Now that the Dallas Cowboys have made their traditional hasty retreat from the NFL playoffs, we can turn our attention to something near and dear to the hearts of millions of our friends and neighbors: Texas high school football.

That the rosters of the eight remaining NFL playoff teams are dotted with former Texas high school players isn’t a surprise, given that many of us have long believed the level of prep football here is higher than anywhere else. If this sounds like Texas bragging, remember the words of Bear Bryant: “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”

All politics may be local, but that’s nothing compared with Texas’s Friday night lights. Any of us could recite a version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon that ends with a connection to some NFL star—the kid who played for your hometown high school whose brother went on to play at Texas Tech alongside Patrick Mahomes II, or some such.

So, before we address the Cowboys’ loss and offer Jerry Jones some unsolicited advice for dealing with his franchise’s latest postseason meltdown, let’s focus on how to enjoy the remainder of the NFL playoffs from a Texan point of view. Wildcard weekend was a huge statement on behalf of everyone who plays, coaches, or supports high school football in the state.

This isn’t just about the powerhouse programs, although they sure are well represented. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Mahomes played for Whitehouse High School, just outside of Tyler; Tennessee Titans signal caller Ryan Tannehill hails from West Texas’s Big Spring High; and Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford played under legendary coach Randy Allen at Highland Park High School in Dallas. Three of the eight remaining teams start a Texan under center—in crude terms, we could say there’s a 38 percent chance that a Texas quarterback will be going to Disney World after the Super Bowl.

But those marquee names are just the tip of the iceberg. Texas products will be here, there, everywhere in the NFL divisional round playoffs and beyond. Little Elm, in North Texas, has the bragging rights to Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley. San Francisco 49ers tackle Trent Williams’s prowess on the offensive line is still remembered in Longview and throughout East Texas.

Williams has been one of the NFL’s best players at his position for so long that his ticket to the Hall of Fame was punched years ago. Nevertheless, one silver lining in the Cowboys’ 23–17 loss to the Niners was watching Williams enjoying a little back-and-forth with Dallas fans as he left the field at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.

The Rams also feature DeSoto High School legend Von Miller. The pass-rushing specialist is also one of the best players in Texas A&M history, and, like Williams, he’s a dead solid lock to make the Hall of Fame after he retires.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wideout Mike Evans, who spent his high school days at Galveston Ball before skipping up to College Station and A&M on his way to the NFL. And Bellville, a town about seventy miles west of Houston, hasn’t forgotten wideout Emmanuel Sanders, now of the Buffalo Bills, who played at SMU before beginning a twelve-year NFL career. (Nor have still-catatonic New England fans forgotten Sanders’s 34-yard touchdown catch in Buffalo’s 47–17 drubbing of the Patriots last weekend.)

“It was fun to look at [one] NFL game after another this past weekend and see so many players from the state,” new Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire, who won three state championships while coaching Cedar Hill High School, told me. “I’ve said this several times, “but the state of Texas is home to the best players and coaches in the game of football at the high school level. We are fortunate here at Texas Tech to have several Red Raiders still competing for a chance at a Super Bowl ring and can’t wish them enough success over the next month.”

Let’s focus on the three Texans playing quarterback:

Mahomes—He signed with Texas Tech to play baseball and football, but eventually focused on football. Smart move. Only 26, he’s coming off a five-touchdown performance in Sunday’s 42–21 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers and gunning to win a second Super Bowl in four seasons. He wasn’t the best quarterback in the league this season, but he’s always in the conversation.

Tannehill—He was an honor roll student at Big Spring High School and such a conscientious student of the game at Texas A&M that coaches were cautious about being too critical of his play. “He took everything to heart,” said Mike Sherman, head head coach of the Aggies during Tannehill’s time in College Station. “He’s very smart and tries to do everything right.”

Stafford—He was winless in his first three trips to the postseason, all of which came amid a twelve-season stint with the Detroit Lions. On Monday night, in his first playoff game with the Rams, Stafford wrote a new chapter by throwing two touchdown passes in a sterling performance during L.A.’s 34–11 dismantling of the Arizona Cardinals (who had their own Texas legend at quarterback in former Allen High School two-sport wunderkind Kyler Murray). Next up for Stafford: Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs.

Even if watching the playoffs through the lens of state pride isn’t your cup of tea, know this: hundreds of Texas high school coaches are watching—and bursting—with pride.

“It says that a lot of coaches and parents do an outstanding job preparing kids for the next level and for life,” Katy High School coach Gary Joseph told me. “It makes you appreciate the challenge of playing against that kind of talent.”

As for the Cowboys, they did make some history during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. This was their eleventh consecutive playoff appearance without reaching a conference championship game. No team in NFL history has been to the playoffs that often without making a conference final.

Here’s what’s inexcusable about Dallas’s latest disappointment. Although the Cowboys led the NFL in points scored and defensive takeaways during the regular season, the team had two well-known weaknesses: a leaky run defense and the most penalties in the league. If the Cowboys coaching staff worked to shore up those soft spots, it sure didn’t show against the Niners, as Dallas accrued fourteen penalties and gave up 169 rushing yards. 

Jones seems unlikely to fire head coach Mike McCarthy, and Jerry’s son, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, was on Dallas sports radio this week saying he felt “very confident” that McCarthy would return next season. But if time comes to assemble the case against McCarthy, it will start with games like Sunday’s loss. The team’s problems were so easy to identify, yet they were never fixed. That simply wouldn’t happen with a Bill Parcells or a Joe Gibbs in charge.

Although Jerry Jones has kept the Cowboys competitive, with 15 playoff appearances in 25 seasons, the franchise’s lack of playoff success is a telling outlier. At some point, shouldn’t Dallas have at least lucked into a couple more postseason wins?

The morning before Sunday’s loss, the Dallas Morning News ran a front-page story headlined: “How Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned a money-losing team into a $10 billion empire.” The article details how few owners in the history of U.S. professional sports have done a better job generating revenue, building facilities, and maintaining a brand’s prestige—even as the results on the field have been disappointing.

Meanwhile, in Houston, fans of the state’s other NFL team are taking some consolation in comparing the Cowboys’ failures with the Texans’ four playoff wins in six postseason appearances, all since 2011. Over that same eleven-season stretch, the Cowboys have made four playoff appearances, with just two wins.

Jerry’s consolation—and it’s a significant one—is that America’s Team is a powerful, sticky brand. Season after disenchanting season, the Cowboys remain relevant in the hearts and minds of sports fans across the nation. The Texans? Not so much.

Oof. How long till high school football starts up again?