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Four Longhorn signees will play for state championships on Saturday

Both of this year’s Class 6A state finals will feature multiple future Longhorns.

Duncanville OL Cameron Williams will play in the 6A Division I state championship on Saturday and could become the 8th Longhorn football signee to win a state championship.
Collin Kennedy — 247Sports

The Texas Longhorns have had a great week on the recruiting front, landing the biggest name in the transfer portal in former Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers, and also getting signatures from several very highly-rated high school prospects on the first day of the early National Signing Day period.

After a flurry of flips from other programs and late commitments, the Longhorns’ #22EFFECT class now includes eight athletes who were not part of the group at the time of my previous post one week ago, and two others who were in the class at that time have since signed with other programs.

Lost a bit in all the late recruiting hubbub is the fact that four Longhorn signees still have one game left to play in the 2021 season, and one longtime commit became a state champion last week.

2022 QB Maalik Murphy led his Gardena (California) Junipero Serra team to a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division I-A state championship win last Saturday. In doing so, he also became the first Longhorn QB commit to win a state title since Jerrod Heard led Denton Guyer to back-to-back Class 4A Division I crowns in 2012 and 2013.

Elsewhere on Saturday, two 2022 commits who already own state championship rings both punched their ticket to one of this Saturday’s UIL state championship games. 2022 offensive lineman Connor Robertson’s Austin Westlake team will play for the 6A Division II state championship, while 2022 defensive lineman Kristopher Ross’s Galena Park North Shore team will be in the 6A Division I state final for the fourth time in seven seasons and will play against Duncanville in a game that will pit him against future teammate Cameron Williams, a 2022 offensive lineman who committed to Texas on Sunday.

Joining in on the state championship game action will be surprise NSD1 signee Ethan Burke, a teammate of Connor Robertson’s at Austin Westlake, and both a former Maryland lacrosse commit and Michigan football commit.

Of the Longhorns’ 26 signees (so far) in the 2022 recruiting class, seven have been members of at least one state championship team: QB Maalik Murphy, OL Connor Robertson, DT Kristopher Ross, DE Ethan Burke, S Bryan Allen, Jr., S Austin Jordan, and K Will Stone. One more could join that group on Saturday, and because both teams in the 6A Division I championship have future Longhorns on their roster, that guarantees that the 2021 season will be the 26th consecutive year in which at least one UIL state champion had a future Longhorn on their team. An update of that list, which I post at the end of every season, will be included in my full season recap.

Since only four current Longhorn signees will be playing in this weekend’s Texas UIL state championships, I’ll only cover those recruits in this post and will do a more full 2021 season recap on all of the other UT signees at a later time. All Texas state championship games will be played this week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and will be broadcast on Bally Sports Southwest. Game times and other information on state championship weekend can be found here.

2022 DE Ethan Burke (Austin Westlake)

2022 OL Connor Robertson (Austin Westlake)

Saturday, December 18 at 7:00 pm, Austin Westlake vs. Denton Guyer in the Class 6A Division II state championship game

Westlake will play in the final game of the 2021 Texas high school football season on Saturday night, and will be seeking a third straight state title. Westlake beat Southlake Carroll 52-34 to win the 6A Division I state crown last season, and in 2019 it beat Denton Guyer 24-0 in the 6A Division II state final.

Guyer will get another shot at Westlake on Saturday night and will be aiming for its third state title overall and first since 2013. Westlake owns three state championship trophies, and the Chaparrals have also reached the state final and lost on seven other occasions.

Westlake head coach Todd Dodge announced in July that he would retire following the 2021 campaign, and his charges will hope to send him away with the seventh state championship of his career. Dodge played quarterback for the Texas Longhorns and was a member of the team from 1981 to 1985. He was 31 during his first season as a high school head coach in 1994, when he led the Cameron Yoe Yoemen to a 3-7 record.

Six years later he was hired as the head coach of Dallas-Fort Worth area powerhouse Southlake Carroll, having compiled a head coaching record of 23-36 in six seasons at Cameron Yoe, Carrollton Newman Smith, and Keller Fossil Ridge. In seven seasons at Carroll, Dodge led the dragons to a record of 98-11 and won four state titles. His teams were especially dominant in his last five seasons there (2002-2006), losing just one game in that span and going undefeated in three straight years from 2004 to 2006.

