ARLINGTON, Texas – Cuero was winning state championships in football before Pleasant Grove had a high school. The Gobblers won titles in 1973 and 1974.
However, the Hawks are the defending 4A Division II champions, while the Gobblers haven’t won a title since 1987. One still has to be impressed with Cuero’s reputation for winning on the gridiron. They’ve won 48 games the last four seasons, and have averaged more than 10 wins per season since 2000. The Gobblers’ history is rich with 10 appearances in the state championship game.
Pleasant Grove (13-2) and Cuero (14-1) collide Friday at 11 a.m. for the championship in AT&T Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Southwest, and on local radio, with Chuck Zach and Tony Kirk doing the play-by-play and color for ESPN Texarkana.
It depends on who you talk to in determining who the favorite is. The Harris Ratings and MaxPreps have Pleasant Grove the favorite, while four Dave Campbell writers are split on who will prevail.
“This game is going to be a tall task for defensive coordinator Clint Fuller,” Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson said. “I personally think they’re good on both sides of the ball, but they’re loaded on offense with great athletes. They also have three dynamic players on defense. They’ve got a great football team, not just a great player (Jordan Whittington).”
Cuero senior best player Hawks have faced
Whittington will be the best player the Hawks have faced this season. He has 46 receptions for 905 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has rushed for 512 yards and 9 TDs on 31 carries. The University of Texas prospect plays free safety, with 5 of his career 14 interceptions coming in 2018.
The Gobblers have a two-headed monster in the backfield just like Pleasant Grove. Junior Chance Albrecht has 1,524 yards and 30 TDs, while teammate Keiran Grant has 1,410 yards and 25 TDs. Quarterback Michael Barta is not a threat running the ball, but has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,098 yards and 25 TDs, with 7 interceptions.
Cuero can also match the Hawks’ kicking threat (Dillon Willliams) with senior Isaiah Mungia, who has converted 80 PATs, and has been good on 9 of 10 field goals.
The trio of Trey Moore, Lester Denby and Austin Schwarz have combined for 248 tackles. Moore lead his team with 7 sacks.
Yoakum only team to beat Cuero in 2018
Cuero brings a 13-game winning streak into the championship game. The Gobblers’ only loss came Week 2 against Yoakum, 30-20.
“Our coaches, and their coaches I know have been racking their brains to come up with a game plan,” said Gibson. “You can bank on our kids playing hard, putting their hearts and souls into it. We’ve been in these big game moments, which could be an advantage for us. We are tested after playing seven state-ranked teams during the regular season.
“We were very young when the season started, but after 15 games our sophomores are playing like juniors, and our juniors like seniors. I firmly believe these extra weeks have given us a year more experience. Our goal at the beginning was to find a way to the playoffs, and we’d have a chance to play for it all again. We talked about that all year. The biggest thing in this game is that we can’t play cautious. We have to play full-tilt football for four quarters. I think we have a good shot if we don’t have busts.”
Pleasant Grove’s statistics are very similar to the Gobblers. Junior Bruce Garrett leads the team with 1,796 yards and 17 TDs. Senior James Wiggins has 1,252 yards and 10 TDs, while quarterback Ben Harmon has rushed for 388 yards, passed for 1,937 and combined for 40 TDs. Jackson Cobb is the Hawks’ leading receiver with 25 catches for 568 yards and 8 TDs. Linebackers Bladen Reaves, Caleb Hemphill and Nick Martin have combined for 368 tackles.