With a 16-7 win over Euless Trinity in the Class 5A Division I Region I semifinal Saturday night, Southlake Carroll (12-1) set the stage for a showdown against DeSoto (13-0) in Saturday's state quarterfinal game at SMU's Ford Stadium.
Carroll, last year's 5A Division I state champion, came into the season riding a 16-game win streak. That streak came to an abrupt halt with an opening week loss to Allen -- a 24-0 shutout that jolted some reality back into the Dragons.
Stephenville (11-1) vs. Kilgore (11-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mansfield's Newsom Stadium
Southlake Carroll (12-1) vs. DeSoto (13-0), 2 p.m. Saturday, SMU's Ford Stadium
Birdville (13-0) vs. Denton Guyer (11-2), 2 p.m. Saturday, Southlake's Dragon Stadium
Nolan Catholic (11-2) vs. Addison Trinity (11-2), 3 p.m. Saturday, Waco's Floyd Casey Stadium
"It was a huge wake-up call for us," said Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill. "[The loss] put a chip on our shoulder and gave us something to prove to everybody, which was a blessing in disguise."
Carroll coach Hal Wasson, who had to replace 16 starters lost to graduation, was candid about the loss.
"It definitely got our attention, almost a slap in the face," said Wasson. "It was a great learning experience for them because the only way you grow is through adversity. It was about playing team football."
Playing with that chip firmly planted on its shoulder, Carroll got back to playing Dragon-like football, outscoring its next eight opponents 455-31.
The Dragons' first two playoff opponents, Arlington Martin and El Paso El Dorado, provided little resistance heading into the matchup against Euless Trinity (10-3).
The much-hyped rematch ended similarly to the 2006 game that has become a classic in Texas high school football. Despite Trinity's massive size advantage, the Dragons played the way their coach demands: "with passion and heart," Wasson said.
Wasson makes a concerted effort to ensure his team knows it is a collective unit.
"We tell all of our players to just roll up their sleeves and go to work; to keep the team first," said Wasson. "If they do that then everything else will fall into place."
That philosophy paid off for his team and junior linebacker Steven Bergmark on Saturday night.
Bergmark, a converted running back, finished with a blocked field goal, a fumble recovery, a sack, a rushing touchdown and an interception late in the game to seal the win.
"Steven is a good hard-nosed football player," Wasson said. "He came up with a lot of big plays and had a special game."
The opening-week loss to Allen may be a distant memory, but the degree of separation from DeSoto is small. Allen's only loss came in Week 5 to Coppell, which was undefeated until the 5A Division I area round. Coppell's opponent in the loss? The DeSoto Eagles.
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