The Texas state football playoffs are a gauntlet, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Undefeated teams facing off, nationally ranked powers against longtime, heated rivals. It all kicks off, then escalates.
And then once in awhile a game like Friday’s Titanic tussle between USA TODAY Super 25 No. 9 Allen (Texas) and Rockwall (Texas) emerges, defying all reason and defense to transform into a fascinating offensive track meet. Here’s what we learned from Friday’s narrow, 60-59 victory for the upstart Yellow Jackets.
1) Rockwall had nothing to lose, so it didn’t
Allen entered as a perennial Texas state title favorite and a top-10 team in the Super 25. Rockwall … not so much. Sure, the Yellow Jackets were in the midst of a remarkable, 10-2 season (the losses came against Texas powers Longview and Highland Park), but they weren’t exactly on a national top-five trajectory. What did that mean? The Yellow Jackets entered with nothing to lose, so they started in attack mode and never left it. That includes going for two after scoring an assumed game-tying touchdown in the final two minutes … and then using a wide receiver option pass on that play, despite a low snap that almost tomahawked it from the outset. Rockwall coach Rodney Webb, talk about going for gusto.
The entire series was near work of art stuff, with multiple third-and-long situations converted and that 2-point conversion. No matter how far Rockwall eventually goes in the tournament, Yellow Jacket fans won’t forget that final drive anytime soon.
2) Jaxon Smith-Njiba is the absolute truth
If there were a high school Biletnikoff award, we could call off the chase right now and award it to Smith-Njiba. The four-star Ohio State commit scored four touchdown receptions … in the first quarter alone! A one-man wrecking crew, Smith-Njiba eventually finished with six scores, including a rushing touchdown that served as his night cap to give Rockwall a 52-38 lead. At the time it seemed that might be enough to salt away the victory, but like so many other things in this insane matchup, that proved an illusion.
Still, to say that Smith-Njiba, a known commodity committed to one of the nation’s top programs, was a revelation is an understatement. Need proof? Watch the highlight reel catches below, which take the concept of “Mossing” to a new level:
3) After expending so much energy to catch up, Allen finally ran out of juice on final drive
It’s understandable, given their early three-possession deficit and a pace that could make a Pop Warner flag football coach blush, but the Eagles offense finally ran out of juice on its final drive. Needing at least a field goal to win with 1:23 left, quarterback Raylen Sharpe authored an impressive drive, complete with multiple scrambles that appeared to save the day. Then, with the ball inside the Rockwall 40, the Eagles got hit with a false start penalty, a minor gain, a rare Sharpe short-armed pass and, finally, a desperate scramble that was stuffed along the sideline by a huge tackle from a Rockwall linebacker. It was a tough ending for a team that started out of the national rankings and earned a spot all the way in the top-10.