High School Football

Texas high school football playbook: 10 things to know for state title games

Highland Park quarterback John Stephen Jones went airborne against Denton Ryan during the second half of the 5A Division I State semifinals last Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Jones is the son of Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones and the grandson of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Highland Park quarterback John Stephen Jones went airborne against Denton Ryan during the second half of the 5A Division I State semifinals last Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Jones is the son of Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones and the grandson of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Special to the Star-Telegram

Thursday, Friday and Saturday night lights

The Texas high school football state championships kicked off Wednesday afternoon with the six-man title matchup and will continue through Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Every game feels like the biggest game of somebody’s life, whether it the players, the coaches or the proud parents. (In case you didn’t know, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is the grandfather of the quarterback of Highland Park, which plays for the 5A Division I title at noon Saturday.

There will be 10 games played Thursday through Saturday, starting with the smallest schools to ending with the biggest, and tickets are $15 per day. A daily entry fee will allow you to see every game that day.

Here is the schedule:

Thursday (four games)

10 a.m.: 2A Division II, Iraan vs. Bremond

1 p.m.: 2A Division I, Crawford vs. Refugio

5 p.m.: 3A Division II, Gunter vs. Boling

8 p.m.: 3A Division I, Mineola vs. Yoakum

Friday (three games)

Noon: 4A Division II, West Orange-Stark vs. Sweetwater

4 p.m.: 4A Division I, Abilene Wylie vs. Carthage

8 p.m.: 5A Division II, Aledo vs. Corpus Christi Calallen

Saturday (three games)

Noon: 5A Division I, Highland Park vs. Temple

4 p.m. 6A Division II, DeSoto vs. Cibolo Steele

8 p.m.: 6A Division I, The Woodlands vs. Lake Travis

Every game will be available through Fox Sports mediums, Fox Sports Southwest, FSSW Plus or the Fox Sports GO app.

Because of a scheduling conflict with the Dallas Mavericks, the Aledo and Corpus Christi Calallen Class 5A Division II game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest Plus.

Land of Jerry

The UIL hopes a return to AT&T Stadium, aka the house that Jerry Jones built, sparks a resurgence in attendance after a drop-off last year at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

NRG Stadium’s debut a year ago hosting all five classes of championship games fell 94,509 fans off the pace of the 2014 title games in Arlington, according to the UIL. The games were moved to Houston to work around a scheduling conflict with the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Some believe AT&T draws better because of its central location, and the fact that the stadium itself is a tourist location.

Only AT&T, NRG, and the Alamodome meet the UIL’s criteria of dressing rooms, indoors, and turf.

Aledo bearing down

Aledo, Aledo, Aledo.

This is no longer merely a stop on the Texas and Pacific rail line. This is Titletown, TX, the place where state-championship caliber football players are reared.

The 15-0 Bearcats head to AT&T Stadium in Arlington for a meeting with 14-1 Corpus Christi Calallen seeking the school’s seventh state title and sixth since 2009, having thoroughly cleared away the competition in a way John Deere would be proud.

At the front of Aledo’s mind is a bad memory, a loss to Mansfield Lake Ridge in the state semifinals a year ago.

That left a stain.

“We remember the taste we had in our mouths after losing to Lake Ridge last year like it was yesterday,” Aledo senior quarterback Dillon Davis said. “There was no way we were going out like the seniors did last year.”

Only one way to find out. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Friday.

Head of QB class

Those who enjoy good quarterback play (who doesn’t?) should get a treat with three big-timers gathering for Texas high school’s football festival.

Two are matched against one another.

DeSoto’s Shawn Robinson, a TCU pledge, squares off with Cibolo Steele’s Xavier Martin in the Class 6A Division II title game at 4 p.m. Saturday. Martin has committed to play at Texas Tech. On Tuesday, Robinson was selected Gatorade’s Texas Football Player of the Year.

Bremond’s Roshauud Paul is committed to Texas A&M.

His team has never lost a game in high school, going 46-0 with two state titles heading in the Class 2A Division II championship game with Iraan.

Paul, according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle, has registered 68 TDs this season. To no surprise, he was selected Mr. Texas Football by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

Name of tradition

Everything about 94-year-old Highland Park High School is fancy, including its football history.

There is said to be no other high school that has won more games in Texas. And no other has appeared in the playoffs more than the generations of Scots.

The Dallas school is seeking its fourth state title and first since 2005.

