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Denton-Ryan head coach Dave Henigan hoists the state championship trophy for Class 5A Division 1. Kaleigh Mazy

If you have an upgraded cable package and/or a pulse, you hopefully caught some action from one of the four high school football championship games at AT&T stadium this weekend. The kickoffs began on Friday afternoon with a result that has become so common it’s almost mundane: Aledo football won a state title. Friday’s 56-21 victory over the Crosby Cougars from the Houston area marks “Tanglewood West’s” 10th championship trophy and 12th appearance in the state finals. Their 1974 and 2017 losses each came by a single point, and the dominant squad from 5A Division 2 — which is the smaller of the classification — has reached the championship game in five consecutive seasons. Aledo running back DeMarco Roberts scored six touchdowns while receiver and Alabama commit JoJo Earle complemented his teammate’s performance with 224 yards of his own.

 

Denton’s Ryan High School continued their season-long perch as the top-ranked team in 5A division 1 — the larger of the 5A group — with a curb-stomping victory past the previously prolific offense of the Cedar Park Timberwolves from the Austin Area. After a tight first quarter, the Raiders from Denton exploded from a 10-8 advantage to a 45-8 runaway and an eventual 59-14 victory, which is among the largest in the history of the game. Ryan is no stranger to championships, having won back-to-back in 2001 and 2002 with the help of slinger James Battle (a TCU commit and enrollee who didn’t see much playing time). The Raiders fell short last season while rallying from a deficit against the Shadow Creek Sharks from the outskirts of Houston. The Raiders suffered three consecutive losses to the three-peat champion Highland Park Scots in 2016-18 but exorcised their late-round demons with the help of a talent-packed squad, including sought-after recruits Ja’Tavion Sanders and Billy Bowman, who’ll be forking opposite directions from home as they head to Austin and Norman, respectively.

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Action continued at Jerry’s World on Saturday afternoon with the 6A Division 2 final between the Cedar Hill Longhorns and perennial high school power Katy Tigers from the Houston area. Katy has now appeared in 16 state final games. The Longhorns are no slouch, appearing in their fifth final and having won three titles since 2006, but Saturday was all Tiger defense. The previously explosive Cedar Hill offense, led by Tennessee commit Kaidon Salter, were left scratching their collective heads for most of the game while Katy imposed their running will against them with I-formation domination. The 51-14 victory represents Katy’s ninth championship overall and eighth since 1997.

 

In perhaps the most talked about game, the Westlake Chaparrals from Austin faced the Southlake Carroll Dragons in the weekend’s final matchup in the largest classification in Texas: 6A Division 1. The “Dodge Duel” pitted Chaparral — and former UNT Mean Green — head coach Todd Dodge against his former employer and their head coach, former Dragon quarterback and current son, Riley Dodge. Saturday represented the 10th championship appearance for both Westlake and Southlake and the second meeting between the teams in the title game. (Southlake won 43-29 in 2006.) Despite Carroll being “armed” with the most recruited player for the 2022 class — quarterback Quinn Ewers — the game belonged to Daddy. Each team scored with relative ease in the early possessions before the Chaparral defense found ways to harass Ewers and eventually force mistakes. Despite what could be construed as a dead heat offensively, the Westlake defense made consistent stops to elevate their already powerful team to a convincing 52-34 victory to claim Westlake’s third overall and second-consecutive state championship.

 

What conclusions have I drawn from a weekend with essentially one close game? That North Texas unequivocally plays better high school football than any other region, and in a state that takes the sport more seriously than many countries do the Olympics, that’s a big deal. I know there are transplants from Central and South Texas who are ready to put my head on a spike, but hear me out. One team from the Houston area and one from the Austin area won championships this weekend. Advantage North Texas with two.

 

We should drill down further because we love claiming superiority over one another. Which county is best? The answer may surprise you, but it’s Denton. That is not purely because of Ryan’s victory but also accounting for their crosstown 6A Division 2 high school Denton-Guyer, who lost in the state semifinals to Cedar Hill and inked headlines last year when they played for a state title concurrently with Ryan. Two Denton ISD schools played for a state title in the same year, and it wasn’t the first time. A 10-minute drive south on I-35 from UNT’s Apogee stadium reveals another of this year’s state champions, the Argyle Eagles of Class 4A Division 1, who were also top ranked all season and won their state title game 49-21 over Lindale back in late December. That’s 14 linear miles between two state champions with a state semifinalist in between, all in Denton county.

 

Before our local readers click the page closed, I’ll give Tarrant county its due. Aledo is the most dominant team — by number of championships — in the history of UIL football (which celebrated 100 years of play this year). Southlake Carroll — which is primarily Tarrant county but contains parts of Denton County also — is in the Top 5. Mansfield’s Summit high school also played in the state semifinals this year but was defeated by Denton-Ryan. It can — and should be — debated to death which DFW county reigns supreme in the high school landscape, but it’s not debatable, at least for this season, which region is fielding the most formidable group of teams.

 

 

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