Posts Tagged With: Cedar Hill

Cedar Hill vs. Austin Westlake: State Semifinal

 

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The Cedar Hill Longhorns had a 14-7 lead over the Westlake Chaparrals at the half yesterday at the 5A DII semifinal in Waco. Some leads feel safer than other and going into the half, I feared the missed opportunities of the first half could be decisive.

Unlike last week against Midway, the Longhorns did not play perfect football against Westlake. Cedar Hill had completely dominated the first 24 minutes of play. The Longhorn defense was outstanding; Westlake had just three first downs at the intermission. However, a bounce off the leg on a ‘Horn DB during a quick punt gave the Chaps the ball on the 1 yard line leading to their only 1st half score. The Longhorns blew several scoring chances during the 1st half. A great pass into the endzone went through the hands of Laquivonte Gonzalez when he lost it in the sun and sophomore kicker Brooks Ralph missed two field goals that would have extended the Longhorn lead.

Any team playing five rounds into the playoffs is dangerous and the fact that the Chaps had managed to keep this game as close as they had was scary. It’s hard to leave so many points on the field and win against great teams.

The second half was a seesaw battle, Cedar Hill faltered again, fumbling the play after getting a defensive stop and setting up a tying score by the Chaps. The ‘Horns responded with a 77 yard run by Bobby Jackson, sprung the final 20 yards by an outstanding block by receiver Quincy Adeboyejo to retake the lead 21-14. When Gonzalez scored from 8 yards out to give the Longhorns a 28-14 lead, it looked like the game might be in hand.

Westlake responded with a touchdown to close the score to 28-21 with 6:10 remaining. Cedar Hill’s offense still couldn’t get going and were forced to punt again. The Chaps converted on a great pass and catch on 3rd and 15 to the 50. On the next play, the Longhorns were caught in a blitz and nobody covered running back Sean Rollins in the flat. The pass went to the 6 yard line and the Chaps punched it in a few plays later tying the score at 28 with 2:30 to go.

The momentum was completely on Westlake’s side, the Chap crowd was on their feet when the ‘Horns took the ball for their final drive from the 28. After a first down, Cedar Hill faced a 3rd and 12 from their own 38, needing a first down or facing likely overtime.  Cedar Hill quarterback Damion Hobbs connected for 21 yards on an amazing catch by Adeboyejo to keep the drive alive, another 10 yard pass and a five yard scramble by Hobbs put the ball on the Westlake 25 with 8 seconds remaining when Cedar Hill called their final timeout. The Longhorns decided to put the game on the foot of Brooks Ralph despite his two earlier misses. This time, the sophomore connected from 42, sending the Longhorns to the championship with a 31-28 victory.

Cedar Hill did not play their best football, but they did have some great clutch performances. Bobby Jackson rushed for 172 yards on 15 carries, filling in for power back Larry Hill who injured his knee against Midway. Adeboyejo made some amazing catches when most needed. Despite a few big play breakdowns, the defense made some big stops and completely dominated the first half. The poise shown by sophomore Brooks Ralph, getting a chance to redeem his earlier misses; calmly winning the game in the face of all that pressure was very impressive.

The Longhorns will play their first championship game since winning it all in 2006. They meet the undefeated Katy Tigers Saturday at Cowboy Stadium. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to hitch my wagon to the Longhorns just as they started their incredible run six weeks ago. I couldn’t have scripted it better than having one of my original 11, playing on the final day I’ll be working on this project.  It’s been a great ride and I’m looking forward to a great finish.

Ralph #41 moments before the kick

Ralph #41 moments before the kick

'Horns Celebrate

‘Horns Celebrate

 

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Cedar Hill vs. Waco Midway Quarterfinal

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I don’t know if I have ever seen an offense click as much as Cedar Hill’s the past two weeks. After a dominating game against Arlington in round three, it seemed that the ceiling should have been reached. But this week against Waco Midway, the Longhorn offense took things to a new level. The Cedar Hill offense was almost flawless in their execution.  It’s a given that Cedar Hill has a lot of speed and will make big, athletic plays. What’s missed in watching the highlights is the consistency of this unit. With 56 offensive plays, Cedar Hill had zero penalties, were 4 for 4 on 4th down conversions, quarterback Damion Hobbs was 18-20 and 199 yards. On the ground Hobbs, Larry Hill and Laquvionte Gonzalez combined for 239 yards on 39 carries. They were sharp, clean and versatile, hurting the Panthers with long passes, screens, pounding the ball inside and getting to the edge.

