The 2016 Texas high school football season closes this week with state championship games starting Wednesday and running through Saturday evening.
Northeast Tarrant County’s version of it concluded last week, when Colleyville Heritage was the last team eliminated. The Panthers fell in the Class 5A Division I Region I championship game to Denton Ryan.
This is when we recognize our superlatives for 2016. During this season, we the saw the first season for a new program in Northwest V.R. Eaton, the return of Richland to prominence, Haltom climbing back toward respectability, Keller Timber Creek clinching its first winning season in school history and Colleyville Heritage equaling its longest postseason run since 2006.
Some of our choices were difficult. There were many deserving candidates. We’re sure there will be disagreement over the selections. However, it was a nice problem to have.
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Player of the Year – Gavin Holmes, WR, Justin Northwest, Sr.: Usually you can reserve this award for a quarterback or star on defense. But Holmes grew into this role beyond the numbers (83-1,543 18.6 YPC, 16 TD). He emerged as a very polished receiver and arguably one of the best route runners in the area. His memorable three-fingered reception against Aledo on Oct. 28 demonstrated his skill. He also helped this program reach heights never seen in its history. Holmes averaged nearly 129 receiving yards per game in 12 games and a touchdown per game. Only 5-11, 185, Holmes is now trying to decide where to take his game at the Division I level. After de-committing from Iowa in November, he’s evaluating several schools including Nebraska, UCLA and Oklahoma.
Others considered: Alan Bowman, QB, Grapevine, Jr.; Mario Ortiz, RB, Colleyville Heritage, Sr.; Robert Barnes, S, Carroll, Sr.
Coach of the Year – Bill Poe, Justin Northwest: A year of history for Northwest football. When Northwest dropped down from Class 6A to 5A, there was the hope that better days were ahead. But there were no guarantees. Northwest was coming off a dismal 1-9 2015 season. The Texans just needed something to feel good about. Breaking in a new quarterback in junior Prince Mavula, Poe made another bold move of shifting wide receiver Syrus Moore to running back. It all paid off. The Texans had their greatest season in school history at 10-2. They also won their first playoff game in school history in nine tries by scoring in the final seconds to beat Denton in the Class 5A Division I Region I bi-district round. The season ended with a loss to Colleyville Heritage in the area round.
Others considered: Randy Jackson, Grapevine; Ged Kates, Richland; Kevin Golden, Keller Timber Creek; Hal Wasson, Carroll, Joe Willis, Colleyville Heritage
Newcomer of the Year – Audricke Gaines, RB, Carroll, Sr.: The move-in from Mansfield Timberview didn’t have the kind of start to his season that he and the coaching staff were looking for. He was limited with a knee infection. But once that cleared, Gaines established himself as the go-to back in Carroll’s run-first offense. Gaines finished with 1,521 yards, averaged more than six yards per attempt, scored 21 touchdowns and helped the Dragons win the District 5-6A championship. The only disappointment is that as a senior, Gaines is a one-and-done and will be moving on.
Others considered: Titus Swen, RB, Northwest Eaton, So.; Prince Mavula, QB, Justin Northwest, Jr.; Kam Brown, WR, Colleyville Heritage, So.
Game of the Year – Northwest Byron Nelson 21, Euless Trinity 20 (OT): You could also call this shocker of the year. On Oct. 7 at Bedford’s Pennington Field, Travis Pride’s Bobcats seemed like the perfect medicine for Trinity, which was coming off a difficult 42-28 loss to Carroll. After all, Nelson was 0-5 and had played only one of its first five opponents to within single digits. But as this game continued, belief on the Nelson sidelines grew, Trinity played tighter and the game moved into overtime. The difference was an extra point. Trinity scored first but botched the snap on the extra point. Nelson place-kicker Tanner Keough calmly knocked through the extra point following Jordan Joiner’s 23-yard scoring run and pandemonium ensued. It also fueled Nelson making a run toward clinching a playoff spot.
Others considered: Richland 38, Grapevine 35 (Oct. 14); Aledo 41, Colleyville Heritage 36 (Aug. 26)
We’re looking forward to the 2017 high school football season and the story lines that will follow.