County home to two winning teams
The road sign indicating the Denton County limits is in need of an update.
Welcome to Denton County, Home of Champions.
Not one but two high school football teams that call the county home won state championships Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
First up was the Argyle Eagles. They won the Class 3A Division II championship with a 38-33 victory over Fairfield on Friday afternoon, capping an undefeated season. It was the first state football championship for Argyle High School.
Then on Friday night, Guyer High School delivered another championship trophy to Denton County, with the Wildcats winning their second straight Class 4A Division I championship with a 31-14 victory over San Antonio Northside Brennan.
And three local athletes were recognized as Most Valuable Players — Argyle’s Ian Sadler was the Offensive MVP and teammate Colton Hinnrichs was the Defensive MVP in the 3A game, while Guyer’s Jerrod Heard was the Offensive MVP in the 4A game.
“People have asked me what’s in the water in Denton County,” Denton school district athletic director Ken Purcell said on the field Friday while celebrating with Guyer. “I’ll tell you, there is something special about our teams and not just from one school, but two schools. Argyle has a very good program and I’m especially proud of what Guyer has done. This is going to make the folks back in Denton County very happy.”
For Argyle and the city’s estimated 3,500 residents, winning a state football title is another milestone for an already successful school district. Argyle High has won two straight Lone Star Cups, four total and three in the last five years, from the University Interscholastic League. The award honors overall excellence in athletics and academics.
The high school’s marching band is a five-time UIL champion. The school has won eight straight academic state titles, a girls basketball state championship in 2006, a boys basketball state title in 2011 and a state cross country crown in 2007.
But a title in football, that king of sports in Texas, had eluded the Eagles. They lost in the state finals twice in the last six years, but that all changed Friday in a performance that senior kicker Cole Hedlund said would resonate in Argyle.
“It’s going to mean a lot to our community,” said Hedlund, the national high school record holder for most field goals who is committed to play at the University of Arkansas next season. “Everyone in town has been so supportive and has helped us. They’ve always been there for us. I’m glad we could bring it back to them.”
Head coach Todd Rodgers said the trophy will further solidify the relationship between the school and community.
“Everyone works together for these kids, from the time they are in kindergarten to the 12th grade,” he said.
A number of players on the Argyle roster have been together since the fourth grade as classmates and teammates, including Sadler (who is headed to Texas Tech), Hinnrichs, Sam Sizelove (Kansas State), Reagan Page, Reese Thompson, Jake Weaver, Jon Pucciarello and Hayden Hood.
“There’s just really something special about this group in Argyle,” said Andy Smith, a member of the Argyle Booster Club who broadcasts local sports and is the stadium announcer. “The core of them got together pretty young and they genuinely care for each other.
“Think about it for a second, and it’s really the same with kids at Guyer or Ryan or Argyle. They play together when they are young and stay together. A few new guys come in, but they make a commitment to stick together. And you’ve got to have a vision early.”
Guyer’s championship was special for Purcell, who will retire at the end of the month after serving as athletic director since 1997. He has worked tirelessly to raise standards at all of the Denton district schools, and he was rewarded Friday with the district’s eighth state championship during his tenure.
There may be no better example of the commitment to excellence than at Guyer. The second straight title caps an impressive run for a school that has been open fewer than 10 years.
After going 0-10 in its first season in 2006, the Wildcats have now made five trips to the state semifinals in the last six years and three state championship appearances in the last four seasons, two in 4A and one in 5A. The school also won a girls soccer state championship last season.
The victory also gave some closure to a Guyer community still impacted by the death of running back Nate Maki, who was killed in an accidental shooting during Labor Day weekend. The team and student body united around Maki’s family and “State for Nate” became their motto.
“I can’t even describe it,” senior Jonathan Pershall said. “That was our motive the whole year, to win it for Nate, and we came out here and did it. I can’t be more proud of our team.”
Heard, who is verbally committed to the University of Texas, said he was “excited with the way we did this with all the seniors, and mostly for Nate Maki.”
Smith, the Argyle booster, said there is a definite pride in Denton County today.
“It’s huge to have two teams like that,” he said. “To be so consistently good says a lot about the talent of the athletes we have here and the programs. More than that programs and athletes, there’s community support and dedicated coaches that are behind them.
“There are also high expectations. … They are expected to do well and they start out knowing that.”