For all that, the big play of the game was made by the ‘Horn defense. Leading 21-14 in the second, the Panthers had a first and goal from the 2. A bad snap set up a 3rd down from 20. Attempting to pass, the Panther quarterback was hit from behind, losing the ball. Bulldog linebacker, Jonathan Buffin  scooped up the loose ball and ran 80 yards for his second defensive score in two weeks, giving the ‘Horns a 28-14 lead.

The Panthers battled back, closing the score to 28-21 with 1:38 in the half, setting up the 2nd big Longhorn drive. A good return and an amazing catch by Quincy Adeboyejo put the ball on the Panther 2. With the clock running, the Hill offense kept their composure and scored on a 2 yard run with 4 seconds in the half.

The next big point came on the Longhorns first possession of the second half. Cedar Hill converted three times on 4th down on a 14 play drive that ended with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Adeboyejo.

Leading by eight, the ‘Horns hammered the final nail in the Panthers coffin in the 4th quarter. Taking the ball on  their own 14, the Longhorns faced a 3rd and 1 when Larry Hill broke the line and went 49 yards for the final score with 1:37 remaining, final score: 49-34 Cedar Hill.

I have to give credit to Midway. They are a great team and would never go away, but made a few mistakes and this was fatal against a team playing such a clean game.  At this level and by this round of playoffs, the remaining teams are so good that the margin of error is tiny. Midway played well, but several letdowns cost them in a game that Cedar Hill played almost perfectly.

The win sends Cedar Hill to Waco for a semifinal showdown against Austin Westlake. This is the 1st time the ‘Horns have gone beyond the quarterfinals since winning state in 2006. It’s been exciting to watch this team for the past 5 weeks and I look forward to Saturday in Waco. As I said last week, if this team keeps playing this well, they are very hard to stop.

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Cedar Hill vs. Arlington 3rd Round Playoff

 

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The Arlington Colts came out with a lot of swagger before their 3rd round matchup with Cedar Hill yesterday in Mansfield. Several Colts broke pregame etiquette, crossing midfield and taunting Longhorn players. I’m not sure it would be accurate to say the move backfired, because I’m not sure the attempt to get Cedar Hill off their game and into their heads fazed the ‘Horns at all.  The Longhorns may have played their best game of the season, dominating on both sides of the ball to win 49-14.

The big play of the game occurred early. Late in the first quarter, with the score tied at 7, Safety Jonathan Buffin intercepted a Colt pass and took it back 64 yards for a Longhorn score. From there on out it was all Cedar Hill, scoring the next 35 points before Arlington finally scored a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes against Cedar Hill backups. It’s encouraging that Cedar Hill seems to be playing better every week. As I’ve heard a few times this week, “There are no more turkeys after turkey day”, and the Longhorns will need to keep playing well next week against an undefeated Hewitt Midway in the regional championship next Saturday. That said, if they play as well as they did against Arlington, the Longhorns will be very hard to beat.

In doing this, I’ve become very invested in the teams I’ve spend time with. I’ve grown to know and respect the coaches, kids and other people I’ve met at each of my eleven schools. So, for me, the bad part of yesterday had nothing to do with Cedar Hill but with what was occurring up the road between Midway and Abilene High. An Eagle win would have set up a meeting between Cedar Hill and Abilene, two teams I know very well and rematch of an epic game between these two schools during the 2009 playoffs. It looked great until the end when Midway came from behind in an improbable comeback in the final seconds. Heartbreaking lose for the Eagles, but it takes nothing away from their program. I met great coaches and people in the city of Abilene, I’m just sorry that I won’t a chance to see them play again this season.

Of my original 11 programs, 4 will be playing next weekend, as well as Stamford and Cedar Hill, Carthage advanced to the 3A-DI semifinal and Throckmorton to the 6-man semi. This coming Friday, I will be in Beaumont to see Carthage play El Campo for a spot in the state championship. Saturday, I’ll return to the Metroplex to see Cedar Hill play against Hewitt Midway at Midlothian.

