In 2011, brand new Brock football coach Chad Worrell did what any decent Texan would do: drove his junior high team to Mary’s Cafe in Strawn for plate-size chicken fried steaks, then to Eastland to watch the small-town power play Godley.
Four years ago, Worrell was trying to introduce his players to real-life Texas high school football, the game he grew up around in Pilot Point.
Thursday night in Houston, he’ll lead that same bunch of newcomers onto a much bigger stage.
Brock, in its second UIL season, plays Cameron Yoe at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Class 3A Division I championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Eagles’ program began when this year’s seniors were in eighth grade.
“Coach Worrell has been with us since my first day of seventh grade,” said linebacker Zane Young, a junior who on Monday was named Class 3A Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. “It’s been a long ride, but here we are.”
Two classifications up, Mansfield Lake Ridge has a similar opportunity: The team plays Richmond George Ranch at 8 p.m. Friday for the 5A Division I championship.
Lake Ridge, the fifth school in a burgeoning Mansfield school district, opened in 2012 and started varsity football that same year, when it went 0-10. They were playing with mostly sophomores and juniors. This season, the Eagles (15-0) became the city’s first team to reach a state championship game.
Neither team’s playoff run is shocking — Lake Ridge went three rounds deep last season, while Brock got to the fourth round.
Now they’ve reached a title game quicker than almost any other program.
In 1982, Beaumont West Brook won a 5A championship in its first season, but that school was the result of the closing of Hebert and Forest Park high schools.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and champions Cypress Ranch (2014), Spring Dekaney (2012) and Cibolo Steele (2010) all won titles in their fifth varsity season.
Lake Ridge’s deep run traces to its second season in 2013. The team went 2-8. But two sophomore stars emerged: Quarterback Jett Duffey and running back Duke Carter. The pair accounted for 45 touchdowns that year.
This year, they’ve combined to score 88.
Duffey has quarterbacked Lake Ridge’s seniors for the past four seasons. He kept the group together as freshmen, even when some could have earned time on varsity.
“We did that intentionally,” Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said. “We knew it’s really tough to play up, and we held all those kids down to the freshman level so they could jell.”
While Thor continued to develop Mansfield’s rich talent pool, Worrell had to create a culture. It took three failed bond elections, and then a six-figure fundraiser for Brock to start a football program in a basketball community.
Winning produced enthusiasm, though. As a junior varsity team in 2012, Brock beat the two varsity opponents on its schedule. In 2013, the Eagles went 8-2 against an independent schedule.
Last season, Brock lost its opener, and then won its next 12 games before losing to Shallowater in the fourth round.
Along the way, Worrell leveraged simplicity into success. One of his coaching idols is G.A. Moore Jr., the state’s all-time win leader who Texas Monthly once described as having “all the flash and sparkle of a dirt farmer.”
In 15 games, the Eagles have rushed the ball 573 times for 5,670 yards. They have only eight turnovers — two interceptions and six fumbles — and six players have rushed for more than 250 yards.
“I kind of feel like a dinosaur sometimes now,” said Worrell, who was a ball boy on Moore’s 1982 championship team at Pilot Point.
Leading Brock’s attack are Tyler Gray (1,905 yards rushing, 32 touchdowns) and Leddy French (1,821 yards rushing, 29 touchdowns).
French grew up near the school, but played fourth-grade ball in Weatherford before Brock established a peewee league.
“Everybody knew about football, but it really wasn’t a football town,” French said. “We didn’t have a varsity team to go watch or anything like that. And then just to eventually have that for our younger kids now, it’s a great difference than having to go play somewhere else.”
Ryan Osborne: 817-390-7684
All games on FSSW
Class 3A Div. I: Cameron Yoe (14-1) vs. Brock (15-0), 5 p.m. Thursday
Class 3A Div. II: Franklin (15-0) vs. Waskom (15-0), 8 p.m. Thursday
Class 4A Div. I: Waco La Vega (15-0) vs. Argyle (14-1), noon Friday
Class 4A Div. II: West Orange-Stark (14-1) vs. Celina (15-0), 4 p.m. Friday
Class 5A Div. I: Richmond George Ranch (15-0) vs. Mansfield Lake Ridge (15-0), 8 p.m. Friday
Class 5A Div. II: Cedar Park (15-0) vs. Frisco Lone Star (14-1), noon Saturday
Class 6A Div. I: Galena Park North Shore (12-3) vs. Austin Westlake (14-1), 4 p.m. Saturday
Class 6A Div.II: Katy (15-0) vs. Austin Lake Travis (15-0), 8 p.m. Saturday
Brock and Mansfield Lake Ridge rate among the state’s all-time highest-scoring teams:
1,023: Aledo, 2013
950: Gilmer, 2014
921: Navasota, 2014
901: Refugio, 2013
893: Fairfield, 2013
891: Refugio, 2011
885: Aledo, 2011
858: Munday, 2012
845: Brock, 2015
830: SA Brennan, 2013
829: Katy, 2012
827: Cisco, 2013
824: Big Sandy, 1975
813: Argyle, 2013
807: Allen, 2013
805: Lake Ridge, 2015