The atmosphere this weekend at the UIL state football championship games might seem a little odd from a DFW perspective.
Not only have the festivities been shuttled down to Houston’s NRG Stadium after being held at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium since 2011, but for the first time since 2000 there will not be a Metroplex team playing for a championship in the state’s highest classification.
Mansfield Lake Ridge, in Class 5A Division I, and Frisco Lone Star, in 5A Division II, will, however, try to bring home state titles to DFW.
Traditional 4A powers Argyle and Celina will try to do the same, while upstart Brock will vie for its first-ever football title in 3A Division I against defending state champion Cameron Yoe.
But area coaches agree that just because fans won’t see the traditional DFW powers in Houston doesn’t mean 2015 was a down year.
“Oh, heavens no, not at all,” Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager said when asked if the Metroplex had a down season. “The DFW area is as strong as it has ever been. It’s just a tough march, and obviously there have been some teams that have just run into some really good teams from the Austin and Houston areas as well.”
Three-time defending state champion Allen was defeated 23-17 Friday in the 6A Division I semifinals by Austin Westlake, which is under the tutelage of former Southlake Carroll coach Todd Dodge. Carroll won 5A state titles in four out of seven seasons under Dodge from 2000-2006.
Upstart Mansfield, vying for its first-ever state title, lost its 6A Division II semifinal 49-21 against Austin Lake Travis.
Wager’s assessment isn’t just based on his familiarity with the DFW programs at the leading edge of the Texas high school football brand. Keller coach Carl Stralow added that the depth in the area might have been something of a double-edged sword for some of the proudest programs.
Euless Trinity dropped its opening-round playoff game to South Grand Prairie, which played the role of giant-killer all season long. The Warriors earned victories over Dallas South Oak Cliff, Martin and at Abilene Cooper before beating Trinity and eventually falling to Denton Ryan in the area round.
Carroll lost a week later to Denton Guyer, which in recent years has solidified itself in the upper echelon of high school football. But Guyer was beaten by Mansfield two weeks later in a 6A Division II regional final.
Area high school football has become a landscape in which titans seem to be falling faster than school records for rushing and passing yards.
“The depth in Region I could have been the cause of that, because it did seem like every time you looked up another big program was making its exit from the playoffs,” Stralow said. “Some early upsets might have gotten what people expected to happen a little off kilter, but that’s the depth of the region.
“It’s as hard as ever to win football games in this area. Teams are as good as ever, and you’ve just got to beat who’s in front of you.”
But the interest from DFW fans should still be there as the 5A championship games offer new programs an opportunity to make their mark on the statewide football scene.
Lake Ridge, in just its fourth year playing varsity football, is trying for the school’s first-ever football state title, while Lone Star is doing the same in just its sixth season.
UIL state football championships
At NRG Stadium, Houston
2A DI: Refugio vs.
Canadian, 10 a.m.
2A DII: Bremond vs.
Albany, 1 p.m.
3A DI: Cameron Yoe vs.
Brock, 5 p.m.
3A DII: Franklin vs.
Waskom, 8 p.m.
4A DI: Waco La Vega vs.
4A DII: West Orange-Stark vs.
Celina, 4 p.m.
5A DI: Mansfield Lake Ridge vs. Richmond George Ranch, 8 p.m.
5A DII: Cedar Park vs.
Frisco Lone Star, noon
6A DI: Galena Park North Shore vs. Austin Westlake, 4 p.m.
6A DII: Katy vs.
Austin Lake Travis, 8 p.m.