ARLINGTON, Texas -- It is like old times for Southlake Carroll.
The Dragons are on top of the Texas high school football world again after defeating Fort Bend Hightower, 36-29, in the Class 5A Division I state championship game Saturday evening before 42,822 at Cowboys Stadium.
And thanks to the win, Southlake Carroll became the second school in Texas to own eight state championships, tying Celina for the record. Abilene, Brownwood and Plano all have seven.
This Dragons' victory followed a typical pattern throughout the playoffs. They had to come from behind three times against a more athletic team and did it with the running and passing of junior quarterback Kenny Hill and a defense led by linebacker Will Davis that came up with two game-changing plays in the second half.
Hill accounted for 345 yards and all four touchdowns. He rushed for 116 yards and two scores and completed 19-of-24 for 229 yards and two more scores.
It was Hill’s 6-yard touchdown run with 9:18 remaining that put the Dragons (16-0) ahead for good.
And it was a 7-yard run by Hill on third-and-5 with 1:12 remaining that officially signaled celebration time for Dragon Nation.
Both of Hill’s touchdown throws came after Hightower (13-3) had opened its largest lead of 23-14. Hill went to Sabian Holmes for 59 yards on a post route to cut the Hightower lead to 23-21 and went deep middle again for a 25-yard score to Corey Kemp for a 28-23 Carroll lead.
The opportunity for the Hill-to-Kemp score came about because Davis broke through to drop elusive Hightower quarterback Bralon Addison for a loss of 4 yards on fourth down.
After Addison motored 80 yards to put Hightower ahead 29-28, Davis made his second defensive game-changer, pulling the ball out of the arms of receiver Ryan Nelson and then making the recovery of the fumble himself.
Five years without a state title might not be called a slump at most schools, but it wasn’t that long ago -- 2002-2006 to be exact -- that Southlake Carroll was reeling off four state titles in a five-year span.
Enter Hal Wasson, who had the difficult task of replacing Todd Dodge as Dragons' head coach.
Wasson said he gave the same advice to Hill, following in a long line of successful quarterbacks, that he applied to himself in following Dodge: “Be yourself.’’
Said Wasson: “Nothing has come easy. But the work ethic of these players has personally taught me life lessons.’’