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6A

Westlake Pulls Away From Guyer to send Todd Dodge into Retirement with State Title

Photos by Stan Martin

Guyer gave Westlake all it could handle through three-quarters of play on Saturday night in the 6A Division II State Title Game.

But in the end, Jaden Greathouse and the Westlake defensive line proved to be too much for the Wildcats to handle as they ensured that Westlake Head Coach Todd Dodge would finish his career as a champion.

Greathouse set a UIL State Championship Game record with 236 receiving yards, while the Chaparral defense finished with nine sacks, including three by Defensive MVP Colton Vasek as Westlake pulled away from Denton Guyer for a 40-21 victory.

With the win, Dodge, who announced his impending retirement back in July, will head into retirement on top of the Texas high school football world with his seventh state title as a head coach.

His players said they were glad to send their head coach into retirement with a title.

“It’s awesome,” Westlake safety Carter Barksdale said. “Once I got into high school and I got to know Coach Dodge even more, I just fell in love with everything this man knows. Helping this man go out on a threepeat means the world to all of us players.”

Dodge said this group of players was just as special to him.

“This has been a yearlong process,” Dodge said. “Right after I told the team back in the summer, [center Jax Crall] said, ‘Coach, you’re like a member of the senior class. We’re all going out together.’ And we savored it. We love the game of football. This team loves each other. They just made history. They’re in rarified air in the history of the state of Texas in big-school football. For that, I’m very proud of them.”

On the other side of the field, Guyer head coach Rodney Webb said his team came to win, and he was proud of how his team gave Westlake all they could handle in the first half.

“We took the field tonight to win; we talked about playing bold all week,” Webb said. “We talked about, ‘we have to weather the storm.’ In 15 games, there was a difficult spot in the first half where it unraveled for [Westlake’s] opponent. It did not unravel for us tonight. We hung in there and we weathered the storm. There was another storm though that hit us in the third quarter and that was the one that we couldn’t overcome.”

Westlake looked like it was going to roll early on as Will Magids blocked a Guyer punt and returned it for a touchdown just 90 seconds into the game.

However, Guyer didn’t panic and quickly grew into the game as Guyer quarterback Jackson Arnold responded by leading the Wildcats on a 63-yard drive which he finished off with a 15-yard touchdown run. Webb said his team responded to its early misfortune exactly how he expected them to.

“We’ve been resilient all year,” Webb said. “I love the demeanor of our sideline after [the blocked punt.] Nobody was hanging their head. It was just a ripple in the water, and we just kept on moving. I was really proud of the fact that just a couple of minutes of later we were up 7-6.”

And even though Westlake went back in front on a lofted 62-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cade Klubnik to Greathouse, Guyer was again unfazed as as Arnold connected with Jace Wilson on a nine-yard slant just three minutes later to retake the lead.

Guyer held on to that 14-13 lead all the way to halftime. But despite trailing in a game for the first time all season, Greathouse said that the Westlake locker room was composed at the interval.

“When we were in the locker room, all of our teammates and coaches, we weren’t worried,” Greathouse said. “We were all in there together just supporting each other and telling each other that the second half was going to be different because we knew we weren’t playing how we were supposed to.”

The teams kept trading blows as the third quarter began. Klubnik connected with a wide open Bryce Chambers for a 15-yard score just 100 seconds into the second half, but Guyer punched right back with a 9-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a six-yard, hard-nosed touchdown run by Arnold.

However, after all the explosive plays, Westlake kicker Charlie Barnett ended up coming up with the backbreaker on the night. Facing a fourth down at the Guyer 36, Westlake considered punting but, after a Wildcat timeout, Dodge trotted out Barnett instead for a 53-yard field goal.

“To be honest with you, we were going to punt it right there,” Dodge said. “All of a sudden, they called a timeout, and we changed our mind and we said, ‘Charlie let’s roll.’ And Charlie popped it through with plenty to spare.”

That 53-yard field goal, the longest in UIL State Title Game history, gave Westlake a 23-21 lead and was the beginning of a 20-0 Westlake run.

Over the next 15 minutes of game time, Klubnik delivered two deep bombs for touchdowns of 69 and 71 yards to Greathouse while Mark Sayegh kicked a late field goal to bury any hopes of a Guyer comeback.

Klubnik finished with 280 yards passing and four touchdowns on the night, breaking the all-time career passing yards record at Westlake High School. Dodge said Klubnik, a Clemson commit, has been a special leader for the Chaparrals over the past two years.

“He refuses to have a bad day,” Dodge said. “The thing about Cade that I will always respect is that he has had a lot of personal accolades and not one time did he let it get in the way for his love for his team and his leadership of his team.”

Klubnik was not the only quarterback that impressed on Saturday night as Arnold threw for 183 yards and a touchdown for Guyer, while rushing for 56 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Two years ago, he was thrust into the state title game as a freshman against Westlake after Guyer’s starting quarterback went down injured. On Saturday night, he said he was proud his team made it back even if they didn’t come out victorious.

“That’s all we worked for this year,” Arnold said. “Every time we broke out as a team, it was, ‘State champs on three,’ so it just meant everything to get back to this game.”

And as Dodge’s football family sent him off into the sunset with a 16-0 record and a seventh state title, he said he is ready trade in his title of ‘Coach’ for a new one in the next chapter of his life.

“I’ve got three beautiful grandchildren in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area,” Dodge said. “I want to be a PawPaw for a while. I want to spend time with them.”

 

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