To paraphrase the late, great Jim Croce, you don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you don't give Sam Ehlinger time to scan the field and throw the football. In case you haven't heard, the 2017 Texas Longhorn quarterback commit led his Austin Westlake team to a stunning upset win over three-time defending state champion Allen (a school that had not lost a game since September of 2012) in the Class 6A Division I state semifinals last Friday.
Westlake will play in Saturday's 6A Division I championship game and in doing so will attempt to end another streak: their run of four consecutive losses in championship game appearances. That streak began in 2000 with their loss in the 5A Division I title game to Midland Lee and future Longhorn running back Cedric Benson.
2016 commit Demarco Boyd and his Gilmer teammates didn't fare as well in their 4A Division II semifinal game, as they lost for the first time in two years, despite Boyd's most productive offensive performance of the season.
Since only two commits played in round five, I'll start with their recaps before getting into any new info on the commits whose seasons were already over. And I'll have some tidbits on some of the teams playing in this week's state championship games. Also, the first of the two major Texas all-state football teams was announced this week, and a number of UT commits were named. I'll have more on that in another post.
2016 LB/FB Demarco Boyd (Gilmer)
Last week: Had 17 carries for 106 yards and 3 touchdowns, caught 4 passes for 61 yards and 2 TDs, and made three tackles in a 49-44 loss to Celina in the state semifinal round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
Notes: After getting a handful of offensive touches per game as Gilmer spread the ball around for much of the season, Demarco Boyd was leaned on heavily on offense, and he responded with his most productive game of the season, though a crucial turnover late in the game helped seal Gilmer's fate.
Boyd reached the end zone on his first two touches of the game, the first a 50-yard run about five minutes into the game, and the second a 39-yard reception with 5:14 left in the 1st quarter. Gilmer led 14-0 following Boyd's second TD, and his third, a 1-yard run early in the 2nd quarter, put them up 21-7. You can watch video of Boyd's first two scores below.
Celina answered with a TD, then tied the game on a pick-six with 3:12 left in the half, but Gilmer kicked a field goal with four seconds left to take a 24-21 lead into halftime.
The lead changed hands three times in the 3rd quarter. Celina took their first lead of the game (28-24) following a 64-yard run by senior running back Jarren Alexander with 4:28 left in the quarter. Gilmer took back the lead and went up 31-28 on Boyd's fourth TD, a 7-yard run with 2:20 left in the 3rd. A Celina TD with five seconds left in the 3rd gave them a 35-31 lead, and they never trailed again.
On their first drive of the 4th quarter, Gilmer gave the ball to Boyd on a 4th-and-2 play from their own 46, but he fumbled the ball after gaining the yardage needed for a first down, and Celina recovered it. With 6:33 left in the 4th quarter, Celina scored a TD to extend their lead to 42-31. Gilmer responded with an 11-play drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass and cut the deficit to 42-37 with 2:57 left in regulation. Gilmer's defense forced a Celina punt and gave their offense a chance to take the lead back late in the game, but Celina senior Shane Gerths (who had recovered Boyd's fumble earlier in the 4th quarter) returned an interception 38 yards for Celina's second pick-six of the game, pushing their lead back to 49-37 with 1:19 left. Gilmer cut the lead to five points again on Boyd's fifth TD of the game, a 21-yard reception with just thirty seconds left, but Celina recovered the ensuing onside kick to clinch the win.
With the win, Celina atoned for an embarrassing 67-14 loss to Gilmer in last year's semifinal round, and they advance to the 4A Division II championship game versus West Orange-Stark, which is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. WO-S won back-to-back state titles in 1986 and 1987, and have since lost in the final round in 1988, 2000, and 2014 (to Gilmer). Celina will be seeking its eighth state championship in football, and its first since 2007. The Bobcats took home the championship trophy seven times between 1995 and 2007, including a run of four straight from 1998 to 2001.
Gilmer saw its 30-game winning streak come to an end, and Demarco Boyd finished his senior season with 104 carries for 684 yards and 19 TDs, 36 receptions for 443 yards and 6 TDs, and about 75 tackles and 5 sacks. He will graduate early and enroll at Texas in January. It will be interesting to see if he ends up at middle linebacker or on offense in a fullback/H-back type role.
2017 QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)
Last week: Completed 18 of 37 passes for 258 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs, and rushed 30 times for 127 yards in a 23-17 win over Allen in the state semifinal round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs
This week: 6A Division I state championship game vs. Galena Park North Shore, Saturday December 19th at 4:00 (Houston's NRG Stadium)
Notes: Ehlinger didn't have his best game and was intercepted twice for the first time all year, but Westlake's defense shut out the mighty Allen Eagles in the first half, and Ehlinger did enough on offense to give Westlake a lead that was not seriously threatened until very late in the game.
