ARLINGTON — For a lot of people, it was a shock to see Ian Sadler miss the first-team cut on this year’s Associated Press Class 3A all-state team.
And though he didn’t directly say he felt snubbed, perhaps Sadler had something extra to prove.
The Argyle senior and Texas Tech commit turned in an eye-popping performance in Friday’s 38-33 Class 3A Division II state title win over Fairfield and was named offensive MVP.
Every time he touched the ball, he ran with purpose. And with the game on the line, he thrived.
“It [motivation] wasn’t necessarily toward me, but having Fairfield with I think six first team all-state guys, it kind of put a bitter taste in our mouths,” said Sadler, who made second team all-state. “So we wanted to come out and prove something.”
It was inevitable that Sadler would have a huge say in how things went for Argyle (16-0) on Friday. But as the night wore on, a battle of one-upmanship started to brew between the Eagles’ ace and Fairfield running back Larry Rose.
The two seniors turned in dynamic offensive performances, with Sadler racking up 182 yards (109 rushing, 73 receiving). He scored four times, including a 65-yard punt return early in the third quarter.
Three of his scores came in the second half, erasing a seven-point halftime deficit.
“It was breathtaking [to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game],” Sadler said. “I’m really not sure how else to explain it. He [Rose] is a spectacular player, but I had faith in my defense. It made things more fun having things be that close.”
Rose was almost the perfect antidote.
He gashed the Argyle defense for 260 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns. His 54-yard breakaway with 11:01 left in regulation was a solid gut punch to Argyle’s newfound momentum, as it gave Fairfield a 33-31 lead and undid what had been a 14-point scoring spree by Sadler.
“He [Rose] was just a spectacular player,” said Argyle senior linebacker Colton Hinnrichs, who was the game’s defensive MVP. “You’d play him one way and he’d just go another way.”
Sadler and Rose’s combined offensive yards (457) represented 60 percent of what both teams combined for on the night (758). Furthermore, Sadler had several snaps at quarterback in the wildcat formation and was also a big factor on special teams; two of his four punts were downed inside the Fairfield 5-yard line.
“Going into the game we knew he [Sadler] was a great player,” Fairfield coach John Bachtel said. “He can play quarterback, running back and wide receiver, and he always makes big plays. We knew it would be hard to contain him. He’s just a great football player.”
Rose’s offensive performance was also special when you consider he rotated in and out at cornerback throughout the game. Late in the second half, though, Rose was still going strong.
The difference was simply that Sadler got in the end zone more than Rose did.
Trailing 24-17 at halftime, Sadler capped a five-play, 52-yard drive with a 4-yard run off a direct snap. He gave Argyle the lead a little more than two minutes later with his punt return.
With his team trailing after Rose’s 54-yard run, Sadler handled the ball three times on an eight-play drive and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.
“He [Sadler] gives it his all every day,” Argyle junior running back Nick Ralston said. “He got this win for us. The Gilmer game was a special one for him, too, but he got the gold this time.”
Sadler admitted after the game he was pretty anxious to get things going Friday. Two years ago he had barely made it through the first quarter of Argyle’s last state title game appearance when he heard his right knee pop after taking a handoff.
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.
The Eagles lost that game to Wimberley, one of two state title losses coming into Friday.
“This was the best I’ve felt in a while,” Sadler said. “That [past game] didn’t factor in, but I was anxious to get on the field, play a whole game and have a much better outcome.”
Argyle is now 27-2 since that loss to Wimberley and finished the regular season this year ranked No. 1 in 3A by The Associated Press.
And even though Sadler did not earn first-team recognition on this year’s AP all-state team, he turned out to be one of the best players in the state.