KATY – From the moment he began playing football as a child, Wimberley Texan junior Dalton Blackburn always dreamt of nights like Friday at Legacy Stadium.
By securing a critical fumble late in the fourth frame, Blackburn made the play that quashed a furious second half Silsbee Tiger rally and helped the Texans escape with a wild 56-43 shootout win in the 4A, Division II state semifinal. The victory catapults Wimberley (13-2) into the 4A, DII state championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the program’s third trip in the last 15 years.
It was all a special moment for Blackburn and his teammates to soak in.
“I’ve dreamed of this since i was little, man,” Blackburn said, voice wavering. “This is crazy.”
Friday’s win was an equally cathartic moment for Texan head coach Doug Warren who exorcised a 2017 state semifinal loss at Legacy Stadium to reach his first state title game as a head coach. Warren was an assistant under former Texan head coach Weldon Nelms during the program’s 2011 title win.
But perhaps more importantly for Warren was having the chance to celebrate a punched ticket to state with his father, a longtime high school head football coach, who never got the chance to do it himself.
“It’s a coaches dream (to play for a state title). My dad coached for a long time, he always dreamed of this opportunity and never got it,” Warren said. “It’s special. It makes my heart feel good for my family, our kids and this community. They deserve it.”
A vital component in Wimberley’s win was an offense that flexed its muscle early and often. Guiding the Texans was quarterback Cooper McCollum who accounted for 359 of Wimberley’s 416 total yards Friday. McCollum went 18 of 28 for 311 yards and five touchdowns passing, three of those scored in the first half.
Wimberley built a 28-9 lead at halftime, which then swelled to 49-16 with roughly 92 seconds left in the third frame. That included a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown by Texan Brandon Martin that came via a Silsbee miscue on the opening kickoff of the second half.
“We came out with intensity that we’ve had before and we were clicking,” McCollum said. “We were executing and kept the intensity high and they didn’t.”
But Warren said he never felt comfortable with the lead, citing Silsbee’s penchant for late game comebacks.
Those worries manifested when Silsbee countered with a 27 unanswered point flurry scored over five-plus minutes highlighted by a 95 yard kickoff return by Drayln Taylor. Wimberley’s lead dwindled to 49-43 with roughly seven minutes in the contest.
Despite the struggles, McCollum said he never worried as the Texans had been “in spots where we were in a way worse situation.”
“We had to trust in each other and what we worked for,” McCollum said. “I was going to put them on my back. We were going to execute and we were going to get the win.”
The Texans turned to their defense which kept Silsbee out of the end zone the rest of the way. Blackburn’s fumble recovery with five minutes left in the game kick started a methodical three minute, game-winning drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown plunge by running back Moses Wray.
Wray, who rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries and had two rushing scores, while also catching four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, said the score provided instant relief.
“We kept driving and fighting and fighting through the storm,” Wray said. “Our coaches tell us, ‘It takes what it takes.’ That’s what we did and we got the win.
The focus now shifts to Pleasant Grove, the lone team that stands between Wimberley and the program’s third ever title. Blackburn said playing like “we’ve never had before” isout necessary for the Texans to win.
For McCollum, who felt the pain of losing in the 2017 state semifinal, shedding tears of joy was a welcome change of pace.
“It’s awesome. You’re seeing tears of joy. I’m doing everything to hold them back,” McCollum said. “Especially after the last few years where no one gave us a chance, it’s awesome.”
Silsbee quarterback Raymond Foster finished the game 12 for 23 passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Tiger wide receiver K’Drian Cartwright caught five passes for 130 yards and touchdown.
Texan wide receiver Jaxson Watts caught six passes for 100 yards and score, while Josh Limely finished with 48 yards on 2 catches and touchdown.