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Cedar Hill-Denton Ryan, rant about the state of the game and 8 minutes with T’rock

 

Cedar Hill advanced to the third round yesterday, on a perfect day for football at Dragon Stadium in Southlake, outlasting Denton Ryan, 48-35. It was a very entertaining game and, as always, I’m just amazed by the talent I see in Texas and 5A football in the metroplex takes the usual Texas talent to another level.  Ryan had no answer for the Cedar Hill offense. On the ground and through the air, the Longhorns scored quickly and almost every time they touched the ball. I’ve had the pleasure to watch this team three weeks in a row, and each time they have looked a little better on offense. They seem to be clicking at the right time and they look like a very confident group. Cedar Hill took a 14-0 lead before the Raiders ever touched the ball; recovering an onside kick after scoring on their first possession, the ‘Horns quickly scored again.  From there it was a track meet with both teams trading touchdowns. Ryan scored on some broken coverages and several trick plays to stay in the game until the final minutes. In the end, Cedar Hill’s defense made three stops, one in the first half and two in the second, and that made the difference.

The win sets up a third round game between Cedar Hill and Arlington High next Saturday.

As entertaining as all the football was this weekend, I’m not sure about the current trend of the game. This was the second game in a row I saw WITHOUT A PUNT. Not that anyone gets excited about watching punts, but the balance between offense and defense has gotten out of whack.

Football has always been kind of a pendulum between offensive and defensive tactics.  Offense coaches find new ways to move the ball down the field, other coaches copy those methods and scoring goes up. Defensive coaches than come up with new ways to attack the offense, coaches’ copy and scoring goes back down.

The problem is, nobody has yet figured out a consistent way to shut down the spread. This offense spreads the field vertically and horizontally, simplifies assignments, gives the quarterback the ability to take advantage of mismatches and puts the best athletes in open field where defenders have to make decisions that can never be right. Play aggressive and this offense will kill you with screens, hang back and the quarterback will have time to pick apart your coverage and find a receiver. ‘Backers read keys and the QB reads (options where the QB can either hand off the ball or pull it out and run.) will blow up. I don’t have an answer, it will take a defensive coach a lot smarter than me to come up with the next big evolution and I don’t see it on the horizon.

After the game I drive to Early, about 2 hours southwest of the Metroplex, hoping to get there in time for the 2nd half of the Throckmorton game against undefeated Water Valley. Fortunately/unfortunately this game was, unexpectedly, a blowout. Throckmorton was up, 46-8 when I arrived at the half. The mercy rule ended the game a few minutes into the 3rd quarter as the Greyhounds won 62-16.

I’m going to be tying up loose ends in West Texas; then to Wichita Falls on Thursday for Stamford- Quanah in their 1A game. Stamford has been playing very well; I’m looking forward to seeing them again. From there it’s down to Houston to see La Marque play the undefeated and top ranked team in the 3A, Navasota. This coming Saturday will be a tough decision; Cedar Hill-Arlington and Abilene-Hewitt Midway are both in the metroplex and at the same time. I hate to miss either one of them. Also have to miss Carthage and Throckmorton again. Hopefully they all will keep winning and keep giving me tough choices to make.

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Cedar Hill vs. Copperas Cove Bi-District

 

The Cedar Hill Longhorns began their playoff run at Hewitt Midway near Waco defeating the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs 35-28. The ‘Horns came out very strong, running the score to 35-7 late in 3rd quarter. The ‘Dawgs showed some fight in the 4th quarter,, scoring 3 unanswered touchdowns and getting a failed onside kick away from having a shot for a tie in the final minutes. Copperas Cove deserves credit for the comeback, but the bottom line is that Cedar Hill was, by far, the superior team.They have so many ways to hurt you that, I‘m guessing, they will go as far as their execution takes them. When they play their best football they are very hard to beat.

I’m heading home to Reno in a few hours I’m very excited to spend a few days with my wife, daughter, granddaughter and dogs after spending 4 months living in motels. I will be returning to Texas on Thanksgiving, in time for the second round. All ten of the playoff teams I’ve followed this year survived to the 2nd round, so I have some decisions to make about where to go. Make suggestions or check back later in the week if you want to know where I’ll be.

