By Jimmy Oliver
1.) North Shore Mustangs (TX) vs. Lufkin Panthers (TX), Oct. 3: Despite playing on the coattails of a 28-day layoff due to the devastation of Hurricane Ike, North Shore won its state record 73rd straight regular-season game in thrilling fashion.
Despite trailing for most of the game, North Shore earned the victory thanks to quarterback Alex Tillman finding DeAndrew White in the end zone with 26 seconds left, enabling the team to come away with a 28-21 win in hostile territory. Southlake Carroll had previously held the state record from 1986 to 1994.
It was simply inspriring and unthinkable to see North Shore not only win the game in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion, but for the squad to set a state record on 28 days rest that -- a time that witnessed complete destruction of the communities around them.
In the latest version of the “Backyard Bowl,” the two Oklahoma juggernauts – who have shared the last 12 large-school titles – battled to overtime before Jeremy Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run proved to be the difference.
Union had been leading 17-3 early in the fourth quarter before Beau Marsaln made back-to-back touchdown throws to tie the game at 17-17. Union had a final chance to win in regulation, but the squad’s 40-yard field goal attempt hit off the upright.
In the extra session, Union’s defense held strong while the squad’s offense found pay dirt on Smith’s 1-yard scamper.
These two teams met again for the 6A title, a game that saw Jenks come away with a 34-20 victory. Talk about redemption.
3.) Baton Rouge Central Wildcats (LA) vs. Destrehan Wildcats (LA), Dec. 5: Although this Class 5A semifinal contest featured six fumbles, there were even more storylines that vaulted this one into the top five.
For instance, Ed Cutno took over at quarterback for Central after four plays because starter Will Briscoe couldn’t go anymore due to a torn ACL suffered earlier in the week. Cutno filled in admirably and went 13-27 for 191 yards and completed passes to eight different receivers, sparking his side to a 7-6 halftime edge.
But Cutno also made a costly mistake with this team in the red zone, throwing an interception to Antonio Parker, which was returned 106 yards for a touchdown, an early score which proved to be the different in the game.
Meanwhile, Wyndrick Smothers of Destrehan put his team on his shoulders and led them on two second half scoring drives. Smothers threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Armstrong to help his team knot the game and then threw a 67-yard pass that set up Marshall Charles’ 14-yard touchdown run.
Josh John’s 24-yard touchdown catch from Cutno put Central within one score late, but the Wildcat defense held strong and came away with a 21-14 win.
4.) Longview Lobos (TX) vs. Midway Panthers (TX), Dec. 6: This one-point Lone Star State playoff game makes the list as the No. 4 matchup in the top five games of the year as Longview prevailed in overtime, 43-42, on an Aaron Johnson touchdown run.
But that touchdown was anything but ordinary. As Johnson was being tackled near the goal line, the tailback still managed to extend the ball across the plain. After review, the officials ruled that it had indeed crossed the goal line for a score and a Longview victory.
The win sent the Lobos to the state championship contest.
This one featured a postseason matchup that was decided in overtime, was a high-scoring affair, had some controversy and also had an exciting play that proved the difference. It doesn’t get much better that that.
5.) Allen Eagles (TX) vs. Hightower Hurricanes (TX), Dec. 18: The Texas 5A Division 1 final had all the makings to be a classic, and it surely did not disappoint. Both teams were loaded with speed and athletic ability and it showed.
Allen proved they were a team of destiny by coming from behind to beat Hightower, 21-14, in the season’s pinnacle contest despite playing with backup quarterback Tucker Carter since the second round of the playoffs.
After the squads traded turnovers in the first quarter, the game settled down with Hightower up 7-0. Perhaps the play of the game came in the second quarter when the Allen defense broke up a potential touchdown on a fourth and goal attempt by Hightower.
Late in the third quarter, Allen’s Jeremiah Williams caught a pass out of the backfield for a nifty 3-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7. The Eagles scored two more touchdowns to go ahead 21-7 with 5:17 to play, but Hightower wasn’t finished. Darius Johnson took the ensuring kickoff 77 yards to set up the Hurricanes’ next score, making it 21-14 with 5:00 to play.
Allen would hold on for the victory and signal the conclusion to one of the more unprecedented state championships for some time in Texas.
To contact correspondent Jimmy Oliver, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.