Five for Frisco Football: 2018 Regional Semifinals

Photo Credit: Lone Star – Reedy match-up 2017-18 season. Suad Bejtovic Photography

The two highest-ranked high school football teams in Frisco ISD continued their quest for State last weekend, providing local football fans lots to be thankful for.

The Frisco Reedy Lions (12-0) continued their unblemished magical season and the Lone Star Rangers (10-2) shined big and bright with Area Round wins. Now, it’s on to the Regional Semifinals.

The going gets tougher as it goes along, but that’s what we like about high school football, right? To quote an old blues song, “I ain’t superstitious,” but I won’t mention how many rounds (counting this one) stand in the way of twin state champions in our fair burgh. I won’t even say you can count them on one hand and have surplus fingers. (Or a thumb.)

Below are FIVE THINGS to look out for in each game!

HelmetReedyLionsGame One: Reedy Lions (12-0) vs. Burleson Centennial Spartans (11-1)

Class 5A, Division 2, Region 27 pm Friday, December 1, Southlake Carroll Dragon Stadium

1. This! Is! Sparta!

Centennial is ranked #7 in Class 5A Division 2, coming off a big win against the Corsicana Tigers in the Area Round last week. The Spartans held off a furious Tiger fourth-quarter push to win 28-26. Can they summon their inner Leonidas and continue their march?

2. Lucky 13

The Reedy Lions continue their best season in school history, roaring along on a 12-game winning streak. This feat is all the more outstanding considering the football team is only three years old. Will they notch their 13th win and push closer to the State finals?

3. There Be Dragons

Reedy and Burleson will square off in Southlake Carroll’s Dragon Stadium, a site where many football champions were born. They’re a 6A powerhouse and have won eight state titles. Is there any dragon power for the teams to tap into in the Southlake stands?

4. The Black and Blue Region

There’s something very special about Class 5A Division 2, Region 2. The four schools still standing at this stage of the playoffs (Reedy, Burleson Centennial, Aledo, and South Oak Cliff) have only one loss – between them. Centennial was crushed at home in Week 3 by (who else?) Aledo by a lopsided 63-16 score.

Prep pundits favor the Aledo Bearcats (12-0) to win it all this year. The Bearcats demolished Lovejoy 62-28 in the Area Round last week. South Oak Cliff knocked out the Frisco High Raccoons last week 48-16. Aledo and South Oak Cliff meet this week in an epic smackdown. The season’s first loss for either school will end their season. Brutal.

5. Lion Kings

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, as King Henry IV will attest. (Bet’cha didn’t see a Shakespeare reference coming!) To be great, one must meet and overcome adversity. Reedy hasn’t had a lot of that this season. In the matchup against Centennial will come their biggest test since Week 2 against The Colony, a narrow 33-24 victory. The average margin of victory for the Lions to this point is 29 points.

LoneStarRangersGame Two: Lone Star Rangers (10-2) vs. Tyler John Tyler Lions (9-2)

Class 5A, Division 1, Region 22 pm Saturday, December 2, Dallas ISD John Kincaide Stadium

1. The Showstoppers

The John Tyler Lions won what many consider the greatest high school football game ever played. Their 1994 state championship season featured a matchup with Plano East. In the State Regional Final played in the Cowboy’s Texas Stadium, the Lions led the Panthers 41-17 with 2:42 left in the game. Victory seemed assured. However, the Panthers had other plans.

They scored a touchdown late, and kicked an onside kick. They recovered and scored another TD. Then, they kicked another onside kick, retained possession, and scored another touchdown. The Panthers kicked a third consecutive onside kick, recovered it, and drove to another touchdown to take a 44-41 lead with only 24 seconds left in regulation.

Plano East, no doubt confident of the win, elected to kick off deep to seal the deal. John Tyler returner Roderick Dunn – the same guy that lost control of the Panthers’ second and third onside kicks – fielded the kickoff without issue and returned it for a John Tyler touchdown, earning the Lions a 48-44 victory and a page in the history books.

The game was awarded the ESPN “ESPY Award” for “Showstopper of the Year.”

