Go! Fight! Win!

Presenting the top twenty Texas high school football programs of all time. Let the debate begin.
BOBCAT NATION: Celina, which set the record for the state’s longest winning streak, ranks number eight.
Photograph by Fred Helms

It may be the oldest argument in Texas sports: Which high school football program is the greatest ever? It may also be the hardest to win: How can you compare Abilene High, which won 49 consecutive games in the fifties, with Southlake Carroll, a suburban juggernaut that has won four out of the past five 5A Division II titles?

Easy—I looked at the numbers.

Great teams win championships, so I started way back in 1920, when the University Interscholastic League first sanctioned a state title game (in what must have been a forgettable matchup, Houston Heights and Cleburne tied 0–0). I assigned schools ten points for each championship and five points for being a runner-up. To reward consistency over the years, I also awarded three points for each district title. (I used overall wins as a tiebreaker.) That formula yielded our top twenty teams, and it helped ensure that a small program had just as much of a chance as a big one, since schools play in classes that are based on enrollment.

Finding accurate records going back nearly a century can be tricky; documents get lost or destroyed over time. And though schools are responsible for keeping their own statistics, they aren’t always perfectly reliable. A few years back texas monthly called one prominent coach to find out about his team’s winning streak. When asked how many games he had won, he replied, “Well, I’m not sure exactly.” I did the best I could to match the school’s information with other sources, such as the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, in Waco, and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

As you’ll see, some of the teams on this list are perennial favorites; others were dominant decades ago but have struggled as of late. But all of them, at the end of their championship seasons, could once say that they were the best in Texas.

 

Wichita Falls

1. Wichita Falls

TOTAL POINTS: 215

Location: Wichita Falls
Nickname: Coyotes
Class: 4A
First Season: 1911
State Titles: 6 (1941, 1949, 1950, 1958, 1961, 1969)
Runners-up: 4 (1937, 1959, 1960, 1971)
District Titles: 45
Overall Record: 614-315-47

The golden age for the Coyotes came under Coach Joe Golding, who, from 1947 to 1961, won four state titles and earned an .850 winning percentage. His single-wing offense punished opponents on the ground and in the air. But the Coyotes have always attracted top coaching talent. Wichita Falls has had six consecutive coaches elected to the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor.

 

Plano

2. Plano Senior

TOTAL POINTS: 170

Location: Plano
Nickname: Wildcats
Class: 5A
First Season: 1910
State Titles: 7 (1965, 1967, 1971, 1977, 1986, 1987, 1994)
Runners-up: 2 (1978, 1993)
District Titles: 30
Overall Record: 683-293-49

The dynasty that became a model for suburban schools everywhere, Plano won seven titles over four decades, and the Wildcats also boast more wins than any other school on the list. Coach Tom Kimbrough (below) led his 1987 team to a 16-0 record and a number one ranking in the country. The program recently fell on hard times, losing every game of the season for the first time in its history, in 2003, but Coach Gerald Brence—who led the Wildcats to a state title in 1994—turned things around and reached the state quarterfinals in 2005.

3. La Marque

TOTAL POINTS: 166

Location: La Marque
Nickname: Cougars
Class: 4A
First Season: 1938
State Titles: 5 (1995, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2006)
Runners-up: 4 (1986, 1993, 1994, 1998)
District Titles: 32
Overall Record: 469-175-14

When head coach Alan Weddell first arrived at La Marque, in 1990, the program had been to the state title game only once. By the time he departed in 1997 for a job at Texas A&M University, the program had appeared in five championships, winning three. During his eight years at La Marque, the Cougars went 103-13 and won six district championships. Now all roads to the 4A state championship run through La Marque.

 

Amarillo

4. Amarillo

TOTAL POINTS: 164

Location: Amarillo
Nickname: Sandies
Class: 5A
First Season: 1921
State Titles: 4 (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940)
Runners-up: 2 (1930, 1948)
District Titles: 38
Overall Record: 650-284-19

If certain teams seem to dominate certain decades, then the Amarillo Sandies owned the thirties. Under head coach Blair Cherry—who later coached at the University of Texas—the school captured three consecutive state titles and played for another. During that same time, they also won 54 out of 55 games, including 27 straight. Though the Sandies haven’t made it back to the state title in nearly sixty years, they still have bragging rights: They remain one of the winningest teams in history.

 

Abilene

5. Abilene

TOTAL POINTS: 154

Location: Abilene
Nickname: Eagles
Class: 5A
First Season: 1920
State Titles: 6 (1923, 1928, 1931, 1954, 1955, 1956)
Runners-up: 2 (1922, 1927)
District Titles: 28
Overall Record: 575-331-23

Though Abilene posted an impressive record during the twenties, making it to four state title games, the Eagles’ heyday would come three decades later. That’s when head coach Chuck Moser led the team to three consecutive state titles—and an astounding 49-game winning streak (the second longest of all time). Those feats were enough for the Dallas Morning News to name them the “Team of the Century” (above, a key catch against Thomas Jefferson in 1959). And that’s not the only thing the Eagles like to crow about: Wide receiver Dave Parks, who went on to play at Texas Tech University, was the first overall pick in the NFL draft of 1964.

 

Permian

6. Permian

TOTAL POINTS: 154

Location: Odessa
Nickname: Panthers
Class: 5A
First Season: 1959
State Titles: 6 (1965, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991)
Runners-up: 5 (1968, 1970, 1975, 1985, 1995)
District Titles: 23
Overall Record: 440-123-6

Permian became the face of Texas football to the entire world in 1990 when a Philadelphia writer named Buzz Bissinger published the book Friday Night Lights, which, in turn, inspired a movie and TV series of the same name. It captured the city’s lust for winning (no team

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