Westlake received the opening kickoff and went on a 12-play drive in which they converted twice on 3rd down and advanced all the way to the Allen 14-yard line before settling for a field goal. The teams alternated three-and-outs for the next three possessions, then after an Allen punt, Ehlinger picked up 15 yards on two runs, then found senior Kylen Granson going across the middle for a short pass that became a 70-yard TD after Granson broke the tackle of an Allen safety and had nobody in front of him. After a missed PAT try, Westlake led 9-0 with 3:39 left in the 1st quarter, and when Granson caught another TD pass from Ehlinger mid-way through the 2nd quarter, it widened Westlake's lead to 16-0.
Three possessions later, an Allen incompletion on 4th-and-2 gave Westlake the ball at their own 29 with a chance to add to their lead before halftime. They advanced 50 yards in seven plays, but Ehlinger was intercepted on the next-to-last play of the half.
Allen came into the state semifinal round averaging 49.5 points per game, but in their seven possessions during the first half they came away with zero points, only 4 first downs, and they twice turned the ball over on downs. Their misery continued as the second half began.
After receiving the kickoff to begin the 3rd quarter, Allen lost a fumble on its second play, and on very the next play Ehlinger passed to North Texas commit Chase Cokley for a 23-yard TD, and Westlake found itself holding a stunning 23-0 lead just 33 seconds into the second half.
Allen's offense finally got a big play on their next drive. A 63-yard pass gave them a first down at the Westlake 7-yard line, but they were held to a field goal, which made the score 23-3 with 10:29 left in the 3rd quarter. Neither team had much offensive success for the rest of the quarter; on Westlake's three subsequent possessions, Ehlinger rushed six times for a net gain of three yards, and all four of his pass attempts fell incomplete. Allen put together two 10-play drives, but they resulted in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs after an incompletion from their own 41-yard line. Westlake wasn't able to capitalize on the great field position following Allen's unsuccessful 4th down try. They advanced as far as the Allen 15-yard line before a sack pushed them back eight yards, and they missed on a 40-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the 3rd quarter.
Allen opened the 4th quarter in the very unfamiliar position of trailing 23-3, and on their first drive of the final frame they gained 16 yards on four plays before punting on a 4th-and-5 from their own 39-yard line. Westlake took lots of time off the clock on a methodical drive that featured five runs and three completed passes, though they eventually punted from their own 46.
Allen had gained just 247 offensive yards and scored 3 points in three-and-a-half quarters of play and trailed 23-3, but they weren't ready to give up. It took them five plays to drive 76 yards and score on a 3-yard TD pass from Minnesota commit Seth Green, cutting the deficit to 23-10 with 4:15 remaining.
Throughout the season Allen had split the snaps between their two talented quarterbacks, junior Mitchell Jonke and senior Seth Green (who recently flipped his commitment from Oregon to Minnesota after Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost accepted the head coach position at Central Florida). Overall, Jonke got the majority of the snaps during the season, and against Westlake he again got the bulk of the playing time under center, with Green playing in just four offensive series and none in the second half until he led Allen on their one touchdown-scoring drive late 4th quarter.
Westlake recovered Allen's onside kick attempt and they appeared poised to ice the game with insurance points after a 45-yard run by Ehlinger gave them a first down at Allen's 6-yard line. But two plays later he was flushed out of the pocket, ran to his left near the sideline, and Neil O'Donnell-ed a throw right into the hands of Allen safety Jaylon Jones (an Ole Miss commit), who ran out of the end zone and cut across the field from right to left, got to the sideline, and ran all the way to the end zone for a TD. The made PAT cut Westlake's lead - which had been 23-3 less than three minutes earlier - to 23-17 with 1:46 left in regulation.
But Westlake again recovered the onside kick attempt. Two plays later, Ehlinger ran for first down yardage, and with Allen out of timeouts Westlake only needed three snaps to run out the rest of the clock. And thus ended Allen's 57-game winning streak and run of three straight state championships.
Ehlinger was named the first team all-state quarterback when the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) announced its Class 6A All-State team for 2015 today, and in addition to that he was honored as the 6A Offensive Player of the Year. The voting was based on his regular season stats and performance, but if they gave an award for postseason MVP he'd have to be considered the front-runner for that one too. In five playoff games he has completed 73 of 123 pass attempts (59.3%) for 1,159 yards, 16 TDs and 5 INTs, rushed 114 times for 544 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and 7 TDs, and caught one pass for a 5-yard TD. To update a stat I mentioned in last week's recap, Sam Ehlinger has been the rusher, passer, or receiver on 24 of Westlake's 26 offensive touchdowns scored in the postseason.
