ARLINGTON — For years, Argyle was considered one of the state’s best 3A programs.
After two previous state championship game losses, the Eagles finally have the hardware to merit their ranking among the state’s elite.
Argyle held off the Fairfield Eagles for a 38-33 victory in the Class 3A Division II state championship game at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium on Friday. The win gives Argyle its first football state championship in school history.
Top-ranked Argyle finishes the season with a spotless 16-0 record, while sixth-ranked Fairfield finishes at 15-1.
Afterwards, Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said it was a fun game to watch. Coaching the game, however, didn’t produce the same effects.
“From a head coach’s position, I wouldn’t describe it as fun,” Rodgers said. “I would describe it as nauseating and anxiety-ridden. But it’s a good, old-fashioned football game with a lot of lead changes. It’s one for the ages. To win a game like that is really fun.”
In a game full of captivating scoring runs, it was only fitting that Argyle senior Ian Sadler scored the game’s final points. Sadler scored on a 3-yard run with 6:54 left in the game, and Argyle’s defense stonewalled Fairfield and star running back Larry Rose to preserve the win.
Sadler, a Texas Tech pledge, finished the game with 19 carries for 109 yards and three touchdowns. He also had four catches for 73 yards, and a key 65-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Sadler was named the Offensive MVP, while Argyle senior linebacker Colton Hinnrichs was named the Defensive MVP. Hinnrichs finished the game with 15 tackles.
The Argyle faction of the 22,701 people in attendance collectively watched as Rose ran down the field late in the fourth quarter. Rose gashed Argyle’s defense like he had all day. But this time, he was knocked out of bounds by Argyle senior defensive back Colten Katzen after a 64-yard run.
Rose, like many of the other Fairfield players, played both offense and defense throughout the game.
“I was pretty gassed, but I knew my team needed me to stay in the game,” Rose said. “So I had to suck it up, and like coach [John Bachtel] always says, you can rest tomorrow.”
Fairfield needed 17 yards and six points to take the lead, and if it scored, Argyle wouldn’t have a lot of time to answer with a score of its own. But Rose was stopped 2 yards short of a first down by senior defensive lineman Micah Capra and junior Nick Ralston, and Argyle took over with 1:14 left.
The game — and the state title — belonged to Argyle.
“We didn’t break down or anything,” Hinnrichs said of the final drive. “We didn’t struggle. We just came together as a team. We knew that was the last drive and we had to stop them there. Otherwise it could have ended bad for us.”
Rose, The Associated Press Class 3A Offensive Player of the Year, finished with 26 carries for 206 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough for Fairfield in its first state championship game appearance.
Early on, it looked as if Fairfield was going to shake off a rough start.
For the first time this season, Argyle had to figure out how to erase a halftime deficit. After Argyle jumped out to a 17-3 lead behind two interceptions, Fairfield scored 21 straight points to enter halftime with a 24-17 lead.
At the end of the first half, Fairfield appeared to score on a halfback pass on fourth-and-18. But the play was negated because of a penalty, and the ball was moved back 5 yards.
On the next play, senior wide receiver Alex Ward hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half to give the Central Texas team a 24-17 halftime lead.
“It was devastating right there at halftime,” Rodgers said. “Everybody was anxious and arguing with each other. Tempers were flaring. They really didn’t know who they were mad at. They were just upset that things had gone that way.”
But Sadler responded with all three of Argyle’s second-half touchdowns to seal the win.
After the final play of the game, Sadler took his helmet off and pointed toward the closed roof at AT&T Stadium. Fairfield made its way across the field to shake hands with Argyle. Instead, Argyle’s players made its way toward Sadler, standing near one of the end zones.
Finally, Argyle’s dreams were fulfilled.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Sadler said of the game’s final moments. “It was breathtaking. I was so happy.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Argyle 38, Fairfield 33
A — Ian Sadler 13 run (Cole Hedlund kick)
F — Erick Rodriguez-Reyes 30 FG
A — Connor Wilson 7 run (Hedlund kick)
A — Hedlund 44 FG
F — Larry Rose 31 run (Rodriguez-Reyes kick)
F — Chris Lide 69 pass from Jacob Gallegos (Rodriguez-Reyes kick)
F — Alex Ward 39 pass from Gallegos (Rodriguez-Reyes kick)
A — Sadler 4 run (Hedlund kick)
A — Sadler 65 punt return (Hedlund kick)
F — Safety, ball carrier tackled in endzone
F — Rose 54 run (Rodriguez-Reyes kick)
A — Sadler 3 run (Hedlund kick)
Rushing — A: Ian Sadler 19-109, Nick Ralston 16-70, Connor Wilson 3-12, Hunter Treadwell 1-3, Jon Pucciarello 1-0, Brandon Boyzuick 1-(-5), TEAM 2-(-30). F: Larry Rose 26-260, Bryson Gates 8-43, Jacob Gallegos 8-21, Charles Oliver 1-2.
Passing — A: Brandon Boyzuick 6-12-1-94. F: Jacob Gallegos 7-16-2-179.
Receiving — A: Ian Sadler 4-73, J.C. Chalk 1-15, Jon Pucciarello 1-6. F: Chris Lide 2-99, Alex Ward 3-65, Larry Rose 1-15, Colby Minze 1-0.