With Cameron Yoe, Bremond and La Vega all cranking it up for state championship games, this really should be a great week for Central Texas football.
And it is. But it’s also bittersweet — only because it means the high school football season is coming to a close.
Has there ever been a grander season in the history of Centex football? It’s a debate that would require more column inches than I have to spare. Suffice it to say that 2015 is at least in the conversation.
A total of six teams from our particular sliver of Central Texas — basically the Waco-Temple-Killeen triangle — reached state title games this season. According to our research, that’s a record for the area. In 2006, another unforgettable season, five Centex teams ended their seasons in the state game, those being Copperas Cove, Waco High, Robinson, Mart and Chilton.
This year’s group consists of the aforementioned trio of La Vega, Cameron Yoe and Bremond, along with six-man stalwarts Abbott (the Class 1A Div. I state champ), Live Oak and Methodist Children’s Home. If the Pirates, Yoemen and Tigers are able to seal the trophy deal, they would join with Abbott in setting a new area record for state titles in a single season. The previous best came in 1991, when Killeen, Groesbeck and Parkview Christian all soaked up Gatorade showers.
It’s no mystery to fans who have paid attention. First-class football resides in Central Texas.
That said, this year stands out as special, as unique. This sweet six-pack of finalists has not necessarily established itself as a harbinger of future glory for the area. These things are cyclical. You can’t expect six teams to play for state championships every year. It should really go without saying, I guess, considering it had never been done before in Central Texas prior to this year.
Now, we’re no stranger to state champions in these parts, no sir. Over the past 10 seasons, the area has produced 13 championship football teams in a variety of public and private-school classifications. You have to venture back to 2005 to find the last season in which Central Texas failed to bring home at least one state title.
Just look at what already has been achieved this autumn, and the possibilities that still lie ahead. Abbott defeated two-time defending state champ Crowell, 40-30, last Saturday, giving Terry Crawford’s Panthers the program’s first state title in its history. Moreover, it was just the second recent six-man state title for a Central Texas public school, following Calvert in 2002. (I covered Calvert’s magical come-from-behind state title win over Sanderson that year. I also got lost on the way to San Angelo, but I blame that on the scrumptious Underwood’s barbecue sandwich I was eating while driving.)
Back to Abbott: Just a fantastic achievement for arguably the area’s most consistent six-man town. Somewhere Willie Nelson is grinning. (And, probably, pickin’.)
La Vega, Cameron Yoe and Bremond all sit on the precipice of their own history. Should the 15-0 Pirates wring out the Socks of Argyle (no, that’s not really their nickname) on Friday in the Class 4A Division I final, it would give La Vega its first-ever football crown. Not to mention a crowning achievement for Willie Williams, the dean of Central Texas coaches, in his 26th year as La Vega’s head man.
You’ve got to give the Pirates more than a fighting chance, don’t you? Argyle (14-1), like anyone you’d face at this stage of the season, is plenty stout. But La Vega’s defense is stingier than Ebenezer Scrooge, having yielded just 10 points in the Pirates’ last three playoff wins. (Not sure they’re stingier than Donald Trump, but I digress.)
Bremond can also conclude an undefeated season and claim a second straight state championship in the Class 2A Division II final Thursday. All the Tigers have to do is vanquish the same state final foe from last year in Albany, a team which gave Bremond probably its toughest test that season.
And then there’s Cameron. They’re going to start running out of room on the water tower in Yoe Country. The Yoemen are angling for their fourth straight state title, which would put them in an exclusive club that also includes Celina and Sealy, which each won four consecutive titles, and Lake Travis, the state record-holder with five in a row from 2007-11.
Think about that. If the Yoemen pull this off, the school’s seniors will have never experienced anything but football championship glory during their high school run. Maybe they really are the best years of your life.
This season delivered more than deep playoff runs, though. It rekindled a classic Central Texas rivalry in La Vega-China Spring. It inspired us with the pluck and determination of teams like Crawford, Teague and Lorena. We witnessed West’s triumphant rise, a season after falling a game short of the postseason. We saw Midway remind us why a team’s record in nondistrict isn’t always a foretaste of things to come.
We won’t soon forget these teams, nor the players who led them. When I think back on this season, I’ll remember guys like China Spring’s Keaton Dudik and La Vega’s Parrish Cobb and Bremond’s Roshaaud Paul.
I’ll recall Cameron Yoe’s Traion Smith, a young man with a common surname but an uncommon game. Smith supplanted former Mart great De’Nerian Thomas as Central Texas’ all-time leading rusher last week, and has a chance at another record, the area’s single-season rushing mark, with a decent performance in the season finale.
Smith has 2,882 yards — 72 more would give him the single-season record (currently 2,953 by Gatesville’s Taurean Henderson), while 118 would put him at even 3,000.
Man, I could prattle on forever. It’s just been that kind of season. But come Friday, the lights will fade to black on the high school football season in Central Texas.
Thankfully, the memories will linger.