In doing my research for my upcoming Texas high school football book entitled High School Football in Texas – Memorable Moments from the Lone Star State’s Greatest Players, I developed a treasure chest of information that I’ll be releasing over the coming months leading up to the release of the book on September 4th.
We’ll get the ball rolling today by letting you vote on the best Texas team ever.
This poll idea came out of my interview with Craig James, who told me that he believes his 1978 Stratford state championship team is overlooked in the “best of” conversations. The ’78 Spartans won the Class 4A state title, which was the largest classification at that time.
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Stratford went a perfect 15-0 with James shattering Earl Campbell’s Class 4A state rushing record with 2,411 yards. As a team, the Spartans ran the wishbone to perfection with over 7,000 yards. Stratford scored 532 points, which was the second most all-time then.
“That team concept worked for us,” said James, who went on to star with Eric Dickerson as one half of the Pony Express at SMU. “Give a lot of credit to our coaches, plus I played around a bunch of good guys, who bought into the concept of ‘State in 78,’ which began when we were sophomores.”
The ’78 team also has the distinction of three recent state champs. The Spartans beat 1976 state champ San Antonio Churchill in the state semifinals, 1977 state champ Plano in the finals, plus they beat ’75 winner Port Neches-Groves during the regular season.
“Our team did a lot that season against some stiff competition, and I believe has the credentials to be one of the best ever in Texas high school football history,” said James.
Former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who is now the head coach at the University of Illinois, believes that his Big Sandy teams in the 70’s believe to be in the conversation. The 1975 team won its third consecutive state title with Smith and David Overstreet leading an incredible offense and defense.
In my book, Smith talks about being the cornerstone of Big Sandy’s defense that only allowed fifteen points all season. Overstreet and the offense scored a then state record 824 points. Overstreet, who died in a car accident after playing one year with the Miami Dolphins, averaged over 23 yards per carry in 1975.
“What people should realize is that Coach (Jim) Norman kept the score down, plus the second half was always played with a running clock,” recalled Smith. “If it weren’t for that, who knows how many points we would have scored.”
Aside from Stratford and Big Sandy, other teams that you have a choice of voting for are below in alphabetical order:
1956 Abilene – from 1954 through 1956, the Eagles were one of the most dominate high school football programs in the nation. Abilene won three straight state championships with a 49-game win streak. Abilene was led by running back Glynn Gregory, who went on to play cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys. Gregory, who is considered one of the state’s best all-around athletes, was twice named All-State and All-American. The Eagles won the title despite losing its starting quarterback before the playoffs. Backup QB Gervis Gailbraith didn’t complete a pass during the playoffs.
2013 Allen – The Eagles won the second of three straight High School Football America “mythical” national championships in 2013. Allen was led by quarterback Kyler Murray, who will try to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma this year. Murray was 43-0 as the Eagles’ starting QB. His 43 wins were a large chunk of Allen’s 57 game win streak that was snapped in 2015.
2010 Aledo – with Johnathan Gray on his way to breaking the national scoring record with 205 touchdowns, the Bearcats won their second of three straight Texas state championships. Aledo was a perfect 16-0 while scoring over 48 points per game. As a junior in 2010, Gray scored an incredible eight touchdowns against La Marque in the championship game.
1996 Austin Westlake – with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees at the helm, the Chaps rolled to a 16-0 season ending with a Class 5A Division II state title. Brees and his teammates blew-out Abilene Cooper 55-15 in the state championship. Westlake averaged over 41 points a game.
Coming into the season, Brees, who never lost as a high school starter, was coming off a knee injury that he suffered in the third round of the playoffs during his junior season. Westlake head coach Ron Schroeder told me during our interview for my book that good things just seem to happen for Brees because he works hard.
“He (Drew) had a great team around him, but the key was that they bought into Drew’s way of leadership,” said Schroeder. “The thing about Drew back then was that he could beat you mentally, just as much as physically.”
1975 Big Sandy – set a national scoring record with 824 points, while only allowing 15 points on defense with eleven shutouts.
1983 Daingerfield – like Big Sandy, the Tigers roared with a rock solid defense. Daingerfield only allowed eight points while scoring 631 in winning the Class 3A state title. The Tigers’ defense put up 14 shutouts.
1988 Dallas Carter – the ’88 season was immortalized in the film Friday Night Lights. The Cowboys were loaded on both sides of the ball with linebacker Jessie Armstead becoming America’s first-ever three-time high school All-American. Armstead went on to a Pro Bowl career with the New York Giants before playing his final years with the Washington Redskins.
1985 Houston Yates – the Lions had five future NFL players with half of its 36 seniors moving on to play college football. Yates was a perfect 16-0 while averaging 41.1 points per game. The Lions had eight shutouts, including a 37-0 romp over defending state champ Odessa Permian, which snapped the Panthers’ 33 game win streak. Yates only allowed 4.8 points per game.
2015 Katy – the Tigers captured the school’s eighth overall title, which tied them with Celina and Southlake Carrol for the most all-time Texas high school football state championships. Katy was led by a dominate defense that allowed only 62 points all season. The Tigers, who were named “mythical” national champs by MaxPreps, had ten shutouts.
1999 Midland Lee – with future NFL running back Cedric Benson running for 3,526 yards, the Rebels rolled to the second of their three straight state titles. Midland Lee averaged 41 points a game that season.
2006 Southlake Carroll – the Dragons won their third straight state title in 2006 by beating Austin Westlake quarterbacked by Nick Foles, who won the Super Bowl MVP in February for the Philadelphia Eagles who beat the New England Patriots. Riley Dodge, who was recently hired as the Dragons’ head coach, was the team’s quarterback. Under Riley’s dad, Todd Dodge, Southlake Carroll went 79-1, winning three “mythical” national championships.
1978 Stratford – as I mentioned at the beginning of this story, Stratford amassed an incredible 7,000 yards on the ground in winning the Class 4A state title.
1973 Tyler John Tyler – led by future College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, Tyler captured the state’s 4A state championship. Coming into the season, not much was expected of the Lions since they had never made the playoffs and only had three returners on offense…although one was Campbell. Tyler beat Austin Reagan 21-14 with Campbell setting a single-season state rushing record with 2,036 yards. Campbell will be featured in my book High School Football in Texas – Memorable Moments from the Lone Star State’s Greatest Players that you can pre-order online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and wherever books are sold.