Shadow Creek ready for the spotlight
ARLINGTON — Brad Butler lives by words and lessons Randy Allen exemplifies.
The Shadow Creek coach saw much of it playing under Allen as a quarterback from 1988-1989 at Brownwood High School.
One lesson in particular that is applicable to coaching — there are other pathways to results outside of yelling and screaming. The way Allen treated his players was the way Butler would treat his one day.
“A lot of times people look at a guy who doesn’t do a lot of hollering, screaming, may not be the loudest guy in the room as being weak,” Butler said. “But he’s proved with his success otherwise.”
If 18-year-old Butler knew he’d also coach against his high school coach in the Class 5A Division I state title game 30 years later, then maybe he should have bought a lottery ticket, too.
Fate intertwines with randomness in this Shadow Creek-Highland Park matchup at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Allen’s Highland Park team — two-time defending state champion with a state-best 831 all-time wins — meets Butler’s Shadow Creek team— a first-year varsity program rewriting the book on what a first-year program is capable of.
Allen is famous for the trademark fedora and suit on the sidelines. His 391 wins are second among active coaches to Phil Danaher at Corpus Christi Calallen. Butler’s 15 wins won’t show up on the list, but it’s not bad for a first-year coach considering the zero in the loss column.
Butler and Allen haven’t strayed far from each other over the years and the two have spoken this week. Allen can’t overstate how impressive Butler’s job with Shadow Creek has been this season.
Here is where fate suggests this meeting was meant to be: Allen announced his retirement last March after Highland Park’s Class 5A Division I state title win over Manvel, only to return the next month.
Nearly a year later, and one of his former quarterbacks is on the opposing sideline in the biggest game of the year.
“When the playoffs started, I knew this was a possibility,” Butler said. “I knew we had a lot to take care of to get there. But it was something that I’ve thought ‘How would that work out? What a strange situation if that materialized.’
“Fortunately, we’ve both made it this far.”
Shadow Creek defensive back Ronald Nunnery, who produced a big fourth-quarter kick-6 in last week’s state semifinal against San Antonio Wagner — couldn’t get over the fact he’d just played inside NRG Stadium. North Shore players have seen NRG Stadium three times in the last three weeks. AT&T Stadium is a second home for Highland Park (15-0).
Shadow Creek players can’t take anything for granted. A two-year run through an independent schedule meant seniors like Nunnery would only get this one postseason shot.
Or they could have graduated never seeing a playoff game, much less a trip to NRG Stadium and AT&T Stadium. First-year programs aren’t supposed to do what the Sharks have done.
They are looking to become the third school to win a state championship in its first year in University Interscholastic League play.
Beaumont West Brook did so in 1982. Lubbock Estacado did so at 14-0 in 1968. Both of those seasons are lined in the history books for reasons bigger than football. West Brook was created after a court-ordered merger between Hebert and Forest Park following desegregation. Estacado was Lubbock’s first integrated school.
The manner in which the Sharks have won this season turned them from underdogs to contenders.
The last two weeks are worth examining, though. There was the 14-point comeback against Foster in the regional final. There was last week’s 10-point comeback win over Wagner’s triple option, too.
Butler is hoping Shadow Creek won’t have to come back against a Highland Park team that’s been on this stage too many times.
It’s not like Shadow Creek doesn’t have evidence. Highland Park used a 28-0 fourth quarter to beat John Tyler in the regional finals.
And of course, there is Highland Park’s 2017 state title classic against Manvel — the school Shadow Creek relieved of attendance.
“You can’t ever count them out,” Butler said of the Scots. “Hopefully with our program moving forward, that’s a characteristic we’re able to hang on to, too.”