Every Tuesday & Friday, we dive into the archives, the record books, the people, events and things that shaped the world of UIL Football in the past 100 years in Texas.
Finding success is one of the things that can be hard to come by for many schools out there and for the Midland Bulldogs 2002 season, that road led to their first and only appearance into the state championship game. In fact, the last time prior to the 2002 season the Bulldogs had such a memorable season, was the infamous 1988 season in which events of the legendary book Friday Night Lights was set. Of course that season, the Bulldogs lost out on a trip to the playoff by way of perhaps the most famous coin flip in American football history. In fact, the Bulldogs had not seen the playoffs prior to the 2002 season, since the 1951 season and had not won a post-season game since 1936, the final year of the first of three Presidential terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Bulldogs would advance to the state championship with a 24-14 win over Tyler Lee in the state semifinal.
Unlike Midland, the Converse Judson Rockets were expected to be in the thick of the state championship picture every year. Prior to the 2002 season, the Rockets had been in a total of eight state championship games winning four of them along the way. Their first state championship in 1983, was a 25-21 win against Midland’s cross-town arch-rival Midland Lee. Five years later in 1988, the Rockets lose to Dallas Carter 31-14, but would later be award the state championship via a forfeit. That same Dallas Carter team would also be involved in a hotly contested game against another Midland rival in Odessa Permian, which is one of the subjects of the Friday Night Lights book by Buzz Bissinger. That forfeited game would be one of five state titles the Rockets would own prior to the 2002 season.
In the 2002 season, both 5A games as well as the 4A Division II and 3A Division I state championship games would be held just miles from Judson’s own backyard in the Alamodome. Judson’s path to the state championship game was not quite as easy as Midland’s improbable run. The Rockets staved off back-to-back overtime wins in both the bi-district and regional playoff rounds against Austin Bowie and San Antonio Clark. They would go on to defeat Victoria Memorial and Alief Elsik the next two weeks to make the state championship game against Midland at the Alamodome.
In the first seven minutes of the game, the Bulldogs would be on cruise control with a quick stop of Judson with a three-and-out on defense to start the game. Then on their opening drive, the Bulldogs would march down the field in 11 total plays and 80 yards to take a 7-0 lead over the Rockets on a 16-yard run by T.J. Barber. On the next possession, Judson would fumble the ball on their own 13-yard line resulting in a recovery by Midland linebacker Wade Koehl, who would scoop up another score by the Bulldogs making it a 13-0 first quarter score.
On the next Judson possession, the Rockets would start on offense in midfield and would drive down to the 11 yard line where Chancy Campbell would cut the Midland score to a 13-7 deficit. Later on, early in the second quarter, Dustin Quinney, who was the Rockets quarterback and kicker, would get the score to a 13-10 mark on a 32-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs had a second-and-goal at Judson’s 1-yard line, and Koehl ran it in from a yard out to extend the Midland lead to 19-10, but an illegal motion was called on the Bulldogs wiping out the score. A play later, Barber fumbled a pitch from Midland quarterback Ryan Rowland, with Judson’s Shannon Anderson recovering the loose ball at the Judson 11-yard line.
The Bulldogs would soon take over at their own 9-yard line with Koehl fumbling the ball and Berlon Jones recovering the ball at the Midland 13-yard line. On the next play, Chancy Campbell would collect his second touchdown of the game with a 13-yard run, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Rockets.
Midland would once again drive down the field and enter the red zone at the Judson 19-yard line. Berlon Jones would then sack Rowland knocking the ball loose as Judson’s Brandon Jackson recovered the fumble at the Judson 33-yard line. On the first play of the Judson drive, Quinney hit T.C. Wilson for a 47-yard catch and then two plays later Campbell would get his third touchdown of the first half from 17-yards away to give Judson a 24-13 halftime lead.
Midway through the third quarter, Midland would trim the Judson lead to a 24-19 deficit on a 16-yard pass from Rowland to Jason Russell. Midland would elect to go for two to try to make the game a three-point affair and would fail.
After trading drives and going into the fourth quarter, with just four minutes left in the game, Midland wide receiver T.J. Barber would collect his second touchdown of the game on a 45-yard pass from Rowland giving the Bulldogs a 25-24 lead. he Bulldogs again would elect to go for the two-point conversion to go up by a field goal, which would fail.
Judson would drive down the field once more and eating up valuable clock time. With 1:10 left, the Rockets would regain the lead with a 27-25 score on a Quinney 27-yard field goal.
It would take the Bulldogs just under a minute to go 66 yards in five plays to reclaim the lead with a 22-yard touchdown catch from Rowland to Zack Sledge. The Midland Bulldogs looked poised to win their first state championship amid an improbable playoff run with just 22 seconds remaining in the contest.
Dustin Quinney and the Judson Rockets would have one final chance. On his own 24-yard line and with 17 seconds remaining, Quinney would launch a Hail Mary throw towards the opposite side of the field with Andre Williams racing past the Midland defense and grabbing the catch to give the Rockets a stunning 33-32 win.