CORPUS CHRISTI–Calallen and La Marque are two high school teams who know each other very well and actually have some bad blood between them after meeting five times in the mid-90-s– all victories for the Cougars.
Calallen (13-1) made it to the state semifinals after blowing out Boerne Champion in the 2nd Half 41-7. It was a great performance as QB Tanner Sparks, WR Marcus Price and the defense turned in a stellar performance.
The Wildcats, who are the District 31 Champs, proved they could come from behind and showed they had a lot of heart in them. When the running game plan didn’t work in the first half, they switched to a passing offense and spread out the Chargers. The defense made some adjustments to shut down the high-octane offense of Boerne Champion.
La Marque (10-3) is in the state semis for the first time since 2006. The Coogs came in fourth place in District 28 and played a rematch against Manvel, a team they beat earlier in the year.
Manvel jumped out to a 22-7, then La Marque turned it on using a balance attack of QB Emmanuel Williams, RB Tim Wright and WR Jamaal Owens in their comeback. They scored 30 straight points en route to a 44-28 victory. They dominated on offense, compiling nearly 500 yards of offense, a stifling defense and mistakes by Manvel, including turnovers and penalties.
What’s ironic is Calallen and La Marque are both proud high school programs with great traditions. La Marque didn’t make the playoffs the last two years, while Calallen didn’t win their district and struggled in the playoffs, getting knocked out in the 2nd round.
Both teams beat relatively new high schools in getting to the state semis. Boerne Champion is only in its third year of existence and had never made it this far in the playoffs, while Manvel also was in the third year and hadn’t gotten this far in the state playoffs too. So essentially, they ended fairy tale seasons for both Boerne Champion and Manvel.
Both teams fell behind early in their games and made great comebacks to win their games in the Region Finals. For La Marque, it was in the 2nd quarter, while for Calallen it was in the 2nd Half.
Both teams have great defenses that are led by strong defensive lines. Calallen has done well this year in stopping the run. In beating Boerne Champion, that’s what helped turn the game around along with some key defensive stops and turnovers. La Marque did the same thing. The senior-laden defensive unit with some Division I College Football prospects starting making key stops against Manvel and capitalized on mistakes and penalties.
That’s where the comparisions end. La Marque will be the fastest team Calallen will play. Usually, the teams in the Coastal Bend and the Rio Grande Valley are a tad bit slower. The key for Calallen will be dealing with the speed of La Marque.
On the other side of the ball, Calallen isn’t your typical Wildcats football team. Yes, they like to run the ball. If you give them a chance, they will run down your throats, but QB Sparks is elusive and he can pass the ball. His play-making abilities may be the difference in this game for Calallen. This isn’t a one-dimensional team, like in the past, when La Marque played Calallen. They have some quick receivers, a punishing running attack and a powerful offensive line.
La Marque beat Calallen five years in a row from 1993-97 in the state semis. The last three years they were state champs, while the first two they lost to Stephenville, who was coached by Baylor Coach Art Briles at the time. They also won two more state championships in 2003 and 2006.
Calallen under legendary coach Phil Danaher has never won a state championship, but made it to the state finals in 2005. They lost to Hebron 28-0. They have made it to the state semis eight other times, but only advanced once to the state title game.
Many of the kids on both sides of the ball won’t remember this rivalry between Calallen and La Marque unless they have siblings or family members to tell them about it. It has been 13 years since they last met and many weren’t even in kindergarten at the time.
In one press clipping, before the Manvel and La Marque game, a source said the winner of that game would be playing in the state title game, but the quote wasn’t attributed to the player. That is bulletin board material and may motivate Calallen to show La Marque you can’t look past them when they meet Friday night at the Alamodome at 7:30 pm.
–Manuel De La Rosa, South Texas Tribune, email@example.com