The Cooldown: Week 17

There isn’t a better way to culminate 17 weeks of football than by playing nearly 12 hours’ worth of games on four consecutive days. If you’ve never been to the state championships, I highly recommend it.

State this year saw only two Houston-area teams come out as winners, and I recapped both of those games on the site which you can read below. So with the season all said-and-done, I’ll provide a brief recap of each game – in addition to the full game stories which will be linked – discuss my final football players-of-the-week and what’s next.

Paetow wins first state title

It might not have been the exact same, but Paetow’s thrilling 27-24 win in the 5A-I state title game conjured up memories of the same game from two years ago.

Then, it was second-year program Shadow Creek needing to prevent Denton Ryan from scoring from about 35 yards out to secure the title. This time, it was Paetow needing to convert a crucial fourth-and-two before running in a short touchdown in overtime.

Just like Shadow Creek back then, Paetow got what it needed and was crowned state champions. Also like Shadow Creek, the Paetow Panthers will move up to class 6A when realignment takes place in February and will join a good district. Shadow Creek has been successful at the 6A level, but has struggled to replicate the success it had at 5A. Paetow’s leap to 6A and how it competes with Katy and Tompkins in 19-6A is one of my top storylines to watch next season.

But for now, none of that matters. Paetow leaned on a heavy senior class – the first-ever senior class at Paetow to play four years of football at the school – to win the title. Quarterback CJ Dumas captained the Panthers between the 20s and a bevy of running backs finished the job in the red zone: Bryan Del Cid, Gene Kendall, Dumas and Jacob Brown all scored touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line.

Dumas was an efficient 16-of-23 passing for 165 yards while Brown was the leading rusher, tallying 120 yards and a score on 33 carries. Brandon Shanks caught one ball for 31 yards, but his lone catch set up Kendall’s short touchdown run to tie things up in the second quarter. Defensive MVP Kentrell Webb came up with a crucial interception of College Station quarterback Jett Huff at the goal line just as the Cougars were looking to score and take a lead to half. Instead, it was tied.

Each team went scoreless in the third and traded touchdowns in the fourth to head to overtime. The Paetow defense held College Station to a field goal before –perhaps controversially, check out the game story linked above – scored on a two-yard touchdown run from Brown to bring home the title.

Regardless of the controversy, Paetow are state champions and nobody can ever take that away from them. Looks like Katy has a water tower to re-paint!

North Shore wins defensive slugfest versus Duncanville

In the past four years, we’ve gotten three 6A-I title games between North Shore and Duncanville; each could not be more different.

The first will forever be known as the Hail Mary game; maybe not quite a coming out party for the already fantastic Dematrius Davis, but everybody knew his name after that. The second will be known for what could have been. Stars Shadrach Banks and Zach Evans were missing for North Shore while Duncanville was without five-star recruits Ja’Quinden Jackson at quarterback and Kendrick Blackshire at linebacker. The third was absent of the big names of the past and was a grind-it-out defensive slugfest opposed to the offensive fireworks we’ve been used to seeing from these two.

This was a game that largely lacked explosive plays. North Shore opened the scoring with a three-yard pass connection between brothers Kaleb and Jhalyn Bailey; Duncanville answered with a one-yard touchdown run from linebacker-turned-wildcat-QB Jordan Crook. Each traded field goals in the third quarter and it was tied at 10 entering the fourth.

The story of the day was field position. North Shore scored both of its touchdowns on drives that started on Duncanville’s half of the field. The game winner came on a one-play drive, a 39-yard strike from Bailey to David Amador on a perfectly placed ball. Then, as it did all season, the North Shore defense stiffened and Duncanville never got close to an answer as the Mustangs held on for a 17-10 win.

A third state title in four years can be summed up in no way other than dynasty. North Shore has become a force in Houston since 2014, the start of four titles in seven seasons. Now with a freshman state champion and title game offensive MVP in Kaleb Bailey, the Mustangs should be here to stay for a while.

End of season notebook: 5 Thoughts

I’ve got a few thoughts from state weekend and the season in general and I’ll list some of them here, with no third game to talk about. Here’s five thoughts, and a bonus.

