December 12, 2004 -- Below are scores, brackets and extensive highlights from Week Five of the playoffs, as well as other notable results and achievements, including Southlake Carroll continuing what has arguably become the greatest run ever to a possible national championship at the high school level.
PLAYOFF FORMAT: The UIL expanded to the 5A (largest classification) level in 1980, with Odessa Permian winning the state's first 5A championship, 28-19 over Port Arthur Jefferson. In 1991, the UIL began awarding 5A state champions at both the Division I and II levels. Texas is divided into 32 districts with three schools from each district qualifying for the playoffs. The school with the largest enrollment in each district headed to the postseason goes the Div. I route (32 teams) while the other two schools per district head the Div. II route (64 schools). The Div. I and II distinctions are for Classes 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A, with a single state championship being awarded in both Class A and Class A (six-man football).
TEXAS BOWLS: The five-week Div. I playoffs for 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A will culminate with four Texas Bowls on December 10-11, with the 5A, Div. I Texas Bowl kicking off at Noon. The six-week Div. II playoffs for 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A will culminate with four more Texas Bowls on December 18, with the 5A, Div. II Texas Bowl also kicking off at Noon. The remaining two Texas Bowls will be held on December 18 for Class A, and December 18 for Class A (six-man football).
(Reader's Note: Classes 5A/4A/3A/2A are not included here.)
CLASS A TEXAS BOWL
Stratford (13-2) vs. Shiner (15-0)
Saturday, December 18, 2004 @ 6:00pm
Memorial Stadium, Wichita Falls
Shiner 21, Big Sandy 17 -- Saturday, December 11, 2004
One long Shiner drive in the waning seconds prolonged Big Sandy's three-decade wait to return to state for another year. Shiner's Chris Baer powered his way in for a 2-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left, lifting the top-ranked Comanches past Big Sandy, 21-17, in a Class 1A state semifinal thriller Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baer shouldered the load late, touching the ball on all but four of Shiner's 12 play, 93-yard drive to cinch the victory.
After Shiner started from its own seven on the heels of Zach Massingill's 55-yard punt, Baer gathered a pitch from Trey Curtis on first down and lobbed a 46-yard halfback pass to Nick Evans, who slipped at the Big Sandy 47 with a wide-open path to the end zone ahead. Baer carried the ball eight of the next nine plays for 48 yards, including a 12-yard gain to set up Shiner with first-and-goal at the 4. A banged-up Baer walked to the sideline with 50 seconds left, leading to two short gains. Baer returned with 29.6 ticks showing and Shiner out of timeouts for a final tote, which he took through the right side, outmuscling Jonathan Peavy at the plane for the winning score. Baer finished with 121 yards on 21 carries to lead Shiner back to the state title game, where it fell short a year ago.
Big Sandy (11-4), which won three straight Class B state crowns from 1973-1975, struggled on offense with just 184 total yards, but stayed in control with stellar efforts from its defense and special teams - which forced four turnovers that amounted to 10 points.
Prior to its game-winning drive, Shiner managed only 88 yards in the second half. Big Sandy recovered three fumbles, the first which resulted in a touchdown and the second from a muffed punt that led to a go-ahead 22-yard field goal from Jerry Tennison with 7:20 remaining. After falling behind for the first time all game, Big Sandy's Vincent Montgomery fumbled on the kickoff return, ending the Wildcat's hopes. Brandon McCleveland topped Big Sandy with 74 yards. Deroderick Strickland recorded 107 all-purpose yards and scored both Big Sandy TDs. The first quarter featured back-and-forth action. The teams combined for just 214 yards of total offense in the first half, but teamed up for 172 return yards - setting up one score each off a turnover and a big kickoff return. On the opening kickoff, Big Sandy received a quick break when Josh Hilton pounced on an Evans fumble at the Shiner 25.Three plays later, Strickland hauled in his first TD pass on a 30-yard go route from Montgomery to go up a seven less than two minutes into the contest. A Big Sandy fumble on the Wildcat's next possession positioned Shiner at midfield. The Comanches wasted little time capitalzing, scoring in two plays on Curtis' 42-yard strike to Chase O'Connor. Big Sandy retained the lead when Scott Shimek missed the point-after attempt.
Keeping pace with Shiner, Big Sandy answered with a 45-yard return by Curtis Marsh into Shiner territory. Big Sandy cashed in two plays later with Strickland doing the honors again - taking a handoff on an end around 43 yards down the sideline to the payoff and helping the Wildcats mount an eight-point cushion. Not to be outdone, Shiner responded immediately. Evans atoned for the earlier mistake and returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards the distance. Baer pulled in Curtis' pass on the try for two to tie the score at 14 all.
Stratford 34, Windthorst 31 -- Friday, December 10, 2004
Stratford's offense faced third down 15 times in its state semifinal game against Windthorst on Friday night. The Elks converted 11 of those attempts. Three other times Stratford eventually kept drives alive by turning fourth down into first down. Stratford's drive-extending success rate weighed in at 93 percent. Basketball coaches dream about that kind of efficiency from the free throw line. Stratford's ball-hogging offense made the difference as the Elks beat Windthorst 34-31 at Lowrey Field.
The Elks (13-2) punched their ticket to the Class 1A state championship game for the second time since 2000. The last time Stratford played in the state championship it beat Burkeville, 49-14, for the 2000 Class 1A crown. "It was that 2000 team that got it started. It's an honor to keep it going," Stratford wide receiver Tyler Haynes said. "We're really excited to keep it going. I don't know how else to describe it. But it's not over yet."
On third down Stratford converted long yardage as well as short. It used both runs and passes. All that third-down success translated to a 72-40 advantage in offensive plays. "It was just execution. Everybody did what they were supposed to do and they got their jobs done," Stratford quarterback Josh King said. "We've got confidence that we can get it done as long as we execute."
Stratford only punted once. Another miss on third down did not hurt because Windthorst was penalized for roughing the punter the next play. Stratford eventually scored on a 14-yard pass from King to Haynes.
Stratford displayed its offensive efficiency on its first drive of the third period. A false start turned a third-and-one into a third-and-six. After an incomplete pass forced a punt, Windthorst (12-3) was penalized for roughing the punter to give the Elks a second chance.
Stratford burned the next eight minutes and drove to a 28-10 lead. On third and four from the Windthorst 49, King hit Haynes for a 9-yard gain. On third and eight from the Windthorst 38, King ran for 19 yards. On third and six at the Windthorst 15, King ran for six yards. King eventually hit Haynes for a 14-yard touchdown pass. "They controlled the ball and we couldn't get it away from them," Windthorst coach Bill Green said. "We thought we controlled their inside running fairly well. But they executed very well. They got exactly what they needed."
Windthorst, which played most of the game without starting linebacker Kevin Hoff, seemed in the midst of a miraculous comeback by dipping deep into the playbook to score two quick touchdowns and cut the deficit to 34-31 with 8:36 left. But Stratford's offense again asserted its domination. It converted three third downs and burned more than six minutes off the clock. "We kept emphasizing that we needed to execute," Stratford coach Eddie Metcalf said. "We kept trying to keep their heads in the game and keep their confidence up. We knew if we ever got the ball back we weren't going to give it back."
Special thanks to the Tyler Morning Telegraph and the Amarillo Globe News.