Milford needed to be perfect in the second half of the 1A Division I state football championship game against the undefeated McLane Tigers on Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the only outside force that stopped the record-breaking performance by Ben Crockett and the Tigers offense was the game clock.
McLean scored on every possession in the first half except for its final one, which ended with the clock resting on zero. The Tigers then did the same in the second half to win the first-ever state football title in school history, 100-70.
The Tigers had not won more than 11 games in a single season over the previous 14 years until last season, which was the first under head coach Clinton Linman. McLane entered Wednesday's contest as the No. 1-ranked team in the final Associated Press 1A poll and ended its second season under Linman a perfect 15-0.
For (12-2) Milford, the state championship appearance was the sixth in school history (1979, 80, 94, 95, 2013, 18). The Bulldogs won the title in 1979 and ’80.
Something that could not be said in any of the previous trips by the Bulldogs to the state title game was that Wednesday's contest featured three successful challenges by the two head coaches.
When asked about the addition of the review to the state championships after the game, Milford head football coach Ronny Crumpton said he thought the second overturned call was missed but "it is what it is."
"I thought it disrupted things some," Crumpton added. "But we enjoyed the break. It was kind of like an extra timeout."
Linman successfully challenged two rulings of completed passes — both for first downs that went for over 20 yards — in the second half.
The second came with 9:28 to play in the fourth quarter and the Tigers leading 64-48. It ultimately helped put the proverbial nail in the coffin, as the overturn forced the Milford offense into a fourth-and-15 situation on the wrong side of midfield.
An incomplete pass put the football back into the hands of the seemingly unstoppable McLane offense with an opportunity to put the game away.
Crockett took the ensuing McLane snap 39 yards to the house for a 72-48 lead with 9:12 to play in the state title game.
The rushing score was his fifth of the game — and he wasn’t done yet.
Crockett finished as the MVP of the game with 12 total touchdowns (9 rushing, 3 passing) and 467 total yards.
His eighth rushing score came with 2:17 to play in the game and put McLane ahead 94-62. It also tied Crocket with Walker Tippe (Richland Springs, 2016) and Dewayne Miles (Amherst, 1995) for the single-game rushing touchdown record in 1A state championship history, as well as Aledo’s Johnathan Gray (2009, 5A) for the all-time record across any classification.
He then broke those ties with 56 seconds to play to push McLane to the century mark in points scored.
"Every time I got the ball, I was trying to score," Crockett said after the game.
Crockett also rushed 35 times — second-most all-time behind Brian Holmes (36, May, 1977) — for 384 yards. The rushing yardage total is in the top-five all-time for a 1A championship game.
"You watch film and know what to expect and sometimes you think in the back of your mind that there is no way he is that hard to tackle," Crumpton said. "[...] I thought when we wore down a little bit, you could see it."
He added, "with good backs that happens a lot. You might stop them a few times but they are going to break a big one. Hats off to them. He was ready."
Cayden Mann completed 10-of-13 passes for 181 yards and rushed for 23 more to round out the 662 total yards of offense for McLane.
Senior quarterback TaRon Smith led the Milford offense with 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He also completed 15-of-25 passes for 178 yards and five touchdowns with one interception.
Damyan Woodward was on the receiving end of 131 of those yards and three touchdowns, while Ricky Pendleton pulled down five catches for 102 yards and two scores. He also added 88 rushing yards on four carries.
Milford had 462 total yards of offense.
"I thought we could wear them down with them having to chase us around, honestly," Crumpton said. "[...] I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and that hurt in the end."
The official attendance for the state championship game was 3,971, which was more than double the combined populations of Milford and McLane (1,518).
The opening kickoff bounced out of bounds around the 3-yard line. The Tigers scored two plays later on a 47-yard run by junior running back Ben Crockett.
The Milford offense was flagged for a false start before its first snap of the game and Smith was then sacked for a 15-yard loss to set up a second-and-37 at the 8-yard line. Smith then lost 2 more yards on the ensuing snap after Crockett tripped him up in the backfield.
The quarterback scrambled back to the original line of scrimmage on third down only to have the fourth-down play go for not, resulting in a turnover on downs with the ball on the Bulldogs 26-yard line.
Crockett and the Tigers offense made the most of the short field, as he found the end zone three plays later. Jackson Rainer split the uprights to put McLean on top, 16-0, with 5:18 to play in the first quarter.
The first big offensive spark for the Bulldogs came when Smith connected with Damyan Woodward on a 34-yard corner route with just under four minutes to play in the opening quarter.
Smith scored from 3 yards out two plays later. Luis Muniz then drilled the points-after kick to pull the Bulldogs within one score, 16-8, with 3:29 showing on the first-quarter clock.
After Crockett scored his third rushing touchdown of the first quarter on the ensuing Tigers drive, Milford marched right back down the field for a 6-play, 54-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Woodward.
However, the highlight of the drive came two plays before the score when Tyvon Gates wrestled away a would-be interception away from a McLean defensive back for a 27-yard completion to the Tigers 3-yard line.
The first quarter closed with the Tigers holding a one-score lead, 24-16.
Crockett added his fourth rushing touchdown early in the second quarter.
Smith later converted a third-and-30 for Milford with a 43-yard touchdown run with 4:33 to play in the first half.
The Muniz extra-points kick kept the Bulldogs within one score, 32-24.
Both teams added a touchdown and two-point kick before the end of the first half, leaving McLane clinging to an eight-point lead, 40-32, as they entered the halftime locker rooms.
The Tigers accounted for 244 total yards on 27 plays in the first half (137 rushing), while Smith and the Bulldogs accumulated 227 total yards on 30 plays.
Crockett led all ball carries with four rushing touchdowns to go with his 127 yards on 16 carries at the break. Smith added 113 rushing yards on 12 carries and two scores for Milford. He also completed 11-of-15 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs wasted no time tying the game in the third quarter, as Smith found a wide-open Woodward on the second play from scrimmage for a 28-yard touchdown. Muniz split the uprights to knot the state championship at 40-all with 8:59 to go in the third quarter.
A costly Smith interception with just under six minutes to play gave the Tigers the football with a chance to go up two scores. A busted play then turned into a 46-yard touchdown toss from Crockett to Mann. The latter did all of the hard work breaking several Milford tackles after he received the short pitch from a nearly-sacked Crockett.
The score put McLane back on top by two touchdowns, 56-40, with 5:40 to play in the third quarter.
Milford faced its first make-or-break moment on the ensuing drive, only to have Smith juke, jive and dance his way to a 31-yard gain on fourth-and-23 to the McLean 26-yard line.
Smith found Ricky Pendleton in the back of the end zone four plays later for a 12-yard touchdown with 3:48 to play in the third quarter. The Muniz kicked pulled the Bulldogs back within a single score, 56-48.
The score held for the final three minutes and change and the game headed into the fourth quarter with McLane leading and facing a first-and-goal from the Bulldogs 5-yard line.
It took just two plays from scrimmage for McLane to find the end zone. Crockett completed a 5-yard pass to Kater Tate for a 64-48 lead.
A second successful McLane challenge of a Milford completion forced the Bulldogs into a fourth-down situation on the ensuing drive. The overturned ruling ultimately led to a second Milford turnover on downs of the game and then the fifth rushing touchdown for Crockett (39 yards).
The touchdown scamper put the Tigers up big, 72-48, with 9:12 to play in the fourth quarter.
The deficit and Crockett were both just too much for the Bulldogs to overcome, as they fell, 100-70.