Why You Should Care About the Six-Man State Championships
ARLINGTON, TX-- The UIL State Championships are upon us. That means four days of football to crown 12 champions from the 24 teams that have survived the 15 or 16 grueling weeks that have finally come to a head.
Those teams will converge on Jerry Jones' AT&T Stadium beginning on Wednesday.
The Wednesday slate will begin in the six-man ranks with the Class 1A Division 1 final at 11:00 am followed by the 1A Division 2 game at 2:00 pm and the 11-man Class 2A Division 1 game at 7:00 pm.
Thursday will start with the Class 2A Division 2 game at 11:00 am, then the Class 3A Division 1 game at 3:00 pm, and the Class 3A Division 2 game will wrap the day up at 7:00 pm.
The Class 4A Division 1 game will kick off Friday's slate with 4A Division 2 and 5A Division 1 following at the same times as the Thursday games.
Class 5A Division 2, 6A Division 1, and 6A Division 2 will conclude the festivities of the four days on Saturday.
The 6A Division 1 game between unbeaten Allen and Lake Travis (13-2) is certain to draw a crowd. Those two programs have won a combined 10 state championships and Allen was at AT&T Stadium playing Pearland in the State Championships when the current attendance record of 54,347 was set in 2013.
Refugio and Mart are more than likely going to make the 2A Division 1 Championship an interesting one on Thursday.
But, for fans of west Texas football, those aren't the games they should be focused on. The games that should draw the focus of west Texas fans are the two that kick off championship week.
Balmorhea (1A D2) and Borden County (1A D1) are the last west Texas teams vying for glory in return trips to Arlington.
To open up the week, Borden County will take on Jonesboro, the team they beat 60-12 in 2016 to claim their fourth state title.
Balmorhea will take on Strawn in the 1A Division 2 Championship. Balmorhea lost to Richland Springs 96-50 in the 2016 title game.
West Texas has had a stranglehold on Classes 3A to 1A, the lower levels of the UIL's classifications. You have to go all the way back to 1967 for the last time west Texas was not represented in a state championship at the lower classifications of Texas high school football. Even then, Abilene Cooper and Brownwood were in the 1967 4A and 3A State Championship games. At that time, 3A and 4A were the highest classes of prep football in Texas.
That's a streak of half a century.
That's also about the time that west Texas started to lose it's grasp on the major classifications of Texas football.
A year prior to 1967, San Angelo won their second State Championship 21-14 over Spring Branch in 4A. Sonora also beat up on Schulenberg 40-14 in the 1966 1A State Championship.
On 34 occasions from 1920 to 1970, a west Texas school was in a State Championship game in the major classifications. Most of that half century was during the days when schools would promise jobs in the oilfield for families to move their kids in to town and play for them.
West Texas kept fighting to cling to the dominance they had sustained through that time. But, from 1971 to 2000, west Texas only saw 14 appearances in State Championships at the highest levels in Texas. Compared to the run of form from 1920 to '70, that's a 22 percent drop. Since 2001, there have only been three State Championship appearances by west Texas schools in the top half of UIL's classifications.
Abilene Wylie and Sweetwater both made an appearance in the 4A State Championships last year, but the dreams of both teams were left wanting as they each fell in Arlington.
Abilene High is the last team from west Texas to win a State Championship. That came in 2009 against Katy and ended a nine year title drought for major classification schools in west Texas.
These six-man championships are, for the time being, the last remaining dominance west Texas has in high school football.
But it won't be long before the major classifications catch up to that dominance that the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Houston have had over the last decade or so.
Metroplex athletes have utilized the many resources at their disposal in terms of strength and conditioning, whether it is a private gyms or their own regiment at their schools or both. Strength and conditioning programs at the schools in west Texas are starting to rival those at the college level and it shows in the competitiveness seen from Odessa Permian, Midland Lee and San Angelo Central in the 2017 playoffs.
Once again, the Bobcats held their own with a tough team from the Metroplex in their Area Round loss to Mansfield. Midland Lee was also impressive by running with the Trojans of Euless Trinity in their 34-23 loss in the Regional Semifinals.
The next step for west Texas is beating these Metroplex schools. But who knows when that takes place. It could be next year or it could be five years down the line.
Therefore, for right now, fans of west Texas football should be rooting their hearts out for Balmorhea and Borden County when they lay it on the line this week.