The Cooldown: Week 16
State Championship Weekend is officially here! As always, the metroplex has plenty of representation at the UIL State football championships. The same four teams that repped the metroplex in 5A and 6A last year are back; all four looking to repeat as state champions in 2023. The one major difference in 2023 is that South Oak Cliff plays on Saturday morning, the same day as Duncanville and DeSoto. The Golden Bears are bringing back the white out, and AT&T Stadium figures to be an electric blizzard all day on Saturday. Let’s recap the state semifinals before we preview the final weekend of Texas high school football in 2023.
DeSoto eliminates Southlake Carroll
DeSoto’s thrilling 45-38 victory over Southlake Carroll might just end up being the game of the year. Of course, all close games this time of year get that consideration. Two great programs traded punches for four quarters, and it was the defending state champions that came out on top. These two programs clearly have a lot of respect for one another, but I know DeSoto felt good coming out on top of what could be the final matchup between these two programs for the foreseeable future. DeSoto coach Claude Mathis alluded to that in his postgame speech to the Eagles as DeSoto is set to potentially move down to 5A DI.
DeSoto quarterback DJ Bailey completed nine of his 12 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Bailey also rushed eight times for 81 yards and a score. Antonio Pride Jr. led the receivers with two receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, including a 50 yard score on a screen play on a key third down. Daylon Singleton added five receptions for 51 yards and Tristan Bailey was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from his brother from 40 yards out. DeSoto did most of its damage on the ground. Deondrae Riden Jr. told me after the game the coaches told him they would let him loose in this game, and Riden delivered, finishing with 34 carries for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Jaden Trawick added eight carries for 75 yards and a score.
Southlake Carroll quarterback Graham Knowles completed 19 of his 32 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Brock Boyd led the receivers with five receptions for 122 yards and Clayton Wayland added six receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Riley Wormley led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 134 yards and a score, while Davis Penn added nine carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
DeSoto turned the ball over four times in this game. The Eagles probably need to clean that up in the 6A DII State Championship Game, but turnovers happen when you play great teams. I’m not sure Humble Summer Creek is any better than Southlake Carroll, so if DeSoto can survive going -3 in the turnover battle against the Dragons, it should be just fine against Summer Creek.
South Oak Cliff eliminates Frisco Emerson
South Oak Cliff eliminated Frisco Emerson 36-24, using another strong second half to advance to its third straight 5A DII State Championship Game. The Golden Bears had just 17 yards of offense at halftime, but Danny Green ripped off two long touchdown runs to open the second half. If there’s one thing South Oak Cliff has proved during this playoff run, it’s that it plays its best football in the second half. Not many teams could overcome what the Golden Bears overcame, but South Oak Cliff is a championship caliber program and has a knack for finding a way to win these type of games.
South Oak Cliff quarterback William Little completed five of his 14 passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Rickey Evans caught two passes for 22 yards and a touchdown and Daveon Ennis caught a touchdown pass from 14 yards out. Green carried the Golden Bears offense with 11 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns while Khalil Ewell carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards.
Frisco Emerson quarterback Michael Hawkins Jr. completed 11 of his 24 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown and added 45 yards and a score on 20 carries. Kylen Evans led the receivers with three receptions for 70 yards and a score. Izzy Bills carried the ball 18 times for 129 yards and a touchdown to lead the rushing attack and Kameron Lockhart chipped in 10 carries for 94 yards.
Frisco Emerson had a fantastic season for only its second season playing football, but sometimes you run into a championship caliber program. South Oak Cliff goes for a historic third straight state championship this weekend, but I have more on that below.
Duncanville eliminates North Crowley
Duncanville continued its tear through the 6A DI playoffs with a 52-10 win over North Crowley, setting up a fifth showdown with Galena Park North Shore in the 6A DI State Championship Game. Duncanville and DeSoto have been the best two teams in the state all season long and the Panthers appear to be playing their best football in December. It all starts with one of the best offensive trios the metroplex has seen in a long time with Keelon Russell, Caden Durham and Dakorien Moore. Duncanville finally defeated North Shore last season and could be headed for a second straight state title.
Duncanville quarterback Keelon Russell completed 10 of his 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Dakorien Moore led the receivers with six receptions for 92 yards and a score. Caden Durham led the ground attack with 29 carries for 226 yards and five touchdowns while Maximus Denton added a 41 yard touchdown run.
North Crowley quarterback Chris Jimerson completed nine of his 32 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. LaMarcus Davis led the receivers with two receptions for 49 yards and Quentin Gibson caught a touchdown pass from 45 yards out. Kiante Ingram led the rushing attack with four carries for 46 yards while Cornelius Warren added 10 carries for 43 yards. The Duncanville front seven shut down one of the more impressive rushing attacks in the DFW metroplex, making this a tough matchup for North Crowley.
North Crowley capped off a fantastic season with a 14-1 record. Duncanville is a tough matchup for every team in the state, so a big loss at the end of the year shouldn’t impact how we view North Crowley’s season. At the same time, Duncanville is one of the top teams in the nation for a reason. With a load of playmakers on both sides of the football, North Shore will have its hands full trying to keep the Panthers from repeating as state champions.
