ARLINGTON- The Henderson Lions (13-2) came into the Class 3A Division 1 State Championship game as a heavy underdog, yet the Lions defense came through with 9 sacks to lead the way in a 28-21 win over the Tyler Chapel Hill Bulldogs (13-2) in front of 20,560 at Cowboys Stadium.
Offense MVP Del Barnes who missed most of last week's game with an apparent broken wrist on his non throwing hand, showed incredible guts and determination throwing for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while defensive MVP Corey Fletcher notched four sacks as Henderson was able to contain the vaunted Bulldogs offense.
Henderson jumped out to a quick 7-0 advantage as the Lions moved 66 yards in eight plays scoring on a 15 yard pass from Barnes to Grayland Dunams. After a quick stop by the Henderson defense, the Lions offense got back on the field and quickly jumped up 14-0 as Cord Fletcher scored from a yard out.
Henderson was able to take advantage of a poor punt by Chapel Hill and just a 30 yard field for the second score of the night.
The Bulldogs were finally able to get on the board as junior QB Avery Saenz bought some extra time in the pocket and tossed a 26 yard touchdown pass to Nelson Onwuzu to make it 14-7.
Late in the first half with the Bulldogs pinned deep in their own territory, Henderson's defense came up with a game changing play recovering a Chapel Hill fumble deep in CHHS territory. It appeared to be a botched QB/RB exchange for Chapel Hill and Henderson LB Jordan Leake hopped on the loose football.
Henderson would take advantage with just 15 seconds left in the half as LaMarcus Brown hauled in a two yard touchdown pass from Barnes and it was 21-7 Henderson at the half.
Chapel Hill would receive the opening kick to the second half and after two penalties the Bulldogs were backed up on their own five. However, Chapel Hill RB Laramie Lee would break off a 60 yard run deep into Lions territory. Two plays later, junior RB Andrew Tucker would score from a yard run to cut the Henderson edge to 21-14.
Tyler Chapel Hill had momentum, but they were unable to capitalize as HHS would up the lead to 28-14 later in the quarter on a 47 yard run out of the wildcat set by Jay O'Neal. It appeared on the play that Henderson had some confusion, but the Lions were able to get the correct personel on the field and O'Neal was able to break it up the gut of the Bulldogs defense.
Chapel Hill midway through the fourth was able to cut the lead back to seven at 28-21 on a two yard run by Lee, but after stopping Henderson the Bulldogs were unable to tie the game up. Saenz had a pass fall incomplete on 4th and 2 from the Henderson 44 with less than a minute remaining.
This is the first ever state football championship for Henderson and the second for Lions head caoch Dickey Meeks. Ironically, Meeks guided the Tyler Chapel Hill Bulldogs to the state 4A crown in 1989.