History was abundant this past weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington as the venue hosted several days of championships to wrap up the high school football season.
In particular, one little area of South Dallas was the most talked about during the weekend.
On Friday, the Dallas South Oak Cliff Bears (13-3) became the first team in the history of the Dallas Independent School District to win back-to-back state championships by downing Port Neches Groves 34-24 in the 5A Division II final. It prompted a smiling head coach Clifton Todd to tell folks to call him “Two Time Todd.”
But the history making was just beginning.
Saturday, DeSoto’s Claude Mathis became the first black coach to win a state championship at the 6A level, leading the Eagles (14-2) to a 42-17 dismantling of Austin Vandegrift. In his second swim through DeSoto, Mathis celebrated his accomplishment with twin sons Caimon and Crimson.
Mathis had come close twice before with DeSoto, losing twice to Allen and Kyler Murray in the state final in 2013 and 2014, their only two losses during a 31-game stretch over two years.
“We started getting healthy. I told our radio announcers if we get healthy by week two of the playoffs we can do something really special,” Mathis said.
As the evening concluded, the most excitement was yet to come. Duncanville’s Reginald Samples became the second black coach to win a title at the 6A level – and it was one exciting route to his first state championship.
Facing a fourth-and-4 at the Duncanville 15, Galena Park North Shore’s quarterback ran up the middle and came up an inch or two shy of the necessary yardage. The Panthers came away with a 28-21 victory, their first state title since 1998, and they finally defeated their nemesis.
North Shore had previously defeated Duncanville (15-0) in the state final in 2018 on a Hail Mary pass, then 31-17 in 2019 and 17-10 last season.
In addition, DeSoto and Duncanville became only the third duo from the same district to win state championships in the same season. It happened in 1995 with Converse Judson and San Antonio Roosevelt and in 1997 with LaMarque and Texas City.
Mathis said the feat justifies the nickname for District 11-6A, the District of Doom. Also this season Waxahachie finished 10-3 and advanced three rounds in the playoffs. In previous season, along with Duncanville playing for a title in four of five seasons, DeSoto joining them this year, Cedar Hill reached the 6A Division II title game in 2020.
“Playing these teams prepares you for what we were facing now,” Mathis said. “That’s one tough district.”
Samples echoed those sentiments, saying simply that he wasn’t surprised DeSoto won state and that the district “Gets you ready. You don’t like to lose.”
The Panthers and Eagles are also known for their tough predistrict slates. This year DeSoto’s included St. Francis Academy in Baltimore, ranked eighth in the nation. The Eagles lost the game at home 47-7, but Mathis credited the matchup for making his team better and more prepared for the state title run.
“I don’t back down from anybody and there was nobody better than St. Francis this year,” he said.
In fact, the Eagles faced three teams that were at time ranked in the nation’s top 13. They dropped a 41-17 contest at Duncanville and in the state semifinals defeated previously unbeaten Denton Guyer (14-1) 47-28.
The Eagles ended the season ranked 21st in the nation.
Duncanville, which finished seventh in the nation, had a predistrict slate that included a 44-21 home victory against Florida powerhouse Orlando Jones.
And South Oak Cliff had both on their schedule. The Bears opened the season with a 23-10 home loss to Duncanville and a 42-23 road loss at DeSoto, sandwiched around a 21-3 loss to Lancaster, which finished 9-3 and advanced to the second round of the postseason.
The Bears became one of the few teams ever to bounce back from an 0-3 start to win 13 straight and take home a title.
“It says a lot about our district, our community, it says a lot about coach Samples,” said Mathis, who stuck around to congratulate his friend. “You add coach Todd in the mix, and you’ve got three.”