Games to Watch
6A DI State Championship Game
Duncanville (13-1) vs Galena Park North Shore (15-0)
Duncanville and North Shore meet in the 6A DI State Championship Game for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Unlike many of the past matchups, I think there is a clear favorite in this game. I would put Keelon Russell, Caden Durham and Dakorien Moore up against any other offensive trio in the entire nation and pick them every time. North Shore is talented as always and will put up a great fight, but there will come a point in the game where the Mustangs simply aren’t able to keep up with Duncanville. Past editions of this game have featured more defense than offense, but that won’t be the case this time. I’ll take Duncanville by two scores over North Shore for its second straight state title.
6A DII State Championship Game
DeSoto (14-0) vs Humble Summer Creek (14-1)
DeSoto has the most impressive win of any team in the state this season, plain and simple. The Eagles win over Duncanville showed what this team is capable of at its best. DeSoto is dominant in pretty much every phase of the game, but taking care of the football is paramount for this group when playing a team as talented as Duncanville. DeSoto has playmakers at literally every position, but getting Deondrae Riden back certainly helped the Eagles against Southlake Carroll last weekend and will be a big boost in the title game. I think DeSoto is good enough to survive a few turnovers and still win this game. As good as a season as Summer Creek has had, the Bulldogs offense won’t be able to keep up with Rides, DJ Bailey, Daylon Singleton and the rest of the high flying DeSoto offense. I’ll take DeSoto by two scores in this one.
5A DI State Championship Game
Aledo (15-0) vs Smithson Valley (14-1)
Aledo gets Smithson Valley in the 5A DI State Championship Game this year, and it should win its second straight 5A DI title. Watching what Aledo has done to 5A DI opponents the last two seasons makes South Oak Cliff’s 2021 win over the Bearcats that much more impressive. Smithson Valley is talented, but Aledo just has too many playmakers on both sides of the football, particularly on offense, to keep up. I bet this is a high scoring game, but Aledo should win it by two scores.
5A DII State Championship Game
South Oak Cliff (13-2) vs Port Neches-Groves (14-1)
A rematch of last year’s 5A DII State Championship Game, this year South Oak Cliff is bringing back the white and playing on the same day as Duncanville and DeSoto. I would expect a large crowd for all three games on Saturday. South Oak Cliff has played well in the second half throughout the playoffs, and I expect another strong second half and a big performance from running back Danny Green to power the Golden Bears to a third straight state title. This should be a great game, and I recommend getting to AT&T Stadium early to avoid traffic and make the 11 a.m. kickoff.
4A DI State Championship Game
Anna (14-1) vs Tyler Chapel Hill (13-2)
Anna makes its first ever appearance in the state title game 90 years after its first season playing football. The Coyotes are led by quarterback Ziondre Williams and receiver Jacob Emmers on offense. Linebacker CJ Miller has had an impressive season on defense, but the offense is the star of the show in Anna. Chapel Hill also features an explosive offense, averaging more than 45 points-per-game. This game figures to have plenty of offense, but I like Williams and Emmers to lead Anna to its first state title in a thrilling shootout.
3A DII State Championship Game
Gunter (15-0) vs Tidehaven (14-0)
Gunter seeks its fourth state title on school history against the undefeated Tidehaven Tigers on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium. The Gunter Tigers have been one of the more dominant programs in the state over the last five years. Quarterback Walker Overman and receiver Cannon Lemberg have been around awhile and should team up for a big game. I think Tidehaven will struggle to slow those two down, so I’m taking Gunter to win it’s second straight state title.
2A DI State Championship Game
Tolar (14-1) vs Timpson (15-0)
Tolar and Timpson are each making a debut appearance in the state title game this weekend, meaning one school will win its first ever state championship. Timpson athlete Terry Bussey will be the most talented player on the field by a mile, but don’t sleep on Tolar’s talented roster. The Rattlers feature a three headed monster on offense with quarterback Isaac Blessing running it himself, as well as handing it off to Garrison Nation and Peyton Brown. One key: this is the 2A level. All three of those guys play defense as well. Putting points on the board and keeping Bussey out of the end zone will be a tough task. I would defer to Professor Diggs on this game as he has seen Tolar in person this season, but I’m picking Timpson in a toss up because the Bears have the most talented player on the field.
Offensive Player of the Week
My Offensive Player of the Week is South Oak Cliff running back Danny Green! The Golden Bears’ historic third straight trip to the state title game wouldn’t be possible without a big second half from Green. South Oak Cliff eliminated Frisco Emerson 36-24 after gaining less than 20 yards of offense and scoring 10 points in the first half. Green finished with 162 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the win. Those two touchdowns came on long runs to open the third quarter and gave South Oak Cliff the breathing room it needed to secure another trip to Arlington.
Defensive Player of the Week
My Defensive Player of the Week is DeSoto defensive lineman Keylan Abrams! There’s no telling how the rest of the game would of gone, but Abrams delivered the play of the game on a goal line stop, knocking Southlake Carroll quarterback Graham Knowles down just short of the end zone. DeSoto eliminated Southlake Carroll 45-38 and that play saved seven points. Abrams was also in on a few key third down tackles to force the Dragons to punt in the second half.