Top 10 Plays of the UIL 1A-4A State Title Games

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by Senior Writer, Adam Ogburn

The UIL state championships are always a perfect culmination of the Texas high school football season. This year, fans will get two helpings of football as the 5A and 6A title games will take place in mid-January. With the 1A Division II title game between Richland Springs and Balmorhea also being postponed, there were seven state titles on the line last week as teams in Conferences 1A-4A battled for the biggest trophy in Texas high school football on its grandest stage. And they delivered some thrilling action. 

With three of the seven games decided by just one point, there were plenty of outstanding plays made throughout the week. Here are the top 10 plays from the 2020 1A-4A state title games 

  1. Krece Kirkpatrick’s juggling grab helps Post pull off halfback pass

In its 2A Division I state title game showdown against Shiner, Post faced adversity early as its starting quarterback Slayden Pittman was knocked out of the game due to injury. “Once Slayden got hurt, probably 85% of our offense is kind of out the window,” Post head coach Michael Pittman said. “We had to be very basic. There weren’t a whole lot of options that we had. But our kids adapted and they kept fighting.” Luckily for Post, the remaining 15% of its offense included some trickery from Nathan McDaniel. With the clock winding down in the first half, the senior took a handoff and rolled to his left before quickly lobbing up a pass to Kirkpatrick. As Kirkpatrick and the Shiner defender battled for the ball, it popped up into the air before Kirkpatrick came down with it on the second attempt for a 37-yard gain on an acrobatic catch. Even though Post didn’t have a quarterback, it had great success on halfback passes as McDaniel finished the game 3-for-3 for 92 yards passing. This one to Kirkpatrick though was certainly the pick of the lot.

Post’s acrobatic halfback pass completion (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest) https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339639423487631362

  1. Doug Brooks shows off his power with stunning stiff arm

Doug Brooks runs the ball like a grown man for the Shiner Comanches and seeing him race towards you with the ball is every defender’s worst nightmare. The 265-pound running back showed off his speed and strength for the Comanches on a carry early in the fourth quarter for Shiner against Post last Thursday. Brooks took a pitch and obliterated one Post defender with a nasty stiff arm before rumbling over several other attempted Post tacklers on his way to a thirty-yard gain. Brooks finished the game with 65 yards rushing on eight carries. And the scary thing for other 2A defenders? Brooks still has another year left to lead the Comanches on both sides of the ball as they will go in search of their second straight state title.

Brooks’ 30-yard run (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest) https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339654715232153602

  1. Brandon King comes up with two pick-sixes on two consecutive plays

Even Brandon King probably didn’t expect the amount of birthday presents he was going to get from the Gilmer offense heading into Friday’s 4A Division II state title game. The Carthage defensive back intercepted his first pass in the first quarter, but his biggest impact came midway through the second quarter. King intercepted two tipped passes and took both to the house, one from 15 yards and the other from 35, on two consecutive Gilmer offensive plays, blowing open a tight 21-14 ball game into a more comfortable 35-14 advantage in just seventeen seconds of game time. “On the first one, it was a tip drill. The receiver tipped it to me and I caught it and just broke off,” King said, describing his interceptions. “On the second one, Kip Lewis, he tipped it up to me with his left hand and I just ran it back.” King added another interception in the second half, meaning he finished the game with four interceptions and two pick-sixes on his birthday. His best birthday present though? Probably the 4A Division II state title trophy, which was Carthage’s eighth in just thirteen years. All in all, it was a pretty good birthday for King.

King’s 1st pick-six (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1340012964825485313

King’s 2nd pick-six (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1340014866254446596

  1. Perfectly executed Carthage double pass turns title game on its head

Before King’s heroics, Carthage found itself in an early 14-0 hole against Gilmer. In order to strike back, the Bulldogs pulled some magic out of their back pocket. Quarterback Kai Horton threw a backwards pass to his receiver Craig McNew who ran backwards nearly ten yards to expertly evade a defender before firing the ball back across the field to Horton. Horton then followed his blockers eighteen yards in for a huge score for Carthage as it began a run of 70-straight points for the Bulldogs. “I knew that it was going to be a big play. We haven’t ran it all year. We haven’t shown it,” Horton said. “We knew it was going to be a great play and Craig McNew made a great throw. He made a play with his feet. He got away from the defender and I saw my linemen out in front of me and I just followed their blocks and I got in.” It was the perfectly executed play at the perfect time, and it played a huge role in turning this game on its head as Carthage sprinted away to a 70-14 victory.

Carthage’s double pass touchdown (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1340003566707232768

  1. Doug Brooks hands ball to teammate for score

This might have not been the most skilled play all week but it earns its way into this top ten because it was definitely the most selfless. Five minutes into the game, Post quarterback Slayden Pittman was scrambling around outside the pocket trying to make a play. Star Shiner defensive lineman Doug Brooks got to him first, forcing a fumble. The ball popped into the air right to Brooks who looked like a shoe-in to take it back to the end zone for a 20-yard score. However, Brooks had made a promise earlier in the year that he intended to follow through with. “At the beginning of the year, I told the D-line and O-line that if I get a chance, I’m going to give y’all a touchdown,” Doug Brooks said. “They block for us. They get the credit, but they don’t get the credit like they should. I had to give at least one of them a touchdown.” The lucky recipient was Max Machacek, a fellow Shiner defensive lineman. Brooks handed Machacek the ball at the one yard line, so Machacek could score his first career touchdown, according to Victoria Advocate’s Mike Forman. Brooks would get his touchdown early in the third quarter off a blocked punt, but thanks to his moment of selflessness, Machacek now has a moment to cherish forever.

