High School Football

Football’s state championship week was a thriller — but far fewer showed up to watch

You could have filled AT&T Stadium more than twice over with the number of fans who managed a ride to Arlington to see this week’s UIL state championship football games.

The UIL reported that 213,192 fans made the trek to Arlington to witness one heck of a display of what was once referred to as Texas schoolboy football, except that this season, for the first time ever, there was a girl competing as well. K-Lani Nava of Strawn is now “low-key famous,” as one of her friends noted on Twitter.

Just to put that attendance figure into perspective, the stadiums for the championship games up in Virginia, South Dakota and New Hampshire only hold about 10,000 people.

Attendance was down considerably, though, from last year, when nearly 246,000 people showed up to cheer on the state semifinalists. Maybe it’s concern over injuries. Maybe it’s all the recently arrived and not yet indoctrinated.

Perhaps it’s the fact that last year’s title games were Dec. 14-17. Guessing that title games the day before Christmas Eve cuts too much into holiday travel plans.

Maybe all the folks who tune into college ball on Saturdays should buy a ticket now and then to watch future college football stars on Fridays. The game is a lot of fun and the kids love the support. Not to mention, it puts food in my dog’s bowl.

Still, Texas is still the only home of high school stadiums that look like college palaces and coaches who make six digits.

That’s why we live in Texas, right? Pass the Sriracha barbecue sauce, por favor. Let’s dig into what happened in the final three games on Saturday.

▪  Aledo met yet another team trying to emulate the Bearcats, except this time, they actually got out-Bearcatted. College Station’s head coach Steve Huff visited Aledo just a few years ago to learn from the best.

On Saturday, in a shocker, the four-year-old Cougar program scraped past Aledo, 20-19.

To put that in perspective, the Aledo contingent at the post-game press conference looked positively traumatized, while a trying-to-remain-humble Huff actually said, “I think it’s huge for our community.”

Because in Texas, it really is.

▪  Count on Allen to counterstrike in favor of North Texas. The Eagles lassoed running back Brock Sturges and let him pull them into a big win over Austin Lake Travis, 35-33.

As good as Allen has been in recent years, Lake Travis has been decidedly better. While the Eagles came in with four state championships since 2008, Lake Travis still has six title trophies since 2007 and was actually going for two in a row.

The state championship is no time to come down with a nasty case of the butterfingers, but that’s just what happened to Waco Midway in its title game facing Houston Cypress-Fairbanks.

Cy-Fair was able to scoop up a whopping four Midway oopsies and alchemize them into 24 points en route to a 51-35 win.

State championship week was a wild and memorable ride. If you memorialized the whole thing on Facebook, here are the Top 5 memories that would pop up a year from now:

5. Allen toppling Lake Travis. It wasn’t really a David vs. Goliath scenario, but it was definitely a Goliath vs. Mini-Goliath situation.

4. Aledo is denied a seventh state trophy in nine seasons — by one point — by a College Station team that wasn’t even around for half of that span.

3. Strawn’s Nava becomes the first-ever Texas high school football player with two X chromosomes to play in, and win, a state championship game.

2. Highland Park’s John Stephen Jones tosses what would be the game-winning touchdown versus Manvel with just 34 seconds left in the game.

1. Highland Park’s defense stops Manvel’s Jalen Preston, preventing what would have been the game-winner, at the one yard line as the seconds ran out on the clock. That play was insane; it just looks like something out of a movie.

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