2. Win the Day and First Half, Too

The Lone Star Rangers built their success upon a foundation of taking it one game at a time. It’s easy to look ahead to your next opponent, but in the playoffs, that next opponent doesn’t come around unless you win the game in front of you. “Win the Day” is the Ranger mantra.

Head Coach Jeff Rayburn and his staff have ingrained that philosophy into their team, and that’s especially important this year as the team seeks to reach higher heights than the Jason Shelley-led Rangers of 2015 that lost to Cedar Park 22-6 in the State 5A Division 2 State Championship Game. The 2015 Rangers were the first team in Frisco ISD to play in a state championship game.

In 2018, the Rangers have bunched up their scoring in the second half of games, and Coach Rayburn would like to see them start as strong as they finish. The Ranger defense has been stout all year and the offense has only recently begun to catch fire. Lone Star blew out their last two playoff foes, Mansfield Legacy (41-6) in the Bi-District Round and state title favorite Lufkin (49-21) in last week’s Area Round.

Lone Star junior star receiver Marvin Mims is the Ranger’s game breaker (1,158 yards receiving, 14 TD, 19.4 yards-per-catch average). Rangers quarterback Julian Larry (2,086 yards passing, 22 TD) will need to find ways to get Mills the ball with room for him to run if the Rangers are successful.

3. Two Halves Make a Whole

For the John Tyler Lionsit will be essential to play two complete halves of football. The Lions have been a strong first half team this season but have let up in the second half when victory seemed more like as formality. The Lions have averaged 36.5 points-per-game in 2018, while the Rangers averaged 33.4.

4. CUJO

West Texas has its MOJO at Odessa Permian, the original Friday Night Lights school. Out east in Tyler rose country lives another dominant force: CUJO. Yes, that’s “Cujo” as in the Stephen King-penned rabid, supernatural, unstoppable St. Bernard that was a gentle giant until he stuck his nose into a bat cave. Texas High School Coaches Association 2018 Hall of Honor inductee Allen Wilson began the tradition. Wilson led John Tyler from 1991-2001, with an overall record of 102-34-2.

The Lions take the CUJO personality so seriously they wear it across their chests in lieu of the school or mascot name.

5. Tartan Turnabout to Come?

In Week 3, Lone Star faced the state’s top-ranked team, perennial powerhouse Highland Park. It was a tight contest with the Scots squeaking out a 10-7 victory on a field goal by their backup kicker with a single second left on the clock. In the Area Round last week in Waco, Lone Star beat state championship favorite Lufkin 49-21.

With the Panthers out of the state picture, it could be argued that the remaining Dallas-area powers, Lone Star and Highland Park, would be favored for a rematch in the State 5A Division 1, Region 2 title game. Beating Mansfield Timberview (Highland Park defeated them 42-7 in the regular season) and Lone Star topping John Tyler are keys to keep the two schools on a collision course of delicious proportions.

Footnote: Jinx-Free Edition

I write this as I throw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder into the devil’s eyes, straighten the horseshoe on the wall and ensure neither Reedy nor Lone Star has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I’m also knocking on wood and giving thanks I’m not the seventh son. (They turn into werewolves in Argentina, apparently.)

So…here’s the thing. The University Interscholastic League, or the UIL, realigned area schools for this year and next, dividing Frisco ISD teams into Class 5A Division 1 and 5A Division 2. Lone Star is in Region 1. The Reedy Lions are in Division 2. Region 1 has its state championship round and Region 2 has its state championship round. Never the twain shall meet, at least for two years. East is East and West is West, as the old Kipling ballad goes. (Another literature reference!)

Are you still with me? OK.

Frisco Lone Star and Frisco Reedy have an opportunity to do something that has never been done in Texas high school football: Win TWO state titles.

The Rangers could win State in Division 1 and the Lions could become State Division 2 champions. Returning to the idea of counting remaining rounds I brought up at the beginning of this story, four more wins by each school will result in something truly special.

Let’s give these wonderful Frisco programs the support they deserve and cheer them on to that lofty goal. That’s a big thumbs up!

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