Written by Matt Wixon
In 5A football realm, 'close' is recurring theme for likes of DeSoto, Coppell
DeSoto won 14 straight games last season to advance to the Class 5A Division I semifinals and rise to No. 1 in the national rankings. Then, in the span of about three hours, the Eagles’ season became a failure.
That’s how some people viewed it, anyway.
“At DeSoto, it’s never going to be about how many district titles that we win or how many games we win,” coach Claude Mathis said. “We’re going to always be judged by state championships.”
That’s the case at several schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Allen, Cedar Hill, Euless Trinity and Southlake Carroll. But unlike DeSoto, those programs have claimed at least one state title.
DeSoto is in a group with schools such as Skyline, Arlington Bowie, Arlington Martin and Coppell, 5A programs that have established themselves as powers in the last five years but still haven’t reached a title game.
“You really won’t feel you’ve achieved that ultimate goal until you win the state championship,” said Skyline coach Reginald Samples, whose teams are 59-9 in the last five seasons. “But schools like DeSoto and Arlington Bowie are going three or four rounds in the playoffs each year. There aren’t many teams doing that.”
The teams that are doing it, even without winning the ultimate prize, contribute greatly to the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s football reputation. Carroll (five 5A titles since 2002), Trinity (three), Allen (two) and Cedar Hill (one) are the local champions of the last decade, but the shelf below – lined with programs seeking a first 5A title – is bowing under the mass of heavyweights.
DeSoto was a state semifinalist last year and a regional finalist in 2010. Skyline was a state semifinalist in 2011 and regional finalist in ’08 and ’12. Bowie has gone three rounds deep in the playoffs four of the last five years and was a regional finalist in 2009. Martin has gone three rounds deep three of the last four years and was a regional finalist in 2011. Coppell has finished the regular season undefeated twice in the last three years and went to a regional final in 2010.
Coppell’s regional finalist finished 13-1 and lost by one point to Trinity.
“Football in the Dallas area is so good, so competitive, that sometimes it’s a battle of attrition when it comes down to the end of it all,” Coppell coach Joe McBride said. “Sometimes I think the best team doesn’t always win.”
That’s true in football at all levels because injuries are so impactful. Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said his 2009 team, which won its first 12 games and was ranked No. 1 in the state, might’ve been Cedar Hill’s best ever. But injuries and a championship-bound Abilene team ended the Longhorns’ season in the third round.
Fortunately for Cedar Hill, it had already won a 5A Division II title in 2006. The Longhorns returned to the Division II championship game last season.
In the five seasons between those championship game appearances, Cedar Hill averaged nearly 10 wins per season and advanced to a regional final. That’s a strong run, but without the two championship game appearances, Cedar Hill wouldn’t have the stamp of a powerhouse.
“You hear the debates about the great quarterbacks, and I compare it a little bit to a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring,” McGuire said. “It’s like that final step when you’ve established yourself as a team and a program that can get to the state championship game.”
And win it, which is something less than a dozen 5A schools from the Dallas-Fort Worth area have done. In the 33-season history of 5A, only 11 local schools have won titles. That list doesn’t include Arlington Lamar, which under the guidance of Eddy Peach was a state finalist in 1990 and a semifinalist in 2000 and 2003.
Lamar never won the final game, but Peach won 309 games before retiring after the 2009 season. His legendary career shouldn’t be diminished by that elusive state title.
But a state championship still means a lot. And for the programs that win, it can change a lot.
The championship helped transform the program at Cedar Hill, which hadn’t won a playoff game before its perfect season in 2006. Allen was an established winner but not considered a statewide power until its first title in 2008. Trinity didn’t win a title until starting its run in 2005 and is now considered one of the state’s top programs. Carroll won 3A titles in 1988, ’93 and ’94, but the four 5A titles in a five-season span (2002-2006) launched the Dragons into an amazing football orbit.
A state title isn’t necessary for a successful season, of course. There are district titles, playoff appearances and other milestones each year. Coaches see wins in the game-to-game improvement and how players progress and mature, on and off the field.
But the state title is still “the ultimate grand prize,” Martin coach Bob Wager said.
“If it’s not the goal,” he said, “you’re selling yourself short, you’re selling your school short and your kids short.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
Top 10 in last five
The 5A schools with the most wins in the last five seasons:
Rk.; Team; W; L; Best playoff finish
1.; Euless Trinity; 64;8; State champs in 2009
2.; Allen; 61; 7; State champs in 2008 and 2012
3.; Skyline; 59; 9; State semifinalist in 2011
4.; SL Carroll; 57; 11; State champion in 2011
5.; Cedar Hill; 51; 16; State finalist in 2012
6.; DeSoto; 50; 15; State semifinalist in 2012
7.; Coppell; 49-12; Regional finalist in 2010
8.; Arl. Bowie; 48; 15; Regional finalist in 2009
9.; Coll. Heritage; 44; 13; Second round in 2010 and ’12
10.; Garland; 42; 16; Regional semifinalist in 2008
*Denton Ryan and Denton Guyer had successful runs in a combination of 4A and 5A. Guyer was 60-14 in three seasons in 4A and two in 5A. Ryan was 54-13 in four seasons in 4A and one in 5A.
Not quite champions
Deepest 5A runs in the last five seasons by local teams that didn’t win state titles:
Cedar Hill, 2012 Division II
Euless Trinity, 2010 Division I
Denton Guyer, 2010 Division II
Wylie, 2008 Division II
DeSoto, 2012 Division I
Skyline, 2011 Division I
Mansfield Timberview, 2011 Division II
SL Carroll, 2012 Division I
Skyline, 2012 Division I
Plano West, 2012 Division II
Arl. Martin, 2011 Division I
DeSoto, 2010 Division I
Coppell, 2010 Division I
SL Carroll, 2010 Division II
Mesquite Horn, 2010 Division II
Arlington, 2009 Division I
Arl. Bowie, 2009 Division II
Euless Trinity, 2008 Division I
Skyline, 2008 Division I
Cedar Hill, 2008 Division II
Local 5A state champions
Dallas-Fort Worth area schools that have won UIL titles in 5A, which began in 1980:
Lake Highlands; 1981
Plano; 1986, ’87, ’94
Lewisville; 1993, ’96
FM Marcus; 1997
SL Carroll; 2002, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’11
Euless Trinity; 2005, ’07, ’09
Cedar Hill; 2006
Allen; 2008, ’12
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