The first came under Eck Curtis in 1945, the season after Rusty Russell and Doak Walker took off for SMU. The Scots were co-champs that year after having tied Waco 7-7 at the Cotton Bowl.

The two teams agreed beforehand that if the game ended after four quarters in a tie, they’d be co-champs. Had they used the common practice of using penetrations to break ties, the Scots would have had an outright title.

That was obviously before Tom Landry came to town.

Highland Park’s junior quarterback, John Stephen Jones, has a high-profile pedigree. He is the son of Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones and grandson of America’s Team owner Jerry Jones. He very well could inherit the stadium he will try to win a state championship in on Saturday.

Highland Park will play Temple for the Class 5A Division I title at noon. Temple shares history with the Scots. Russell coached at Temple before leaving in 1927 for Fort Worth’s Masonic Home, leading the Wildcats to a 25-8-4 record from 1923-26.

There are some other heavy Texas high school football hitters here this weekend.

Lake Travis won five consecutive state titles with a list of quarterbacks that include Garrett Gilbert, Michael Brewer, and Baker Mayfield. Class 4A Carthage has won four championships since 2007, and six-man Richland Springs was vying for the schools’ sixth state triumph on Wednesday.

Play through pain

For two teams, state-championship games will not be the most important items this week.

Iraan and The Woodlands are playing through tragedy.

The Braves are playing and healing in the wake of a bus accident earlier this month after the team’s regional final game that claimed the life of a cheerleading booster and injured several cheerleaders. Iraan seeks its first title in 20 years.

The Woodlands is playing for teammate Grant Milton, who suffered a head injury against Austin Bowie in November in Waco. Milton spent two weeks in a coma, but has improved and was transferred this week back to Houston.

The Highlanders will wear white jerseys in their teammates’ honor in the Class 6A Division I game against Lake Travis.

Hall worthy

Arlington Lamar’s Eddy Peach and Steve Lineweaver, formerly of Euless Trinity, will soon be joining Rusty Russell in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and two other former area coaches will soon join him.

The two will be recognized on Saturday as part of the nine-member Class of 2017 that includes Mean Joe Greene, Dat Nguyen, and Lovie Smith.

Peach won 309 games in 39 seasons at Lamar, the first coach to win 300 games at the state’s highest competitive level and one of only 13 total in state history. Lineweaver won a lot of games, too, in 39 years, plus four state championships at Commerce and Trinity.

When Peach’s plans to play professional baseball were scuttled and having no idea what he would do, Mayfield Workman hired him to coach baseball at Arlington High. Five years later, in 1970, he became the first football at Lamar, and he never left until retirement in 2010.

“When things don’t happen the way you always wanted them to,” Peach said. “seems things always turn out for the best.”

Peach and Lineweaver will be recognized before the 4 p.m. game Saturday.

Just win, baby

The coach with the most victories in Texas high school football will be on the sideline opposite Aledo on Friday night. Phil Danaher, 68, already a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, passed G.A. Moore as the winningest coach and enters Friday night’s game with 432 victories. Moore and Danaher, who is in his 43rd year coaching, including 33 at Calallen, are the only two with 400 victories.

Another guy is in town who knows how to win. Scott Surratt has 115 victories, seven state semifinals appearances, and four state championships in 10 seasons at Carthage.

He has been called the Nick Saban of East Texas.

Road warriors

Just in case you forgot how big the state of Texas is, consider how far some of the teams have traveled to play in the state championships this week at AT&T Stadium.

The Balmorhea Bears trekked the farthest, 409 miles, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Their town of about 500 people is between Odessa and El Paso.

The Corpus Christi Calallen Wildcats will have come 340 miles for their game Friday night against Aledo (30 miles).

And the Iraan Braves traveled 309 miles from their home in Pecos County, south of Midland and Odessa. Considering what they’ve been through recently, expect the Braves to get Cowboys-sized cheers at AT&T on Thursday.

The closest teams: It was a tie between Highland Park and DeSoto at 17 miles, according to Dave Campbell’s nifty infographics.

Odds, ends, and oddities

Iraan hasn’t lost a regular-season game in four years. … Iraan is named for Ira and Ann Yates, whose ranch land produced the reason people migrated there: an oil gusher in 1926. … DeSoto is playing in its first state-championship football game. … The Yoakum Bulldogs’ football season will be recorded for posterity in the yearbook titled the “Bow Wow.” … At Class 3A Gunter, the football team’s mantra is “Tough People Win.”

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