DeSoto head football coach Claude Mathis could hardly contain his emotions. After all, there was so much to take in after his Eagles defeated the Austin Vandegrift Vipers 42-17 to win the Class 6A Division II state championship Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Mathis became the first black coach to win a state football championship at the 6A level. He accomplished it at the school he loves, coaching his twin sons Caimon and Crimson.
Prior to the start of the post-game press conference, Mathis was counting the many texts on his phone, “I’m up to 208, 209, oh, 210. What a feeling.”
Mathis had previously achieved the feat of having won a title as a player at Bartlett High School in 1990. He’d come close as a coach before, twice falling in the state final to now Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and the Allen Eagles in 2013 and 2014.
“As a player it’s memories. As a coach, you see those guys (other coaches) hold it up. You always want to win one,” Mathis said.
And now he has done that. But as special as it was for him, Mathis stressed that it was a team honor, emphasizing “team.”
“I’m so excited for our players. Just to see our kids win it, our coaches win it, just to see their smiling faces,” he said.
“This means everything. We couldn’t let him down,” Caimon said. “We were preaching in the summer, one down, one to go after we won the 7-on-7 state championship.”
The Eagles (14-2) led 21-10 at the half as Darius Bailey threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to Tre Wisner and 42 yards to Johntay Cook. Deondra Riden added a 4-yard run.
After the Vipers (14-2) closed to within 21-17 early in the third quarter, DeSoto countered with TD runs of 6 and 7 yards from Riden. Bailey and Wisner connected for the game’s final score early in the final period, a 62-yard pass.
Riden, the offensive MVP of the game, rushed for 187 yards on 32 carries. Wisner caught six passes for 135 yards and carried five times for 79 yards. Cook hauled in three receptions for 103 yards. Bailey finished 14-of-18 passing for 297 yards and rushed seven times for 45 yards.
In all, DeSoto amassed 614 yards of offense (317 rushing, 297 passing). The defense held Vandegrift to 203 yards (119 rushing, 84 passing), had five sacks for 41 yards in losses and another 13 tackles for 57 yards in losses.
Jason Douglas, the defensive MVP, led the Eagles with 5.5 tackles, two sacks (minus 9 yards) and four tackles for loss (minus 12 yards). Caimon Mathis had 4.5 tackles and Keylan Abrams had four tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss.
“We couldn’t even get our footing. DeSoto did a good job of attacking,” Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders. “They were about as fast as I feared.”
This is DeSoto’s second state football championship, the first coming in 2016.
At press time Duncanville, also from District 11-6A, was playing Galena Park North Shore for the 6A Division I championship. If the Panthers pulled off the win, it would be only the second time in history two teams from the same district won state championships in the same year, joining LaMarque and Texas City in 1997.