Why you should be watching the Texas high school football championships

Cedar Hill's Aca'Cedric Ware runs upfield between Katy's Paddy Fisher and Travis Whillock during last year's 5A Division II championship. The two teams meet again this year for the 6A Division II crown. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

If you are a sports fan, and especially a football fan, then it’s time for you to make the Texas high school football state championships part of your appointment viewing each year. The land of Friday Night Lights plays 10 championships over three days in the sport’s greatest modern monument to itself, AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Those three days start Thursday, and it's the biggest three days of football fans miss out on while they wait for bowl season to arrive. Over those three days last year 221,339 people watched the state crown its champions in person and another 14,288 attended the 6-man football championship games. A whopping 54,347 watched the title game between Allen and Pearland, the biggest schools vying for hardware. It’s football’s most passionate state, celebrating the culmination of another year worthy of any season of FNL, with just the finale left. The atmosphere builds over three days, the dramas play out in three-hour windows, and the product on the field is really, really good. It’s a bucket list-level event. 

Austin Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter holds up the Class 4A Division I UIL state championship trophy.
Austin Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter holds up the Class 4A Division I UIL state championship trophy.

Don’t have the time or the money to get down to Arlington? That’s fine. If you’ve got the sports package on nearly any television provider in the U.S., you likely have Fox Sports Southwest (and if you don't, your local sports bar does), which will broadcast every game. Not just the big schools, not just the primetime games, but nonstop football from Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. ET through Saturday, Dec. 20 at 9 p.m. ET. In the midst of college football’s lull before the bowls, before the tension of the NFL’s final weeks plays out on Sunday, football obsessives will be handed an early Christmas present. And there's never any sense in leaving a Christmas present unopened.

Carthage players watch the video board during their Class 3A Division II UIL state championship game in 2010.
Carthage players watch the video board during their Class 3A Division II UIL state championship game in 2010.

If the lure of bonus football games isn’t quite enough at face value, then watch for Kyler Murray, one of the nation’s top prep quarterbacks and a Texas A&M commit, as he attempts to lead his Allen Eagles to a three-peat. Watch because the Canadian Wildcats will drive 342 miles from their hometown in the top of the Texas panhandle to match their spread attack against the Wing-T – yes, the Wing-T, of the Mason Punchers. Yes, that is really their nickname, and get this: It is short for “cowpunchers.” Watch because the Katy Tigers (Andy Dalton’s high school) are arguably the greatest team of the last 15 years in Texas, and they’re playing Cedar Hill for the third year in a row, with the first two meetings split and both teams improved over last year’s squads. Watch because the smallest schools, Albany and Bremond, have an enrollment of less than 150 students, and they’ll stand with the same trophy on the same field as Allen and Cy Ranch, with enrollments that average 20 times that. Watch for the blue chip recruits coming to a college near you, and watch for the kids playing the last meaningful game of their lives. Watch because you love football, or watch because you love a great story, over and over again.

And if you need more reasons, Austin American-Statesman preps reporter Danny Davis crunched the numbers for a host of compelling angles to follow:

17: Seventeen of the 20 state finalists have already won a state championship. Katy leads the Arlington-bound schools with seven prior titles, but Class 3A’s Waskom and Mineola and Class 6A’s Houston Cypress Ranch have yet to win a championship.

5: Five schools – Aledo, Allen, Argyle, Cameron Yoe and Cedar Hill – are defending a championship this week. Cameron Yoe and Allen are looking for their third consecutive titles.

117: Katy and Cedar Hill are meeting in a state championship game for the third straight year, and the Class 6A, Division II finalists combined to score 117 points in their previous showdowns. Katy recorded a 35-24 win over Cedar Hill in 2012’s Class 5A, Division II title game, and Cedar Hill earned a 34-24 win over the Tigers in 2013’s Class 5A, Division II championship game.

0: All four of the Class 2A finalists – Albany, Bremond, Canadian and Mason – are undefeated. Class 4A is the only other classification that has more than one undefeated team left standing. Class 3A’s four finalists have combined for 11 losses, and three of those four contenders boasted 2-3 records at one point this season.

12: Twelve of the 20 state finalists were ranked in one of the Associated Press’ polls at the end of the regular season, but Cameron Yoe, Cedar Hill, Cedar Park, Cypress Ranch and Mineola were the only unranked schools that did not pick up a single vote in the final poll. Class 4A, Division I’s showdown between Navasota and Argyle is the only match-up that features the top two teams in a classification’s poll.

The games this year are played in order of smallest schools to the biggest, starting with Albany and Bremond at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, and closing with Allen and Cy Ranch on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. 

Here’s the schedule, courtesy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. For more info on attending the games, check out their page. You can also visit the University Interscholastic League page for more information. All 10 games will be televised live on Fox Sports Southwest. Games may also be bumped to Fox Sports Southwest Plus; check your local listings.

Thursday, December 18
10 a.m. —
2A Division II State Championship: Albany vs. Bremond
1 p.m. — 2A Division I State Championship: Canadian vs. Mason
5 p.m. — 3A Division II State Championship: Waskom vs. Newton
8 p.m. — 3A Division I State Championship: Mineola vs. Cameron Yoe

Friday, December 19
12 p.m. — 4A Division II State Championship: Gilmer vs. West Orange-Stark
4 p.m. — 4A Division I State Championship: Argyle vs. Navasota
8 p.m. — 5A Division II State Championship: Ennis vs. Cedar Park

Saturday, December 20
12 p.m. — 5A Division I State Championship: Aledo vs. Temple
4 p.m. — 6A Division II State Championship: Cedar Hill vs. Katy
8 p.m. — 6A Division I State Championship: Allen vs. Cy Ranch

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Max Thompson is at the Texas state high school football championships for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter!