Photo: Sherry Milliken/TexasHSFootball
ARLINGTON, Texas— History had its eyes on AT&T Stadium Wednesday afternoon as Balmorhea faced Strawn in the Class 1A Division II UIL State Championship game. The game proved to be a physical match on both ends of the gridiron, but Strawn was able to pull away to a 78-42 over Balmorhea to win their third state title in program history.
After Balmorhea scored just 46 seconds into the game by a 63-yard run by running back Kyle Garcia, Strawn didn’t flinch a beat when it came time for them to take control of the reigns and with a 35-yard touchdown run from junior running back Carlos Villanueva.
After the score, every eye focused on Strawn senior kicker K-Lani Nava for a history-making moment. She set up, the snap was off, the kick was up, and as the kick sailed through the uprights, Nava made history as the first female to play in and score in a Texas high school football UIL State Championship game tying the game at 8.
Strawn Head Coach Dewaine Lee said after last week’s struggle in the state semifinal, he told Nava she only had one chance.
“I told her, you know what you get one chance. If you miss the first one, no more.”
Nava said she didn’t really think about all of the history during the entire game.
“This whole game I didn’t think about ‘the first girl’ or if I miss I’m done, I just thought about the kick.”
The rest of the first quarter was pure Greyhound dominance with another touchdown run by Tanner Hodgkins to take the first lead of the game. Opening the second quarter, Hodgkins rushed 50-yards for another Strawn score and despite Nava’s kick being blocked, the Greyhounds found themselves up 22-8.
The rest of the second quarter saw physical, back-and-forth play from both teams that featured two more Greyhound touchdowns from Hodgkins and a 30-yard Villanueva pass to Blaze Duncan. Hodgkins was named the Offensive MVP of the Game by the UIL.
Balmorhea scored twice before halftime with 28-yard and 3-yard Garcia runs, but the Bears went into half trailing the Greyhounds 38-22.
Strawn continued their offensive explosion in the second half, taking just 25 seconds to score with a 38-yard run from Villanueva. Balmorhea responded with a Marcos Mendoza touchdown catch but the Greyhounds took over on their next two drives with a Hodgkin’s 37-yard reception for a touchdown and a Julian Fraga 40-yard run to give Strawn a booming 62-28 lead going in to the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter featured more back-and-forth action from both sides, but Balmorhea found themselves in a whole too big to overcome.
“They battled all year long and got better and better,” said Balmorhea Head Coach Vance Jones after the game, “we were fortunate enough to get here.”
Postgame, Strawn packed the press conference with their entire team. Junior Ivan Ruiz touched on the fact that this state championship means a lot to Strawn in a family sense for him. Ruiz’s stepfather also won a state championship in 2003, which was Dewaine Lee’s first year as head coach of the Greyhounds.
“I know we keep saying that, but you have no idea what these guys do,” Lee said regarding how special his team was, “I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t even have to push them. I do push them, but I can tell you right now that they do it. “We’re going to celebrate this one and we are going to enjoy it.”
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