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12/23/19

The Cooldown: Week 17

The highly anticipated 2019 season has come to an end. One year ago today, North Shore had arrived back in Houston with the 2018 6A Division I State Championship trophy after one of the best endings in Texas High School football history.

One year later and we got the rematch we had all been hoping for. Round two was missing several key players and wasn’t as close of a game, but North Shore took home the state championship nonetheless.

There are some major headlines to take a look at heading into 2020. I’ll talk about some of those while recapping 2019 in our final football edition of The Cooldown.

State Recap -- North Shore

Round two of North Shore / Duncanville was a game that fans across the state had been looking forward to since A.J. Carter came down with Dematrius Davis’ Hail Mary. But round two felt like a battle between two tigers without their teeth.

Davis was without his leading receiver (Shadrach Banks) and his leading rusher (Zach Evans), while Duncanville brought in a freshman (Chris Parson) making his first start after losing Ja’Quinden Jackson in the state semifinals. The result was a heavy dosage of running.

Davis finished 6-of-12 for 91 yards and one touchdown through the air. Duncanville quarterback Chris Parson topped that by going 6-of-10 for 100 yards passing. The difference came in that Davis finished with 123 yards and one score on 16 carries, compared to just 27 yards on 12 carries for Parson.

With so much talent out on offense for each team, coupled with the amount of talent of defense for each squad, this game was ultimately going to be won on defense. North Shore hadn’t scored less than 42 since being held to 24 points against a talented Spring Westfield squad back on week three. The Mustangs 31 points felt paltry after putting up playoff scores of 54, 58, 56, 76 and 49.

The good thing about football is North Shore didn’t need to score a million points. The 31 they scored was more than enough to bring the championship home to Houston for the second year in a row. This dime from Davis iced the game midway through the 4th quarter.

State Recap -- Fort Bend Marshall

One year ago, Aledo beat Marshall 55-19 to take home the 5A Division II State Championship. A year later and the Bearcats would need to work a lot harder to bring home a second straight.

The Buffs had a fairly balanced day on offense. Texas A&M commit Devon Achane was brilliant once again as he finished with 176 yards and two scores on the ground while catching another 121 yards-worth of passes. Malik Hornsby completed 11-of-17 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding 159 yards and two more scores on the ground.

This one wound up being one of the better games of the weekend. The teams combined for no turnovers and only 56 yards-worth of penalties. The game was won on the back of Alabama commit Jase McClellan, who ran 25 times for 220 yards and two touchdowns. When the attention turned to McClellan, Aledo quarterback Jake Bishop passed his way to 244 yards and a touchdown on just 11 completions. That averages out to 8.7 yards-per-carry for McClellan and 22.1 yards-per-completion for Bishop, who only saw five passes hit the ground.

Marshall was able to make it interesting late, however, with a great completion to Achane setting up a short Buffs touchdown to bring them within three. They couldn’t recover the onside kick and fell just short of winning a state championship.

State Recap -- Shadow Creek

Talk about a balanced game… no more than eight points were scored in a quarter, and Shadow Creek scored seven points in every quarter.

This game will forever be remembered for the wacky plays on special teams. Denton Ryan started it off with perhaps the most well-executed kickoff return in state championship history. Shadow Creek topped that by returning a botched sort-of punt for a touchdown on a play that Ryan thought had been blown dead.

Denton Ryan had a chance to win on the final play of the game. The Raiders had the ball at the Shadow Creek 25-yard line with two seconds remaining, and a heave to the end zone barely fell out of the fingertips of Alabama commit Drew Sanders.

The game wasn't as closes as the final score indicated. Shadow Creek ran one more play than Ryan, but finished with a 397-250 advantage in total yards.

The offensive MVP was rightfully Kyron Drones, who was masterful outside of throwing two interceptions to Texas commit Billy Bowman Jr.. Drones finished with 185 yards through the air on 10-of-18 with the two interceptions. Just as he has done all year long, Drones also got it done on the ground, with 152 yards and two scores.

But the game was fittingly won on defense. The Sharks had only let up more than 20 points twice all season – 21 to Wagner in the state semifinals and 31 to Foster in round three. Denton Ryan made that three by scoring 22, but that wasn’t enough to win.

Just love to see this after winning a state championship too. Shout-out to Alec Bryant.

Can North Shore, Marshall and Shadow Creek make it back?

One year ago, those three plus represented Houston at the state championships, with North Shore the only team to come out on top. This season, Shadow Creek and North Shore brought hardware back to Houston while Marshall dropped it’s second state final in a row.

A three-peat is tough for any school, especially in Texas. By way of losing quarterback Malik Hornsby, running back Devon Achane and others, I don’t see Marshall being favored to make it back.

Similarly, Shadow Creek loses three highly recruited Division I prospects on defense alone. That, coupled with a move up to 6A and the Sharks will struggle to make it back to Arlington. They may acutally lose a non-state championship game in 2020, shocking, I know.

As for North Shore… the Mustangs have a real chance. They missed star wide receiver Shadrach Banks for most of 2019, and played a few games including the state championship with star back Zach Evans.

The Mustangs lose Evans and some standouts on the defensive side of the ball, but Banks and quarterback Dematrius Davis may be all they need to make it back. Of course 6A Division I is perennially loaded with talent, but a third straight trip to Arlington could reasonably be in the works for North Shore.

What do we know about 2020?

The class of 2019 was great, but it felt like most of the talent in the Houston area was returning for the 2019-20 season. Now, teams we’ve been accustomed to seeing dominate the playoffs – teams like Atascocita, Marshall, Shadow Creek, Manvel, Foster and more – are graduating chunks of key talent.

North Shore should be strong again behind the aforementioned Davis and Banks. Katy Tompkins returns Jalen Milroe and Tunmise Adeleye while Cy-Fair brings back L.J. Johnson. There are some other returning players that helped their teams in 2019, but the graduating class of 2020 was loaded with talent. I kept an eye on 15-6A all season, and most of the key players from each of those teams is now gone as well.

That makes the 2020 season all the more exciting. This season felt pretty predictable at times. Shadow Creek breezed through 2019 and North Shore won every playoff game by double digits. Marshall’s season had a little more intrigue to it, but the Buffs rolled through the playoffs en route to a narrow state championship loss as well.

This is the main reason 2020 excites me so much. There are opportunities across the board for new players and new talent to step up. Some teams will fall off while others may begin historic state runs. While North Shore reigns supreme, keep an eye on the rest of the area – the guard is changing, quickly.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has kept up with The Cooldown this season. It was an awesome year and just like that, we’re on to basketball season.