That success led to Dodge’s hiring as head coach at North Texas in 2007, but his Mean Green teams went 6-37 in just over three and a half seasons before he was fired in 2010. He went back into high school coaching two years later, then became head coach at Westlake (where his wife had graduated, and where his father-in-law had been head football coach from 1982 to 1986) in 2014.

Connor Robertson and Ethan Burke have both been a big part of Westlake’s success in 2021, and the Chaparrals are undefeated at 15-0. They were ranked atop Class 6A for the entirety of the regular season, and USA Today ranks them 2nd in the nation. Westlake will go into Saturday night’s 6A Division II state championship on a 39-game winning streak. Todd Dodge is already one of just two Texas high school football coaches to have three different 30-game winning streaks, and a win on Saturday would make him the second coach to have two 40-game winning streaks (Carthage’s Scott Surratt is the only other coach to have accomplished those feats)!

Aside from Robertson and Burke, Westlake has two other seniors who have signed with FBS programs in five-star QB Cade Klubnik (a Clemson signee) and three-star offensive tackle Bray Lynch (a future Indiana Hoosier). Denton Guyer has a pair of three-star seniors who have signed with FBS teams: three-star UTSA receiver signee Jace Wilson, and three-star Pittsburgh safety signee Marquan Pope. The Wildcats also have a trio of juniors who have already been graded as four-star prospects, and two of them (safeties Peyton Bowen and Ryan Yaites) have been offered by Texas. Leading Guyer at quarterback is four-star junior Jackson Arnold, who has many FBS offers and is currently the top-rated QB in Texas for the 2023 class.

Westlake has outscored its 15 opponents this season by an average margin of just under 50 points, and the teams they have vanquished include Euless Trinity (ranked 14th in Class 6A at the end of the regular season), Mansfield Summit (which reached the Class 5A Division I state semifinals), Lake Travis (which reached the 6A Division I state semifinals), and defending Class 6A Division II state champion Katy. Westlake and Katy were Class 6A’s top two ranked teams throughout the regular season, but their state semifinal match last week was as undramatic as most of Westlake’s previous 14 games this year. Westlake led Katy 31-0 at halftime and rolled to a 45-14 win. That 31-point win represented Westlake’s second-smallest margin of victory this year; the only one smaller was its 34-14 win over Euless Trinity on September 3.

Guyer is 14-1 this season, with a 38-31 loss on October 15 to Allen being its only defeat. Guyer had three wins that came by margins of 7 points or less, and their best wins of the season were a 14-7 win in early September over cross-town rival and top-ranked Class 5A Division I team Denton Ryan, and a 46-35 non-district win over Humble Atascocita, which finished the regular season ranked 10th in Class 6A. Westlake’s average margin of victory in 2021 is about ten points higher than Guyer’s scoring average!

2022 OL Cameron Williams (Duncanville)

2022 DL Kristopher Ross (Galena Park North Shore)

Saturday, December 18 at 3:00 pm, Duncanville vs. Galena Park North Shore in the Class 6A Division I state championship

Duncanville and North Shore met in the 6A Division I state championship in both 2018 and 2019. The first of those meetings famously ended with North Shore winning on a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play. The much-anticipated re-match a year later was not as dramatic, with North Shore scoring 14 unanswered points in the second half to win 31-17 after the teams were tied at halftime.

The story of that 2019 game ended up being as much about who wasn’t on the field as who was. Duncanville had rolled over ever team in its path during the regular season and playoffs, but senior QB Ja’Quinden Jackson (at the time a Longhorn commit) suffered a season-ending injury in the state semifinals, and his position was filled in the state final by then-freshman Chris Parson, who is now attending a high school in Tennessee and is committed to Florida State’s 2023 class. Parson acquitted himself well for a freshman on the biggest stage possible, but not having Jackson’s services was a huge loss for Duncanville. The bigger story on game day was that North Shore’s five-star senior running back Zach Evans had been sent home, reportedly for refusing to turn in his cell phone at curfew the night before.

