After all these years of being a sports writer, it never gets easier watching the high school football teams I cover fall short in their run to a state championship.
Denton-area fans were down to just two teams going into last weekend, and I think everyone expected to be reading about Ryan's and Argyle's exploits for several more weeks. Instead, the third round featured a surprisingly gut-wrenching finish for one those teams.
Here's a recap of the highs and lows of the third round of the playoffs:
There were some wacky playoff games throughout the day Saturday, but this was not one of them. Ryan took a 21-0 lead six seconds into the second quarter and finished the first half with 351 total yards as Spencer Sanders tossed five touchdown passes. Going into the fourth quarter, the Raiders led 49-7. The bottom line is the Raiders did exactly what they were supposed to do by leaving nothing to chance. They jumped out quickly on a very good opponent and, more importantly, didn't allow the game to be dictated by turnovers or penalties. That young defense also continued to play well, giving us no reason to believe this isn't a championship-caliber unit. The trick is being able to replicate that performance in an intriguing region final matchup later this week against Lubbock Coronado. In case you've been living under a rock, Coronado scored 80 points in its win over Colleyville Heritage and proved that not all West Texas teams are pushovers. I'd suggest you travel to Abilene on Saturday if you can, because this one promises to be a barnburner.
This was the shocker of the weekend. I think everyone knew Stephenville was going to be a tough out, but I'm not sure many people picked the Yellow Jackets to win given the way Argyle was playing. The Eagles were the No. 3 Class 4A team in the state and came in averaging 52 points per game. They were, by all accounts, unstoppable. Even if it were a close finish, surely Argyle would win, right? Instead, Stephenville was the one dominating most of the game while holding Argyle to seven points in the first half. The Yellow Jackets didn't begin losing momentum until the fourth quarter, but even then Argyle's best chance was to tie the game and try to win in overtime. A missed field goal killed that opportunity. This loss is an early exit when you consider Argyle came into this season having played in four of the last six state title games. Stephenville deserves a ton of credit for playing an amazing game and will certainly be a tough out moving forward. As for the Eagles, we will definitely be talking about them again at this time next year.
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.