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Cedar Hill vs. Midlothian

 

Last night was the last night of the regular season in Texas. While both Midlothian and Cedar Hill knew they had wrapped up playoffs spots in the 64 team 5A division 2 bracket, the top seed from the 7-5A was up for grabs. (For all you out of Texas readers lost in this lingo, I’ll explain the playoff process in detail in a post later this week.) For now, just know seeding can be a huge factor in making it though the 6 game tournament and the winner last night would have an advantage when the playoffs begin next week. Also on the line was bragging rights, the communities of Cedar Hill and Midlothian are neighbors and have a long history on the field. Several of the Cedar Hill coaches make their home in Midlothian and in a game where rivals meet only once a year, this kind of thing means a lot.

In any close game there are a hundred little things one can point at making the difference between winning and losing. On the winning side, this means that everyone on the field and all the coaches that made decisions own part of the victory. On the losing end, every contributor was one play away from changing the outcome.  Friday night at Midlothian the margin between winning and losing was razor thin. Maybe it’s just 20/20 hindsight, but more often in not, these hard fought games seem to go to the team with the intangible belief that they will find a way to win. It’s not provable, but despite never holding a lead for the first 47 minutes of the game, the Longhorns seemed like a team who expected to win and in the end found a way.

Midlothian has often been the underdog in this series, but last night the Panthers started strong. Cedar Hill opened with a strong drive, reaching the Midlo 20 yard line before a interception and return to the opposite 40 gave the Panthers the early momentum. Four plays later, Midlothian scored to take an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The home team was threatening to add to their lead later in the 1st when the Panther quarterback lost the ball during a sack, Longhorn tackle Calan Johnson scooped up the loose ball and ran 90 yards for the first Cedar Hill score. A missed PAT left the score 7-6. Throughout the game, the Panther offense did a very good job grinding down the field, the Panther QB did a outstanding job running his read option, pulling the ball out and making some big runs. The Panthers scored again early in the 2nd quarter to take a 13-6 lead. In the final minutes the half, Cedar Hill put together a good drive, scoring to tie the game at 13 on a one yard QB dive with less than a minute to go in the half.

As they have all year, Midlothian opened up the second half with a explosive drive scoring in just 4 plays, to take a 20-13 lead early in the 3rd. the Longhorn defense settled down and pinned the Panthers deep, several poor punts into the wind gave the Horns great field position and Cedar Hill again tied the game on a 4 yard touchdown pass from Damian Hobbs to Jared Rayford.

On the following possession, Midlothian took control of the game, converting on 3rd down twice, 4th down once and running seven and a half minutes off the clock to score a touchdown and take a 6 point lead, but missing the extra point.

That missed turned out to be the difference, as the Horns moved the ball down the field, opening up big holes for running back Larry Hill and Damian Hobbs. With just 37 seconds remaining and a running clock,  Texas A&M commit Laquvionte Gonzalez, got around the right edge on a fly sweep and hit the pylon, tying the game, this PAT was good and, for the first time Cedar Hill had the lead, 27-26. Midlothian fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the ‘Horns celebrated.

The win gives Cedar Hill a 1st round matchup with Copperas Cove next Saturday in Waco and momentum going into the playoffs. I want to thank Coach McGuire, his staff and the rest of the Longhorns for a great final week of the regular season. This is a very fun group and I’m looking forward to following then to Waco next week.

31 motels and 11,200 miles down and this wraps up one part of my project. It’s sometimes been a grind, but it’s been an amazing experience as well. When I was coaching I often wondered what was going on in the other coaches’ offices. How do other teams prepare? How do other coaches deal with problems similar to the ones I had? What is the atmosphere like on gameday for other staffs? This past 11 weeks have given me insight most coaches never have the opportunity to get.

Whether I chose wisely or was just lucky, I’m not sure. But I’m convinced these programs are all great examples of high school football at its best. They each brought something different to the table, they don’t have a lot in common when it comes to demographic, coaching style and region of the state. But all of them provide programs that teach great football and life lessons that will stay with their boys the rest of their lives.

