The lasting image of the 2020 football season was captured by Victoria Advocate staff photographer Duy Vu.
Vu’s photo of Shiner running back Doug Brooks stiff arming a Post defender in the Class 2A, Division I state final quickly became a meme on social media.
But in many ways the photo stood as a symbol of a season played in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Somehow the season was able to be completed and Shiner won its third state championship with a 42-20 victory at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Granted, the Comanches played 14 games instead of 16, and had three bye weeks instead of one, but the end result made it worthwhile.
Hallettsville appeared in the state final for the first time before dropping a heartbreaking 29-28 decision in overtime to Tuscola Jim Ned.
The loss couldn’t overshadow an outstanding season for running back Jonathon Brooks.
Brooks rushed for 3,530 yards and tied a state record with 62 rushing touchdowns.
Brooks will play for the University of Texas this season alongside Cuero graduate Jordan Whittington and Yoakum graduate Joshua Moore.
The 2020 season was unforgettable in many ways and who knows what’s in store for the 2021 season.
Teams who didn’t hold spring drills begin practice Monday, and those who did will start Aug. 9.
Following are five things to keep in mind as we prepare for Friday nights.
1. Pray, hold your breath, keep your fingers crossed and break out the good-luck charms for a normal season. Teams in Class 4A and smaller started last season on time, but few played a normal schedule. Teams in Classes 5A and 6A had the season delayed a month and the state championship games were played in January. There has been a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. But as of now, the UIL is putting no restrictions on teams for practices or games. School districts may act on their own if they feel precautions are necessary.
2. As usual, some head coaching positions changed hands after last season. The number of openings was not as high as previous years, and the pandemic likely played a role. Chad Worrell replaced Wayne Condra at El Campo, Rodney Dowell took over for Robert Blackmon at Van Vleck, Troy Moses replaced Pablo Ybarra at Nixon-Smiley, Lynn Turner took over for Stephen Davis at Runge, and Brad Oden replaced the late David Husmann at Hallettsville Sacred Heart.
3. With limited crowds during the pandemic, the UIL allowed teams to livestream games on Friday nights. The UIL will allow teams to livestream games again this season. The UIL set the coaches’ and players’ box on the field from the 20 to the 20-yard line. Changes are in store for games going into overtime. Teams may attempt one- or two-point conversions after touchdowns in the first overtime. Teams must go for two points after scoring touchdowns in the second overtime. If the game goes beyond two overtimes, teams will be required to line up at the 3-yard line and attempt to score in one play. The process will continue until a winner is determined.
4. The ultimate goal is to make it to AT&T Stadium in Arlington in December to play for a state championship. Refugio, which won the state championship in 2019, and Shiner, which won last year’s state title, enter the season ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Class 2A, Division I poll. Schulenburg and Ganado, which are district foes of Shiner, are ranked No. 18 and 22 respectively. Falls City has made three straight semifinal appearances and enters the season ranked No. 6 in Class 2A, Division II. District opponent Yorktown is ranked No. 25. Expectations are high in El Campo, which is ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, Division I. The Ricebirds will play Calhoun, which is ranked No. 23, in Class 4A, Division I in a non-district game. Industrial made it to the regional semifinals last season and goes into the season ranked No. 6 in Class 3A, Division I. State-finalist Hallettsville and district foe Yoakum are ranked No. 10 and No. 12, respectively in Class 3A, Division I. Cuero won its fourth state championship in 2018, but missed the playoffs in 2019 and was eliminated in the bi-district round last season. The Gobblers enter the season ranked No. 16 in Class 4A, Division II. Shiner St. Paul won the TAPPS Division IV state championship last season. The Cardinals have won three consecutive state titles and five of the last six.
5. A fortune teller would have a hard time predicting what’s in store for high school football. The UIL’s reclassification and realignment will happen in February. When the 2024 reclassification and realignment takes place, it’s likely to include a Class 7A. School districts are going to have to come up with plans for homeschool students, who will be eligible to participate in UIL activities as of Sept. 1. The biggest unknown for the future is the impact of Name, Image, Likeness (NIL), which has become a reality on the college level. Texas’ Jordan Whittington, a Cuero graduate, recently signed an exclusive interview deal with Orangebloods.com for the next 12 months. There has already been a report of a high school quarterback in Texas, who is considering leaving school before his senior season and enrolling in college to take advantage of NIL. The UIL is looking to the legislature for guidance on the issue.