ARLINGTON — Strawn coach Dewaine Lee put it very succintly.
“You don’t have to, you get to.”
That mentality led the Greyhounds to their second consecutive state championship — and fourth since 2008 — as Strawn knocked off Follett 48-0 at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday to claim the Class 1A Division II crown.
It was only the second time in history that a six-man championship game ended with a shutout as Strawn etched its name alongside the 2010 Richland Springs squad. It was the first shutout at any level in a state final since Richmond George Ranch knocked off Mansfield Lake Ridge in the 2015 Class 5A Division I game.
Tanner Hodgkins was named the Defensive MVP after recording five tackles and two sacks. He adds that hardware to the Offensive MVP honors he received in Strawn’s 2017 title game win over Balmorhea.
Offensive MVP honors this year went to Carlos Villanueva, who ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns while adding 49 yards passing.
Strawn finished the game with 303 yards of offense while giving up just 53 yards to the Panthers.
The 53 yards allowed was a state record — shattering the previous record of 121 yards that Richland Springs gave up to Sterling City in the aforementioned 2010 game. Follett’s 39 rushing yards avoided being the worst showing of all time by five yards and its 14 yards passing was the third-fewest in championship game history.
The Greyhounds got off to a perfect start in electing to receive the opening kickoff after winning the coin toss as Jr. Cervantes threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Julian Fraga on the first play of the game, giving Strawn a quick 8-0 lead.
“We basically took what the defense gave us,” Lee said. “We knew their weakness and how they play their defense. We knew we could run one guy out, (and) if he’s not open we’d come back and throw the underneath to our running back. Jr. threw a perfect ball and hit him.”
Luis Loya was stopped for no gain on fourth and 2 from the Strawn 30 on the ensuing Follett possession. Follett coach Andy Copley called that stop the turning point of the game.
“I thought the biggest play was us not getting the first fourth-down play,” Copley said. “They are one of the best six-man teams at any level. They were big, strong and fast. They completely dominated us. Hats off to them. They were excellent.”
Strawn used the momentum to push the lead to 16-0 with 6:17 left in the opening quarter thanks to a five-play, 50-yard drive that took just 1:17 off the clock and ended with Villanueva’s first scoring run of the game.
The Greyhounds then went for an onside kick and Marco Lopez recovered it. Strawn was initially flagged for an illegal touching as the officials on the field ruled that a Strawn player touched the ball before it had traveled 15 yards.
The call led to the first use of instant replay in state championship history — at any level.
Replay review overturned the call on the field and gave Strawn the ball back at the Follett 34.
“You want to give the kids as fair a shot as you can to win,” Lee said. “You don’t want a play to cost someone a state championship because they don’t want to do instant replay. We thought it was awesome because it was a good play and our kid made a great play on the ball. If that game would’ve been tighter and we didn’t have instant replay, that could’ve been very costly.”
Added Copley: “They got the call right (in the booth). I thought the official made a bad call when he said it was short. I was shocked they were replaying it because it was their ball.”
The kick was executed to perfection by Cervantes.
“I don’t really kick it very well some of the time, but it was executed perfectly,” he said. “Marco Lopez made a great play on it. They said he touched it early, but he knew he didn’t. They replayed it and we got the ball back.”
Strawn scored on the next play with Hodgkins uncorking a 34-yard run for a 24-point lead with 6:01 still left in the opening quarter.
After the Greyhound defense came up with another turnover on downs, Cervantes picked up his second touchdown of the game to finish off a four-play drive with an 18-yard run.
Follett’s next first-quarter possession ended when Lopez forced a fumble and it was recovered by Cervantes, who returned it to the Strawn 25.
Three plays later, Villanueva punched it in from seven yards out for a 40-0 lead with 1:36 left in the opening period.
Patyne Ruiz scored on a 1-yard plunge with 1:29 left in the second quarter to provide the final points.
“I’ve only told my wife this but it’s hard to win back-to-back state championships,” Lee said. “You know you have a good team but that comes with a ton of pressure. You have to make sure you don’t have any injuries and you keep everyone out of trouble.
“I think all year, that was the hardest part. But I’m proud of this team and what we accomplished.”
CLASS 1A DIVISION II STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
STRAWN 48, FOLLETT 0
STR — Julian Fraga 48 pass from Jr. Cervantes (Cervantes kick), 9:43
STR — Carlos Villanueva 1 run (Cervantes kick), 6:17
STR — Tanner Hodgkins 34 run (Cervantes kick), 6:01
STR — Villanueva 18 run (Cervantes kick), 3:19
STR — Villanueva 7 run (Cervantes kick), 1:36
STR — Patyne Ruiz 1 run (Cervantes kick), 1:29
RUSHING — Strawn, Carlos Villanueva 5-63, Avelardo Lopez 5-52, Tanner Hodgkins 2-48, Ivan Ruiz 1-23, Lorenzo Garcia 4-14, Julian Fraga 1-11, Patyne Ruiz 3-5, Blaze Duncan 1-(-10). Follett, Dylan Howard 9-22, Christian Barber 7-12, Luis Loya 3-6, Joshua Stuart 1-(-1).
PASSING — Strawn, Villanueva 3-3-0—49, Cervantes 1-2-0—48, Duncan 0-1-0—0. Follett, Barber 2-6-0—14.
RECEIVING — Strawn, Fraga 3-85, Cervantes 1-12. Follett, Fernando Cruz 1-12, Dylan Howard 1-2.
RECORDS — Strawn 13-2, Follett 12-3.