Argyle had a chance to bring home its first football state championship two years ago, when seemingly nothing went its way.
The Eagles return to the cathedral of Texas high school football today with a chance to erase memories of previous failures, complete a perfect season and pick up its first state title.
Argyle (15-0) faces the Fairfield Eagles (15-0) in the Class 3A Division II state championship game at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.
Most of the members of this year’s senior class were sophomores the last time Argyle played for a state title.
“They got a taste of the big show, and I think they’ve been very purposeful and dedicated to getting their team back there in 2013,” Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said.
In 2011, the calamities mounted against Argyle in the 3A Division II state title game against Wimberley before the game had even started.
Argyle quarterback Austin Aune played the entire contest despite flu-like symptoms that forced the standout quarterback to receive two rounds of intravenous fluids.
Then, the first time wide receiver Ian Sadler touched the ball with about six minutes left in the first quarter, he heard his right knee pop after he took a handoff and made a cut.
He jogged off the field, but Argyle’s biggest playmaker was out for the game and the next five and a half months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Later, as Argyle was going to tie the game with a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter, Chadd Bossow fumbled the ball inches before he crossed the goal line.
Wimberley defeated Argyle 21-14.
“If any of those things don’t happen — any of them, just pick one of them — it’s a tie ballgame,” Rodgers said. “I’m not saying we’re winning, it’s just a tie ballgame.”
Since that loss to Wimberley, Argyle is 26-2. Argyle already has the most wins in school history, but the victory the team has been chasing for years is within its grasp. Argyle also lost the 2005 Class 2A Division I state championship to Newton, 28-20.
Argyle finished the regular season ranked as the No. 1 team in 3A by The Associated Press. Its biggest postseason win was a 45-38 victory over Gilmer in the regional semifinals, another team that was ranked No. 1 for much of the season and the team that knocked Argyle out of last year’s playoffs.
Fairfield rolled through the regular season, went undefeated in District 19-3A and throttled Sinton 56-13 for a chance to face Argyle.
Prior to this season, Fairfield had never advanced past the state quarterfinals, and in 2009, the team went 1-9.
“It’ll definitely be one of the better offenses that we’ve seen,” Argyle senior linebacker Colton Hinnrichs said of Fairfield. “I still think Gilmer has got the upper hand on them, but they’re definitely a good team. We’re going to have to shut them down.”
Fairfield has scored 860 points this season — a 3A state record — behind the efforts of senior running back Larry Rose. Rose was named The Associated Press’ 3A Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 2,716 yards and 48 touchdowns this season.
Fairfield head coach Gary Bachtel said Rose is the best running back he’s ever coached and a reason why this year’s team has been the best in school history.
“From day one, we thought this group could be a special group,” Bachtel said. “But our goal this year was to try and make ourselves better, and if we continue to focus on ourselves and we continue to get better each week, then we’ll have a chance to be successful. And the kids have really done that each week.”
Bachtel praised Sadler and junior running back Nick Ralston, two players who have came up with huge offensive performances this postseason for Argyle.
Two years ago, Sadler was wondering if he’d ever be the same following the devastating knee injury against Wimberley. Now, the Texas Tech pledge and the rest of his teammates who experienced disappointment in 2011 are four quarters away from hoisting the state championship trophy.
“There was a bunch of us as sophomores on the team that saw what happened and went through it all and realized how much it took to get there, just the different things that we need to figure out to make sure we want it,” Sadler said. “Hopefully we can do that [today].”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.