In the state championship game Westlake will face perennial powerhouse and Division I talent factory Galena Park North Shore, which has sent several football players to the 40 Acres, most recently Chykie Brown, Trey Hopkins, Sedrick Flowers, and Tristian Houston (not to mention high-flying Longhorn freshman guard Kerwin Roach). North Shore went 7-3 in the regular season and at one point was just 1-3 following consecutive losses early in the season to fellow talent factories Manvel (43-40), Spring Westfield (31-28), and Euless Trinity (42-32). But they rebounded to win their next eleven consecutive games and clinched their spot in the 6A Division I championship with a 23-17 semifinal win over Converse Judson.
North Shore won the 5A Division I state title in their only previous appearance in the state finals, back in 2003. This will be Westlake's eighth state championship game appearance, though they've won only once in their seven previous tries, a 5A Division II title game win over Abilene Cooper in 1996. Since then they have lost in the final round in 2000, 2001, 2006, and 2009. Their loss in 2006 came at the hands of Southlake Carroll, whose head coach at the time was one Todd Dodge, who now holds the same position at Westlake.
Below are some highlights from the Westlake-Allen game from KXAS (NBC-5) in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Other 2016 commits
QB Shane Buechele (Arlington Lamar)
Team lost 34-29 to Mansfield in the regional semifinal round of the 6A Division II playoffs
Buechele finished his senior season having completed just under 65% of his passes for 2,498 yards, 29 TDs and 6 interceptions, while also rushing 114 times for 817 yards and 10 TDs. He was named the MVP of District 4-6A, and this week he was named an all-state second team quarterback on the Texas APSE Class 6A All-State team He will graduate later this month and enroll at Texas in January.
WR Davion Curtis (Temple)
Team lost 59-46 to Richmond George Ranch in the regional final round of the 5A Division I playoffs.
Curtis earned first team all-district honors for District 17-5A at wide receiver. His teammate Taquan Graham, a junior defensive end who holds a Texas offer, was named the district's MVP, and later was named a first team all-state defensive lineman for Class 5A by the AP. Graham was credited with 11.5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles during the regular season.
WR Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (Manvel)
Team lost 35-17 to Katy in the regional final round of the 6A Division II playoffs
WR(Valley Christian - San Jose, CA)
Johnson suffered a shoulder injury in his team's Week 3 game and missed the rest of the season. Valley Christian advanced as far as the second round of the CIF Central Coast Section Playoffs before losing 42-23 to San Jose Oak Grove to end their season.
TE Peyton Aucoin (Brother Martin - New Orleans, LA)
Team lost to Catholic-B.R. 49-48 in the second round of the LHSAA Division I playoffs.
OL Tope Imade (Arlington Bowie)
Team lost 49-12 to Odessa Permian in the bi-district round of the 6A Division I playoffs.
Imade was voted a first team all-district offensive guard for District 4-6A, and also earned honorable mention all-state honors for Class 6A from the AP.
OL Denzel Okafor (Lewisville)
Lewisville did not qualify for the 6A playoffs.
Okafor was a unanimous first team all-district selection on the offensive line for District 6-6A, and he also earned honorable mention all-state honors for Class 6A from the AP. And to top it off he recently earned a four-star rating grade from Rivals.
DT Gerald Wilbon (Destrehan, LA)
Team lost 49-34 to Bossier City Parkway in the third round of the LHSSA Class 5A playoffs.
DE Andrew Fitzgerald (Flower Mound Marcus)
Team lost 48-21 to Mansfield in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs.
He was a unanimous first team all-district defensive end selection for District 6-6A, and also earned honorable mention all-state honors for 6A from the AP as a defensive lineman.
DE Malcolm Roach (Madison Prep Academy - Baton Rouge, LA)
Team lost 13-12 to LaPlace St. Charles Catholic in the second round of the LHSAA Division III playoff bracket.
DB Obi Eboh (Southlake Carroll)
Team lost to Denton Guyer 48-35 in the area round of the 6A Division II playoffs.
Eboh was named a first team cornerback on District 7-6A's all-district team, and he also earned second team all-state honors as a defensive back on the AP's 6A All-State team.
Other 2017 commits
WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)
Team lost 77-51 to Mansfield Lake Ridge in the area round of the 5A Division I playoffs.
Miller finished his junior season with 41 receptions for 912 yards and 9 TDs, and was voted a first team wide receiver on District 16-5A's all-district team.
TE Major Tennison (Bullard)
Team lost 44-22 to Atlanta in the bi-district round of the 4A Division II playoffs.
Tennison, who committed to Texas almost two months ago, was offered by Nebraska earlier last week. They're the second Big Ten team to offer him (after Michigan in early November) since he committed to the Longhorns, and represent his sixth offer overall.
DE Lagaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)
Team lost 32-29 to Argyle in the regional final round of the 4A Division I playoffs.