Though the regular season has ended, my project and this blog have not. Ten of my 11 teams are in the playoffs and I will follow as many as I can each week through the state championship games six weeks from now.  Regardless who eventually is playing in the end, I’ve committed to seeing this through and I will be in Cowboy Stadium in December before making the drive home. The brackets are still being put together, check back later in the week to see which playoff games I’ll be covering this weekend.

 

 

 

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Final Week:Cedar Hill Longhorns

When I showed up at Cedar Hill Saturday, I was a little apprehensive. The Longhorns had lost a tough game to Mansfield the previous night and I wondered if I would be walking into a tense office, on edge and trying to get things right for the playoffs. I needn’t have worried. Coach McGuire met me at the door of the field-house with a big smile and gushed about what a great game I’d missed the night before.

Changing misconceptions about high school football is a major point of this blog and the book I’m writing. The popular image of a coach is of the stern, distant Tom Landry type or the intimidating, Mike Ditka hard-ass. None of the eleven coaches I’ve spent time with remotely fit this caricature. These are men who care about kids and believe that they are building better men through their programs. Like all people, coaches have different personalities and after a few years in the business, coaches learn not to try to be someone they aren’t, but to coach in a way that fits who they are. The best coaches are the ones who have a personality that matches their program and philosophy.

Coach McGuire’s enthusiasm is not a put on, it’s who he is and it fits with the atmosphere he’s created at Cedar Hill. The Longhorns practice to music playing on the stadiums loudspeakers, the kids are often reminded to “have fun” and Coach McGuire can be seen joking with kids and yelling, “It’s a great day to be a Longhorn!”  An integral part of the philosophy at Cedar Hill is to create a loose and positive atmosphere where kids want to be. None of this means Longhorn practices aren’t productive or the coaches aren’t demanding. The kids and coaches know what the goals are and when to take care of business. In the past two days I have seen a lot of excellent coaching and learning. Some might wonder if a loose atmosphere gets in the way of discipline at Cedar Hill. I’ve seen nothing to make me think this is the case and a state championship in 2006 shows the success of this model.

One of the big advantages of the Texas system is the interaction it allows the coaches to have with their players. With 18 coaches and an athletic period allowing all the coaches to see the kids during the entire year, coaches have more freedom to work with the kids on a personal level. Coach McGuire and his staff can both coach effectively and have fun at the same time. In Nevada, as in most of the country, the coach/player ratio is much larger and the hours are much fewer, leaving little time to do much beyond what is absolutely required. The Cedar Hill coaches (and the coaches of all 11 programs I’ve spent time with) do a great job in a system that supports them in providing outstanding programs.

The Cedar Hill Longhorns are 5-4, but have played possibly the toughest schedule in the entire country. On top of playing in 7-5A, which Maxpreps listed as the tenth toughest league in the country, they also played Allen (ranked 5th by Dave Campbell Texas Football), Denton Guyer (3rd in 4A) and Washington High from Miami, currently ranked 3rd in Florida. They have clinched a berth in the 5A division two playoffs and may be a real player when the postseason starts in two weeks.

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Cedar Hill

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Cedar Hill is going to be a lot of fun to watch. They have tremendously talented kids, a tough defense and nine returning starters in an offense that uses, “every formation you can possibly run from a gun or pistol set”, according to Coach McGuire. Building on what I wrote yesterday, Cedar Hill’s offensive philosophy is to create defensive confusion and mismatches by running as many formations as possible. I lost track of all the D-I prospects the Longhorns had on the field, but it’s very obvious they will be able to hurt defenses a lot of ways. As with all the teams I’ve watched so far, practice was very efficient, well organized and the kids had the outstanding technique that comes from years of quality coaching.

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Coach McGuire with the Longhorns after practice.

The Longhorns must have one of the toughest schedules of any team in the country. They open vs. preseason 4A #1 pick Denton Guyer, followed by 5A #6 Allen, then USA Today preseason #11 in the country Washington from Miami, Florida, all before opening district play vs. 5A #8 Desoto. Please write me if you know of anyone with a tougher start of this season.

I got a lot of little hints that this is going to be a very interesting place to visit later in the season, and I’m looking forward to spending a week with them in week 11 for the Midlothian game.

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Hanging in the coaches office bathroom. Thought it was a nice piece of teaching philosophy

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