ARLINGTON-- It takes a great team to win a state championship. It takes a championship caliber program to win back-to-back titles. South Oak Cliff did just that on Friday night with a 34-24 win over Port Neches-Groves in the 5A DII State Championship Game. Winning a state championship is tough enough but going back-to-back is even harder according to South Oak Cliff coach Jason Todd.
“Getting back focused on this season because of so much hoopla was made about last year was the main reason why we scheduled [tough teams] early,” Todd said. “They wouldn’t care about what we did last year. [DeSoto and Duncanville] were going to try come out and embarrass us and put us in our place.”
South Oak Cliff’s 0-3 start was a hallmark of its playoff run. The Golden Bears faced and responded to adversity in every playoff game and came out victorious despite multiple first half deficits. That hallmark held true in the state title game as Port Neches-Groves held a 17-12 lead at halftime.
It was all South Oak Cliff in the second half, though. A Diego Vareia field goal opened the scoring in the third quarter before a safety tied the game 17-17 with 6:17 remaining in the third. A William Little touchdown run four minutes later gave the Golden Bears their first lead of the game. Manny Muhammad returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter as the Port Neches-Groves offense was playing on its heels.
Billy Walton came up with a sack on fourth-and-two early in the final frame before South Oak Cliff methodically drove down the field to set up another field goal that would give the Golden Bears a 34-17 lead with 4:18 remaining in the game.
Little was named Offensive MVP of the 5A DII State Championship Game after completing nine of his 16 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown and adding another score on the ground. Little never dreamed he would be the Offensive MVP in a state title game, but the stage wasn’t too bright for him.
“I’m not going to lie I never thought I would be in this moment right now,” Little said. “It’s just wild. I don’t know what to think.”
It was Little’s passing ability that opened things up for the South Oak Cliff offense. Little said he knew it was going to be on him to help the Golden Bears pull off the come-from-behind win.
“The first drive of the second quarter, [Port Neches-Groves] was stuffing the run game,” Little said. “We had to spread them out and throw the ball a little bit to open the run game up later in the game.”
The South Oak Cliff defense nearly pitched a shutout in the second half and scored as many points as it gave up. Senior defensive end Billy Walton knows what it takes to win on this stage after the Golden Bears run to a state title last year. “Playing hard and physical, that was the key going into this week, so that was my whole goal and mindset coming into this game,” Walton said.
DeSoto and Duncanville will have a shot to make it three state championships for Dallas county tomorrow. One thing is clear, South Oak Cliff is the Mecca, but Dallas county is the standard for football in the state of Texas at the moment. Duncanville and DeSoto have long been considered championship caliber programs, and Todd thinks South Oak Cliff is in that same tier of championship caliber programs.
“The key word is program,” Todd said. “A lot of those things that we use in the playoffs we learned from playing Duncanville. We got into a groove and found ourselves. I think in those loses [to Duncanville and DeSoto] I tell people all the time I learn more about our team and what it’s going to take for us to be victorious in losses than I have ever learned from wins.”
Making it a three-peat in 2023 might put South Oak Cliff into the Aledo, Carthage and Galena Park North Shore category of all-time great dynasties. Todd tried scheduling both Aledo and North Shore in 2022, and those may be matchups we get to see in the future. For now, South Oak Cliff is back-to-back 5A DII State Champions and officially a championship caliber program.