  • State is an incredible experience: We had 45,000 people in the building for two games this weekend, South Oak Cliff vs. Liberty Hill on Saturday morning and again for the North Shore game that immediately followed it. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend making the trip to DFW. AT&T Stadium is a gorgeous facility, too.
  • It was weird only having two Houston-area teams at state: I know it’s usually only three or four, but it felt like a shorter weekend of work. I was there for three days worth of games, but it really feels like the Waco area and East Texas showed out this year. Add in Austin and all of those areas had as many teams make the big game as Houston did. Maybe that’s just the lack of 4A and 3A teams in Houston compared to other areas. Houston has great teams in each of those divisions, but I would guess DFW has at least twice as many 4A and 3A schools in their coverage area compared to Houston.
  • This year felt more defense-minded and seemed to have less stars compared to years’ past: Rarely this weekend did we see a team score more than 35 points. The 6A games were 40-21 and 17-10; the 5A games were 24-13 and 27-24 in overtime. I wonder what it is, but the state didn’t seem to have the most outstanding crop of offensive players this year… or maybe the defenses were just that good.
  • What’s next? It’s always exciting to wonder what the future holds. For example: nobody saw Katy Paetow winning a state title this season, except for maybe those within the Paetow program. Who will the surprise(s) be next year? The other thing to consider is that dynasties come-and-go. North Shore won’t be this elite forever. At one point, it probably felt like Allen would never fall short of a state title when the Eagles won it in 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’17 with state semifinal losses in ’15 and ’16. The Eagles haven’t been particularly close to state since then. It also isn’t hard to remember when Lake Travis typically got the better of Austin Westlake, but the Chaps have now won three state titles. Dynasties always come-and-go. North Shore seems poised for another run, but who will the next dynasty be and when does North Shore’s run end? It’s fun to think about.
  • Bonus thought: We didn’t have to watch Aledo win another state championship. The Bearcats have won nine of the last 12 and played for 10 of the last 12. It was probably refreshing for everyone in the state not in Aledo, Texas, to not see the Bearcats back at AT&T.

Player of the Week

Well, this is a little odd. Only two teams played last week, each having multiple players that have already won one of my player-of-the-week awards this season. Four players – two from each team – also won state title game MVP. Giving out a player-of-the-week feels redundant. But, I’m going to do it anyway. Here is the player that impressed me most from Paetow and North Shore’s state title victories.

For Paetow, I’m going with title game defensive MVP Kentrell Webb. He picked off Huff at the goal line and returned it 26 yards out of enemy territory to end a College Station scoring threat, one that would have given the Cougars a halftime lead and perhaps a win in regulation. It was definitely the biggest play in regulation, and Webb can be proud that he’s a big reason why Paetow has a state championship.

For North Shore, I’m going with a guy who doesn’t get quite as much recognition as I think he deserves. Wide receiver David Amador has been a steadying hand among that group for years. Always reliable and guiding the transition between quarterbacks, Amador hauled in an impressive 39-yard touchdown for what proved to be the game-winning score.

Amador finished with seven catches for 76 yards and the score in the win. He’s been overshadowed by Shadrach Banks for years, but shined brightest when the stage was all his. Congratulations to both for the final football player-of-the-week, and mostly, for the gold medals hanging around each’s neck.

What to look forward to

That’s officially a wrap for football in 2021! It’s always a long journey; a marathon we’re all going to miss but glad it’s over in the sense that playing (and covering) 17 weeks of football in a row is draining. It’s time to fuel up for next season, but as we do every year, we’ll have a little February intrigue when the UIL meets to realign classes and districts.

Football is a blast, but so is basketball. Now our coverage will shift fully to hoops and we’ll have holiday tournament action on all our channels next week. It will be interesting to see who fills the power vacuum left by the historic Cy Creek girls (maybe it’s just Cy Creek again??) and to see if anyone (hopefully from Houston!) can stop Duncanville, a consensus top three team in the nation.

Thanks for reading the 2021 football version of The Cooldown and I hope you’ll all stick around for hoops!

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