Machacek’s touchdown for Shiner (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339622529837744129

  1. Late Canadian touchdown bomb wins state title

The showdown between Canadian and Franklin for the 3A Division II title was straight madness. After Franklin improbably took the lead, 34-28, with a minute to go (more on that later), Canadian responded. A missed extra point left the door open for the Wildcats and their star quarterback Josh Culwell. Culwell rose to the occasion. With just 28 seconds left, he delivered an absolute dime to his tight end Reagan Cochran, who had gotten behind the Franklin secondary down the seam, for a 52-yard score. The extra point by Edgar Salazar was good as Canadian brought home its fifth state title in a 35-34 nail-biter. With that play, Culwell and Cochran have likely been ingrained in the history books of Canadian as they gave their community a memory that will last forever.

Cochran’s game-winning touchdown catch (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339720785058033669

  1. Cross Knittel breaks ankles on winding touchdown run

You don’t normally turn to the ground game when looking to pick up a first down on 4th-and-17. Unless you have Cross Knittel. The Sterling City running back had a huge game in the 1A Division I state title game, rushing for 249 yards and four touchdowns. However, his run on that fourth down was simply jaw-dropping. Knittel took a pitch to the outside before stopping on a dime to avoid three defenders. He then accelerated to split two more defenders before juking a poor May defender out of his shoes for a 36-yard score that put Sterling City up 52-22 en route to its first ever state title. “Our blocking was tremendous this afternoon. I just read them good and just tried not to get tackled the whole game,” Knittel said. That’s definitely easier said than done, but Knittel delivered, creating a pretty impressive highlight reel to go along with his Offensive MVP award and state championship trophy.

Knittel’s touchdown run (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339318180464963585

  1. Franklin comes up with huge touchdown thanks to perfectly timed trickery

Before Canadian came up with its late game heroics, it looked like Franklin had hit the jackpot with some perfectly timed trickeration. Running back Seth Spiller had a big game for the Lions, rushing for 137 yards and three touchdowns, but his most important contribution came in the passing game. With the score tied at 28, Spiller took a pitch from his quarterback Marcus Wade before sprinting to his right and lobbing a pass up while on the run. The pass was perfect as it hit a wide open Braden Smith in stride for an incredible 37-yard touchdown to put Franklin up by six, 34-28, with just a minute and two seconds left to play. “We worked that play quite a bit and we haven’t shown it all year long. It’s just the right time in the game to run it,” Franklin head coach Mark Fannin said. “We executed it well.” Unfortunately for Franklin, the final minute did not go its way but the Lions have plenty of reasons to hold their heads high for the fight they put up in this thrilling 3A Division II state title game.

Spiller’s halfback pass for a touchdown (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339719289901899778

  1. Walk-in two-point conversion for Windthorst stuns Mart

Heartbreak turned into jubilation in just seconds last Wednesday when Windthorst and Mart squared off in an unforgettable 2A Division II state title game. Mart was the heavy favorite as it looked for its fourth straight title, and it led 21-14 when Windthorst got one last chance with the football with four minutes to go. The Trojans took full advantage, driving 75 yards and converting two fourth downs on completions to receiver Kyle Wolf before quarterback Cy Belcher punched the ball in from one yard out to cut Mart’s lead to one. However, it looked like Mart would escape with the win when Tryston Harding missed the ensuing extra point for Windthorst. But there was a flag. An offsides penalty gave Windthorst a second chance and this time the Trojans decided to go for the jugular. Running back Ethan Belcher took a direct snap out of a loaded backfield and thanks to some great blocking on the edge, he had plenty of open field to run into as he easily converted the two-point attempt to give Windthorst a 22-21 lead with just 26 seconds left. “We called a smash play to our strong side, and I saw they kind of had it overloaded really hard,” Belcher said. “When we snapped the ball, they slanted in hard and they left the wide side of the field open and I just ran to it.” It was a perfectly executed play call that gave Windthorst a huge upset victory over the three-time defending state champs and its first state title in 17 years.

Belcher’s two-point conversion (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339415027271553025

  1. Jim Ned seals incredible comeback in overtime with two-point conversion

The 3A Division I state title game was bonkers. After Jim Ned overcame a 21-point deficit to force overtime, the Indians found themselves needing a score after Jonathon Brooks found the end zone for Hallettsville on its first possession. Jim Ned came through as its talented running back Xavier Wishert responded with a score of his own from 17 yards out to put Jim Ned within one, 28-27. Jim Ned decided to go for the win right then and there. “In that situation, we like our chances. We had a play called. We knew we could try to get them on a hard count, which is something that we practice regularly,” Jim Ned head coach Matt Fanning said. “We knew coming out of the injury timeout, they would be kind of amped up and we might have a chance to get them there. Just to be honest, I didn’t really want to have to try to defend them again.” Jim Ned quarterback Tate Yardley got Hallettsville to jump on a hard count, but it didn’t matter. He delivered a perfect ball over the top of the Hallettsville defense right to his receiver Zach Henderson on a fade route for the winning two points to send the Jim Ned side of AT&T Stadium into unbridled celebration. It is certainly a moment destined for the history books  as Jim Ned brought home its first ever state title with that thrilling 29-28 victory.

Jim Ned’s game-winning two-point conversion (Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest): https://twitter.com/FOXSportsSW/status/1339786663887835137

 

Adam Ogburn


Featured image credit: Stan Martin

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