UPDATE: Arlington Martin beat Trinity, 19-7, on Saturday afternoon at Pennington Field.
Southlake Carroll coach Hal Wasson has said it all season long.
It's tough to win a football game in the DFW area.
For the Class 5A Division I teams in Region I outside the Fort Worth area, it was impossible in the area round of the playoffs.
"There is no doubt in my mind, from across the state of Texas, that the Metroplex has the toughest brand of football. Probably in the country, too," Wasson said. "Football is very important to this area, and when something is important, you're going to make an investment there. Kids are investing in football, along with the communities and schools. There are a lot of really good coaches and players. It all comes together, and you have great football."
Carroll (12-0) and Euless Trinity (12-0) have stayed undefeated with strong performances. Arlington Martin (11-1) and Arlington Bowie (9-3) join the Dragons and the Trojans to round out the regional final four after sweeping through West Texas.
"This region is by far the toughest," Bowie coach Kenny Perry said. "There's no way someone can tell me that teams from other regions have a tougher route to play, week in and week out."
Area fans are preparing for three of the best matchups of the year. In the Region I semifinal games today, both at Pennington Field in Bedford, it's Trinity vs. Martin and Carroll vs. Bowie. The winners meet next week in the regional final (state quarterfinals).
"To get out of this region will be quite an accomplishment," Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver said. "You get to play great teams and great programs. It's going to be interesting."
Every pocket in the state tends to develop a unique style. Wasson said it's not the area's style that sets it apart. It's all the quality opponents.
"You have to bring an A game each and every week to win," Wasson said. "There are places in the state where you can show up and play a C game and win. Around here, if you play a C game or even a B- game, you're going to lose. It's a monumental tribute to the teams that make it through this area. Just look at what they have to go through."
After fending off Denton Guyer (which played for the 5A Division II state championship last year) to win the District 7-5A title, Carroll had to go through Hurst L.D. Bell and Cedar Hill in the first two playoff rounds. Trinity, meanwhile, played tough opponents in Duncanville and Allen.
In the biggest testament to the area, Bowie and Martin stormed past four West Texas opponents by a combined 171-50. Both teams are products of District 4-5A, which Perry said prepared his Volunteers for the playoffs.
"The coaching in this area is incredible," Perry said. "What we as coaches in the area have to prepare for every week, it's unbelievable."
If Martin and Bowie can knock off Trinity and Carroll, it would set up and all-Arlington state quarterfinal.
"There are outstanding coaches and teams in our district," Martin coach Bob Wager said. "You have to be ready to play every single week. In all honesty, we are excited to get out of district and into the playoffs. It's all you can do just to make it out."
Lineweaver knows that to sustain a playoff run, his players need the strength to take a physical, mental and emotional pounding. Trinity has been to two consecutive state championship games, winning in 2009.
"Sometimes, you wonder if you get out of the region, if you will have anything left as far as emotional energy," Lineweaver said. "You can't hold anything back week to week. You see it happen in the NFL all the time. A team loses one week it shouldn't because it had to expend so much the week before. It's something you really have to monitor as a coach. We call it the stares. The kids will start staring off when you talk to them, but they are just tired. Emotionally drained."
Lineweaver said Carroll's dominating teams over the past 23 years made other area teams push for similar success. Carroll has won seven state championships since 1988, including three consecutive 5A titles from 2004-06.
"Everyone else started saying: 'If we are going to compete, we have to get better, better, better,'" he said "That's had an effect on everyone. Their push for excellence made a lot of teams hard to beat."
For Carroll to win another championship, the Dragons will have to make it past a Bowie team that beat them in the playoffs in 2009 and the winner of Trinity-Martin.
As Wasson knows so well, nothing comes easy in this area.
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760