When No. 1 Southlake Carroll met No. 2 Vernon in the Class 3A state semifinals in 1992, Carroll coach Bob Ledbetter knew it was going to be something special.
"It's not just another game," Ledbetter told the Star-Telegram before the contest at Bedford's Pennington Field. "When you have a game of this magnitude, everyone knows it's a different situation."
Carroll won, 39-35, before a packed stadium of more than 15,000, in a classic that is generally considered one of the greatest games ever played in North Texas.
Now a Class 5A school, Carroll meets DeSoto today in what is clearly "not just another game."
The Dragons, defending state champions in Division I, enter the Region I final at 12-1. They have outscored their three playoff opponents 154-37.
Undefeated DeSoto, ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 3 nationally, has won its three playoff games by a combined score of 128-35.
Ledbetter, who retired as Carroll's head coach in 1996, said the game should be a dandy.
"DeSoto's got a great program and Southlake's got a great program," Ledbetter said. "It'll come down to who makes the plays in critical situations."
Travis Stewart, managing editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, calls the game a "mammoth matchup."
"When you factor in Carroll's run at a repeat title and DeSoto's furious push for a first, you have all of the storylines you need," Stewart said.
While Ledbetter declined to make a prediction, he did say, "I hope it ends up the way the Southlake-Vernon game did. I think it'll be a great game."
Certainly, there has been no shortage of great playoff games in Dallas-Fort Worth over the past 50 years.
While it's difficult to rank them -- everybody has a favorite -- here are 10 of the most memorable.
Austin Reagan 20, Abilene Cooper 19
1967, Class 4A state championship, Amon G. Carter Stadium
Abilene Cooper, behind the legs and arm of Oklahoma-bound quarterback Jack Mildren, came in ranked No. 1 in the state.
Playing before a crowd of 12,655 in nasty, cold weather at the TCU stadium, Cooper jumped out to a 19-7 lead at the half. But Reagan came fighting back and took a 20-19 lead with 4:38 left.
Mildren then led the Cougars to Reagan's 1-yard line. With time running out, Mildren tried a quarterback sneak but was stopped.
Cooper's coach had started to send the field goal kicker onto the field for that last play.
But because the barefoot kicker had missed a point-after attempt earlier in the poor weather conditions, Mildren waved him off, said Randy Allen, a starting slotback and cornerback for the Cougars.
Allen, now the head coach at Highland Park High School, well remembers that final play.
"We thought we made it," said Allen, who had a key punt return in the second quarter that led to a Cooper touchdown. "When we unpiled and the officials left the field with the ball, Reagan began to celebrate, and that's when we knew we had lost the game. ...
"It was hard to go back to Amon Carter for years after that because of that bad feeling."
San Antonio Lee 28, Wichita Falls 27
1971, Class 4A state championship, Texas Stadium
In the first high school game played at the big stadium in Irving, Lee quarterback Tommy Kramer, who later starred for the Minnesota Vikings, threw for three touchdowns as the Vols defeated Wichita Falls.
The game-winning pass came with just 2 1/2 minutes left, when Kramer hooked up with Richard Osborne for a 29-yard touchdown. Osborne, who caught six passes for 138 yards and also had a 86-yard punt return for a touchdown, later played in the NFL with the Eagles, Jets and Cardinals.
The Coyotes were led by All-American quarterback/running back Ronnie Littleton, who ran for 181 yards and scored on runs of 10 and 5 yards.
Littleton initially committed to play at Oklahoma but later switched to TCU, where a series of knee injuries ended his career.
Plano 29, Highland Park 28
1977, Class 4A quarterfinals, Texas Stadium
Highland Park came in as a big favorite and jumped out to 28-0 lead in the third quarter. But Plano stormed back.
With the Scots leading 28-14, a Plano defender intercepted an option pitch and ran more than 60 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-21.
With 33 seconds left, the Wildcats scored on a 61-yard flea flicker and won the game with a two-point conversion before a crowd of 35,675.
Plano went on to win the state championship, beating Port Neches-Groves 13-10 before a crowd of almost 50,000 at Texas Stadium.
L.D. Bell 14, Trinity 14
1982, Class 5A regional final, Texas Stadium
The two teams, both from the same district, met in the regular season before almost 30,000 fans in a game that Bell coach Tim Edwards called proclaimed "the championship of the world."
Bell won that game. The playoff rematch in Irving was even bigger, drawing close to 40,000.
