result, it was still a notable season for Southlake Carroll, which returned to the state title game for the first time since 2011. Historically, the Dragons are used to high school football prominence with eight state titles and now 11 state title game appearances in program history.
“We played for a state championship. This was a program changing week. Obviously we didn’t get the job done but we’re obviously trending in the right direction,” Riley Dodge said. “We’re heading in the right direction and we have a lot of good nucleus coming back on this team and we’ve got some pups coming, so we’re excited.”
For Westlake, the step up in classification from 6A Division II to 6A Division I proved not to be a hindrance as the Chaparrals earned their second consecutive state championship.
“Something that’s even more difficult to do is to go back and win it again. Because of the enrollment situation, we went up in classification. A lot of people doubted us since everybody thought we’d be Division II,” Todd Dodge said. “I know that that fueled their fire to go win another state championship and to do it at the highest division.”
To see great photos from this and all championship games, get Texas HS Football Magazine