By Abigail Funk
Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Coaching Management.
Coaching Management, 14.10, November 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1410/greenmachine.htm
Since the state football playoffs in Texas extend well into December, they often contribute to the holiday cheer of the winning communities. And few places in Texas have had more to cheer about than Southlake, the home of Carroll High School. The Dragons have won three University Interscholastic League Class 5A Division II state titles in four years, winning 63 of 64 games in the process.
The Christmas theme was unmistakable on December 17, 2005, as more than 30,000 fans descended on Irving’s Texas Stadium, site of the state title game. Carroll’s side of the stadium was a sea of green, and Katy High School’s was a solid block of red.
Carroll was in a receiving mood early. Senior quarterback Greg McElroy completed eight passes for 133 yards including two touchdowns to help the Dragons to a 17-0 lead. But Katy got on the board with a field goal in the closing minute of the first half to make the score 17-3 and carried the momentum into the locker room.
The Tigers came out roaring as the second half started, tallying the first 10 points to cut Carroll’s lead to four. “They definitely had our attention,” says Carroll Head Coach Todd Dodge. “Katy had made a comeback in its fourth-round playoff game after being down by 28 points, so we knew what that team was capable of.”
The Dragons scored the next 17 points, including two McElroy touchdown passes, to make it 34-13. Katy scored a late touchdown to make the final score 34-20, giving Carroll back-to-back state championships and its sixth title in school history. The Dragons also set a 5A record with 32 straight wins over its two undefeated seasons.
“It was a tremendous atmosphere,” Dodge says. “Two of the most storied programs in Texas meeting the weekend before Christmas—and just two years after they beat us in the championship game.”
Dodge is referring to the 2003 season when Katy won the state title and handed the Dragons their only loss in 64 games stretching from 2002 to 2005. But Dodge denies using revenge as a motivator leading up to the title game.
“The media did that for me,” he says. “I felt that our team and Katy’s team were completely different squads from two years before. It would have been a distraction for me to be ranting and raving about revenge in the locker room. I’m not naďve enough to think the kids weren’t hearing about it, but I didn’t need to throw gas on the fire.”
Dodge’s teams handle media pressure like pros. Several games are televised each year—including the 2005 championship game—and players are scrutinized by commentators and fans everywhere. “I never worried about pressure with this team,” Dodge says. “Our kids came out very focused and didn’t pay attention to the cameras and hoopla. I think it’s really important to be honest with your team as to what you expect in public situations, and I expect our players to be professional and not get distracted.”
Carroll’s offense receives a lot of media attention—the last four 5A state offensive players of the year have been Carroll quarterbacks. McElroy picked up the MVP award for his performance in the championship game and finished the season with 56 touchdown passes, a 5A record. Senior receiver McKay Jacobson had six catches for 110 yards in the title game, including the last two touchdowns.
But Carroll’s defense may have been the deciding factor that day, stifling Katy’s offense at the line of scrimmage, forcing missed field goal attempts, and intercepting four Katy passes. “Football offenses in general probably get way too much credit,” Dodge says, “and sometimes defenses are forced to take a backseat. But in our fieldhouse everyone knew how good our defense was. Even if they don’t get publicity in the media, they sure are bragged on around here.”
Certainly nobody was left out of Carroll’s celebration following the game. The noon kickoff left the rest of the day open for festivities, and after the 15-mile bus ride back to Carroll’s campus, the team met thousands of family members, friends, and community supporters already waiting.
“I got a chance to announce the players who had made all-district and all-state teams,” Dodge recalls. “A lot of the kids had put those individual honors on the backburner, and it was nice to be able to recognize them. We broke several team and individual records, so there was a lot to celebrate.”
Looking back, Dodge says there was an unmistakable feeling of success on the field beginning with the first two-a-day practice before the season. “We were defending state champions and had six returning starters on offense and six returning starters on defense,” he says. “At our first meeting, all we asked of the team was to try to reach its potential. Well, there were high expectations for the season, and the potential was to win a state championship. And that’s what we did.”
School: Carroll High School, Southlake, Texas
Head Coach: Todd Dodge
2005 Season: 16-0, University Interscholastic League Class 5A Division II Texas state champions
State Championships: 2005, 2004, 2002, 1993, 1992, 1988
Notes: Carroll moved up to Class 5A in 2002 and went 63-1 over the next four seasons ... Head Coach Todd Dodge started his coaching career at Carroll 0-3, but is 82-8 since ... Dodge is coaching his son Riley at the starting quarterback position in 2006 ... Carroll finished the 2005 season second in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings.
Title Game Memory: “It was the most complete game we played all year, and that’s saying a lot,” says Dodge. “When coaches talk about offense, defense, and special teams all coming together, you definitely hope it happens in your state championship game.”