Bell, ranked No. 1 in the state, took a 7-0 lead before Trinity scored twice, making it 14-7.
The Blue Raiders tied it with 5:51 left and advanced because they had a 4-2 edge in penetrations (crossing the opponent's 20-yard-line). They eventually lost in the state championship game to Beaumont West Brook.
Carroll 39, Vernon 35
1992, Class 3A semifinal, Pennington Field
Pennington had seats for 12,000 fans, but more than 15,000 jammed their way in for the Class 3A classic.
Ledbetter, the Carroll coach, recalled this week that the stadium was so packed that the gates were locked to keep people from coming in.
"It was so crowded that we couldn't get out of the dressing room," Ledbetter said. "We had to get a police escort to get on the field."
The game featured five lead changes. Carroll went ahead 39-35 when quarterback Will Mantooth connected with Dane Johnson for 40 yards with 6:09 left.
Vernon stormed back and, with less than four minutes left, 230-pound tailback Dexter Butler appeared ready to score. Three Carroll defenders had a different thought and forced a fumble at the 8.
Afterward, Carroll defensive coordinator Ken Cook said, "I don't know if it was the best game ever, but it sure felt like it."
The Dragons finished the season 16-0 -- and as state champions.
John Tyler 48, Plano East 44
1994, Class 5A regional semifinal, Texas Stadium, Irving
This game was fairly ordinary for the first three-plus quarters, but then it -- and its announcers -- went nuts.
Plano East trailed 41-17 before coming back to take a 44-41 lead in the final 30 seconds. John Tyler returned a kickoff for a touchdown as time expired to take a 48-44 victory. The game featured four touchdowns in the final 1:58.
The announcers for Plano Telecable -- Eddy Clinton, Denny Garver and Mike Zoffuto -- gained national stardom for such comments as "Good gosh o'mighty, Joe Friday!" and "I done wet my britches."
The game was awarded the Showstopper of the Year Award at the 1995 ESPYs.
Carroll 22, Trinity 21
2006, Class 5A Division 1 area playoff, Texas Stadium
This highly anticipated matchup lived up to its billing and created a major traffic jam around Texas Stadium, which was not prepared for the almost 50,000 fans who showed up to watch.
Carroll came in riding a 43-game winning streak and was the two-time Class 5A Division II state champion. Trinity came in undefeated and the Class 5A Division I defending state champion.
Trinity led the game 21-16 with just more than 21/2 minutes left and had a fourth-and-6 at its 38-yard-line. Trojan Coach Steve Lineweaver, not wanting to give the ball back to the potent Carroll offense led by quarterback Riley Dodge, decided to try a fake punt.
Carroll drove 35 yards for the winning score with 37 seconds left.
Trinity 41, Coppell 40
2010, Class 5A regional final, Dragon Stadium, Southlake
Before a sellout crowd of 12,600, Trinity came in as the defending state champion and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Coppell came in 13-0 and at one point led by 13.
But with 3 seconds left, with Trinity on Coppell's 2-yard-line, tailback Tevin Williams took a toss and sprinted left to the corner of the end zone as time expired to give the Trojans the victory.
"It was surreal," Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver said. "Surreal."
Aledo 69, La Marque 34
2010, Class 4A Division II state championship, Cowboys Stadium
The outcome was never in question, so this really wasn't a "great" game. But the rushing performance by Aledo running back Johnathan Gray certainly lifts the contest into the legendary category.
Gray carried the ball 29 times for 320 yards and eight touchdowns and set the state record for rushing TDs in a season with 59, eclipsing the mark held by Sugar Land's Kenneth Hall since 1953.
Gray was named the game's MVP as Aledo, in winning its second straight state title, finished the year 16-0.
Carroll 28, Dallas Skyline 24
2011, Class 5A Division I state semifinal, SMU's Ford Stadium
Skyline and its high-powered offense took a 24-14 lead with just 2:19 left, and Carroll looked done.
But the Dragons cut the deficit to 24-21 on a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kenny Hill.
Carroll then recovered a controversial onside kick with 1:07 left, and Hill scampered 35 yards for the winning touchdown as a fox ran across the field.
"This was No. 1," Carroll coach Hal Wasson said after the game. "I've been blessed to be around a lot of people who have believed in me, and this was the greatest comeback I've been a part of."
Carroll went on to win the state title.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.
Lee Williams, 817-390-7840
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