We draw the 2017 Texas high school football season to a close this week as the state championship games are played. They start Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and run through Saturday.
This is also the time for us to recognize the superlatives for Northeast Tarrant County. Short of a team playing in this round for a state championship, this was one of best seasons Northeast Tarrant has experienced as Southlake Carroll, Euless Trinity and Richland advanced to regional championship games.
It likely was the best because of the sum of the parts going against individual team state championship teams.
Most Outstanding Player — Ke’Von Ahmad, WR, Colleyville: The position of wide receiver doesn’t do Ahmad justice because of the value he brought to the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, the senior dominated with 1,604 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. When he became an integral part of the secondary — and that really didn’t happen full time until the latter half of the season — Ahmad came up with six interceptions to lead this team. He has said that his experience at receiver made him better as a defender because he can read body language. In fact, when college coaches came by to watch film on him this year, they asked head coach Joe Willis about him playing safety.
Offensive Player of the Year — Stefan Cobbs, WR, Keller Fossil Ridge: By now, you know the story of Cobbs. He missed all but one game and two plays of 2016 because of a torn ACL. However, Cobbs was resolute in his determination to get back on the field and make a difference as a senior. He did. Cobbs became Northeast Tarrant County’s best vertical threat as he had 1,332 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. Cobbs averaged nearly 20 yards per reception and a touchdown catch every 2.8 receptions. That’s beyond silly. Cobbs is verbally committed to Boise State and plans to sign with the Broncos Wednesday.
Defensive Player of the Year — DaShaun White, LB, Richland: If a program is going to make a historic playoff run, it really needs great players. The Rebels have that in the senior, who is committed to Texas A&M. Without question, White is the most decorated player to ever come through this program. He led the Rebels with 149 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 3 ½ sacks and created five turnovers between two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Few could run from sideline to sideline like he could and cover the kind of ground he did. That’s why Richland went 11-3 and advanced to its first ever regional championship game in school history.
Newcomer of the Year — T.J. McDaniel, RB, Carroll: If you’re going to make your mark for just two years, make the most of it. That’s what the junior move-in from Coppell did for the Dragons and had one of the top rushing seasons in school history. McDaniel, who missed a couple of games with a thumb injury, still finished with season 1,862 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He also averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Few will forget the 311 yards he had against McKinney in the Dragons’ 42-0 bi-district playoff victory.
Coach of the Year — Carl Stralow, Keller: Consider where the Indians were at this point in 2016. They finished 1-9. You could reason that there wasn’t much energy in the program. It was fair to presume that Stralow was feeling external heat to have a better 2017. He and his staff kept grinding. This team found a way to get to 5-5, pick up a huge 21-14 overtime win over Keller Timber Creek and sneak into the playoffs. The playoffs didn’t go well with a pretty humbling 62-0 bi-district loss to Arlington Martin. Still, when you go from 1-9 in one year to the postseason the next year, it means something.
However, Stralow wasn’t alone. There were some exemplary coaching efforts this year. Richland’s Ged Kates put together the best year school history at 11-3. Keller Fossil Ridge’s Tony Baccarini authored the first 10-0 regular season in school history. Ellis Miller, promoted to head coach at Haslet V.R. Eaton in May, got the program into the playoffs in only its second year, deserves mention. The same goes for Haltom’s Jason Tucker, who led the Buffalos to their first playoff appearance since 2009.
Game of the Year — Haltom 29, Keller 26, Oct. 6, Birdville Stadium, Haltom City: The wave of emotions told the story of this game in the final minute. Keller had just taken a 26-23 lead when quarterback Sloan Henry tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Anderson. However, Haltom quarterback Michael Black calmly led the Buffalos back. Haltom was at the Keller 28 with six seconds left on the clock. Black connected to Imiee Cooksey on a touchdown pass as time expired to give the Buffalos the improbable win. If you ever have a chance to see the video of the play, it captures the moment perfectly.
Without further delay, here are our picks for the state championships. We went 4-4 in the semifinal predictions last week.
Last week: 4-4
Season: 121-35 (.776)
Class 6A Division I: Allen 35, Lake Travis 30
Class 6A Division II: Waco Midway 33, Cy-Fair 25
Class 5A Division I: Highland Park 38, Manvel 33
Class 5A Division II: Aledo 29, College Station 20
Class 4A Division I: Carthage 35, Kennedale 28
Class 4A Division II: West Orange-Stark 40, Pleasant Grove 32
Class 3A Division I: Weatherford Brock 25, Rockdale 24
Class 3A Division II: Newton 38, Gunter 24
Class 2A Division I: Refugio 26, Mart 23
Class 2A Division II: Tenaha 36, Muenster 27
Class 1A Division I: Borden County 65, Jonesboro School 47
Class 1A Division II: Strawn 59, Balmorhea 50
Let’s win them all!