This week, Carson was named the Class 4A Defensive Player of the Year when the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) announced its 4A All-State team. In the regular season he compiled 125 tackles, 12 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, 2 blocked kicks, and 2 pass break-ups.
Some notes on the state championship games
* While several of the state finalists are schools that already own a state championship trophy (or seven), there will be at least one first-time state champion, and there could be as many as five.
Friday's championship game action will be capped off with the 5A Division I game between championship newcomers Mansfield Lake Ridge and Richmond George Ranch, which are both in just their fourth season of varsity football. Lake Ridge is the first Mansfield ISD school to reach the final round, while George Ranch is the first school from the Lamar Consolidated ISD to play for a championship since Lamar Consolidated won the 2007 4A Division I game over Copperas Cove and their senior quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Also becoming its school district's first championship game representative is Frisco Lone Star, which is in just its sixth varsity season. Lone Star faces Cedar Park in Saturday's 5A Division II final. Cedar Park, which won the 4A Division II title in 2012, is playing in its third championship in four years.
4A Division I finalist Waco La Vega is another school seeking its first state football title. La Vega reached the final round in 2008 and 1951, but lost both times. A win would make La Vega the first Waco school to claim a UIL state football title since Waco High won the 2A championship in 1948. (Worth mentioning, segregated Waco Moore won Prairie View Interscholastic League titles in 1952 and 1964, the latter of which was one of the last championships the PVIL held before that league disbanded following the desegregation of the state's public school systems in the mid- to late-60s). Their opponent, Argyle, won the 3A Division II title in 2013 and are playing in their fourth state final in the last five seasons.
Cameron Yoe and Brock will play for the 3A Division I title. Yoe is playing in its fifth championship game in six years, and will be aiming for their fourth straight title. Brock's football program is in just its fourth season, and its second to play a U.I.L. schedule (they faced mostly private school competition in their first two years).
Waskom and Franklin will play in Thursday night's 3A Division II championship. This will be Franklin's first championship game appearance, while Waskom is the defending state champion, having won on their first state appearance a year ago. Waskom has had a remarkable run of success in the past three years after many years of mediocrity, which included an 0-10 season as recently as 2009. The Waskom Wildcats having seven straight seasons of no more than five wins (2006-2012) followed by three straight years of 14 or more wins might be the most remarkable out-of-nowhere takeover since James Cromwell showed up in season six of 24 (playing the father of Jack Bauer) and proceeded to act rings around the rest of the cast for the next few episodes.
* This weekend won't feature a fourth straight year of Katy and Cedar Hill battling for a state crown, but there was one rematch. Bremond and Albany met for a second consecutive year in the 2A Division II title game. Bremond won last year's game 28-21, and defended their title with a 35-20 victory on Thursday afternoon. Albany won back-to-back Class 1A state titles in 1960-61, but has now lost in each of their other five championship appearances. Speaking of which...
* Texas football history is replete with state championship games played between schools that would find themselves separated very widely by classification in later years and decades. Albany's first football state championship appearance came in the 1954 Class 1A title game, a 26-6 loss to Deer Park. Sixty-one years later, Albany is in the lowest classification for 11-man football, while Deer Park has over 4,200 students and is one of the state's ten largest high schools by enrollment.
Katy and Sundown played for the 1A crown in 1959. 56 years later, Katy is a large 6A school of over 3,000 students and is one of seven high schools in Katy ISD, while Sundown has a population of about 1,400 and its high school competes in 2A Division II.
* Katy and Lake Travis, who will wrap up championship weekend with Saturday night's 6A Division II title game, have already won a combined 12 state titles. Katy won the 1A championship in 1959, but didn't reach the final round again until 1994, by which point the school had grown its way into the 5A Division I bracket. This will be Katy's thirteenth championship appearance in the past 22 seasons! Lake Travis won five straight titles in 4A from 2007 to 2011, but this is their first championship game since moving up to what is now 6A.
* If Sam Ehlinger leads Westlake to a victory on Saturday, he'll be the third future Longhorn quarterback to win a state title in the past decade. Garrett Gilbert led Lake Travis to championship wins in 2007 and 2008, then very nearly led Texas to a comeback win in the 2010 BCS National Championship game a year after his last high school game. Jerrod Heard led Denton Guyer to back-to-back 4A Division I state titles in 2012 and 2013. Similarly, running back Johnathan Gray was the best player on Aledo teams that won titles in 2009-2011. Come to think of it, Texas hasn't had great results from players who won multiple state titles in high school since, well, Cedric Benson. who carried Midland Lee to state glory in three straight seasons (1998-2000). But don't let that stop you from cheering on Mr. Ehlinger on Saturday if you're at the game or watching it on Fox Sports Southwest.