Northwestern commit Brad North and the Allen (Texas) Eagles opened the season in their new state-of-the-art high school football stadium in front of 18,000 fans. They ended it at Cowboys Stadium, the crown jewel of the NFL, by winning a state championship in front of 49,953.
North, a left tackle who will play guard or center for Northwestern, did the blocking while quarterback Kyler Murray and running back Marcus Ward ran for a combined 260 yards and four touchdowns as the Eagles beat previously undefeated Houston Lamar, 35-21, for the Texas Class 5A Division I championship.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game,'' said Allen coach Tom Westerberg. "That's a really good team we played tonight. This game was more about the big plays."
The Eagles used big plays -- they had three scoring runs of 55 or more yards -- to offset the fact that they were outgained 447-299 and had 15 fewer first downs.
Allen got a slow start as their first drive concluded with a botched snap sailing over the punter's head and out of the end zone for a safety.
It wasn't until the third possession of the game that Murray slipped out of the backfield and sprinted to a 55-yard touchdown. Allen's next drive lasted one play as Murray made one move and sped 68 yards for a 14-2 lead with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
Lamar, though, struck back in the second quarter on two touchdowns by quarterback Darrell Colbert -- a 41-yard pass to Cory Mitchell on a third-and-23 and a 7-yard run with just 1:12 left.
In between, Murray hit Cole Carter for a 12-yard TD pass and Allen's lead was just 21-15 at the half.
Lamar drew even at 21 when Beau Wells hauled in an 18-yard scoring strike with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
That's when former QB Oliver Pierce turned the tide with a 77-yard kickoff return to the Lamar 16. Ward hit paydirt on a 1-yard run five plays later for a 28-21 lead that the Eagles would not relinquish.
Ward then iced the title with a 67-yard run with 6:06 remaining to close the scoring.
Murray ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries but was limited to just 7-of-16 for 49 yards and one touchdown passing. Ward ran for 117 yards on 16 carries and his two TDs.
Mitchell led the Redskins with four receptions for 77 yards, while Colbert collected 181 rushing yards, 207 passing yards and three combined touchdowns.
The crowd of 48,379 was just short of the record 49,953 for a high school game set by Plano and Port Neches-Groves in 1977.
North and Allen's offensive line were dominant all season for Allen, which averaged more than 44 points per game despite losing starting running back Jeff Harris to a torn ACL. Murray, too, was a key factor, after transferring from Lewisville at the start of the season. The sophomore spent the first five games as Pierce's backup before taking the reins full time.
Interestingly, North thought that Allen's lone loss -- a 27-24 setback against Coppell in Week 5 -- proved to be the team's catalyst.
"You saw the emotions just change," said North.
Allen finished 15-1 and claimed the school's first title since 2008.
North becomes the second member of Northwestern's Class of 2013 to claim a state crown: athlete Keith Watkins and Cincinnati Moeller won the Ohio state championship.