This year’s Duncanville and North Shore teams haven’t been as highly-rated or as dominating as their 2018 or 2019 counterparts, but the game won’t mean any less to the fans of either school. Both teams had a loss in the regular season, and going into the playoffs Duncanville was ranked 4th in Class 6A, and North Shore 7th.

Duncanville was soundly beaten 45-3 in its opening game against national #1 team Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei, but the Panthers have since won 13 straight games and had an average margin of victory of 44 points. Included in those victories was a 42-27 win over 5A Division II state finalist South Oak Cliff, a regular season and playoff win over Class 6A #21 DeSoto, and a 35-9 drubbing of Class 6A #3 Southlake Carroll in last week’s state semifinals.

North Shore lost 27-21 to Spring Westfield on September 10. That Westfield team went on to finish the regular season ranked 6th in Class 6A, then reached the third round of the 6A Division I playoffs before losing to DeSoto. Since its loss to Westfield, North Shore has won 12 straight games, and in the last three rounds of the playoffs has scored victories over #24 Katy Tompkins, #10 Humble Atascocita, and #19 Lake Travis.

Duncanville and North Shore have a combined 13 seniors with 247Sports Composite grades of three stars or higher, and several underclassmen who will be big-time recruits as well. North Shore is 4-0 in its previous state championship game appearances. North Shore played its first season of varsity football in 1963, and by the time Lance Gunn (a Longhorn All-American defensive back) became the school’s first NFL Draft pick in 1993, it still had yet to make its first playoff appearance. But the Mustangs have reached the postseason in every year since the start of the 1994 season, and have finished with a losing record just once. A win on Saturday afternoon would give head coach John Kay his fourth state title in eight seasons leading the Mustangs.

Kristopher Ross was a sophomore on North Shore’s 2019 state championship team, so he will be seeking his second championship ring while trying to deny one to his future teammate Cameron Williams. Of the four Longhorn signees who will be in action on Saturday, Williams is the only one who has not previously been a member of a title-winning team.

Duncanville won its only state championship in 1998, but for the next 17 years was nobody’s idea of “elite”. Between 1999 and 2015 (the team’s first season under current head coach Reginald Samples), Duncanville missed the playoffs eight times and had seasons with as many as 11 wins and as few as 2 wins. Since their 2-8 record in Samples’s first season (which was only the third losing season in a head coaching career that now spans 32 seasons), the Panthers have become one of the state’s preeminent powerhouses and talent factories, posting double-digit wins in six consecutive seasons and coming within a Hail Mary pass of winning it all in 2018, and very likely a torn ACL (in Ja’Quinden Jackson’s left knee) away from winning it all in 2019.

Samples will have a lot of fans and coaching colleagues rooting for him to finally get his first championship on Saturday. He got his 300th coaching win early this season and now sits at 311 wins for his career, good for 11th place all-time among Texas high school coaches. Unless he retires after the end of this season, he’ll almost certainly move up to 8th all-time during the 2022 season. Only three active coaches have more wins than Samples.

In addition to the heartbreaking circumstances that led to Duncanville’s state championship defeats in 2018 and 2019, Samples has had two other near misses with teams that were championship-caliber. His 2004 Dallas Lincoln team reached the Class 4A Division II state championship game against Kilgore and had a ten-point lead in the second half, but the game eventually went into overtime. After the first overtime the teams were tied at 27, and on Lincoln’s possession of the second overtime their offense went nowhere and on 4th down they attempted a 42-yard field goal, but the attempt was blocked and returned for a game-winning touchdown by Kilgore.

Seven years later, Samples led Dallas Skyline to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals, but his team lost 28-24 in that round to eventual state champion Southlake Carroll.

Saturday could be a big day for south Dallas County football fans. Duncanville could finally gets its first state title in 23 years, and in the first game of the day, the 5A Division II state championship, South Oak Cliff will take on Liberty Hill and will be aiming for the first state championship by a Dallas Independent School District team since Dallas Sunset won the Big City Conference in 1950.

Some time between now and the new year I’ll have a full 2021 season recap on how the teams of every Longhorn commit/signee performed this fall. If you’ve followed along with my weekly posts so far this season, you’ll have eight new names to read about in that one.