ARLINGTON – I have been covering high school football for more than 35 years, but I have never witnessed an individual performance like I did Friday in the Class 4A, Division II state final at AT&T Stadium.
Jordan Whittington took his place on the sport’s biggest stage and propelled the Cuero Gobblers to their fourth state championship.
Whittington helped Cuero (15-1) end 31 years of frustration and win its fourth state championship in its 11th state final appearance.
He also etched his place in the storied Whittington family lore.
Whittington carried 28 times for a state finals record 334 yards and five touchdowns; caught three passes for 43 yards and one touchdown; and led Cuero with 11 tackles, including five unassisted stops.
He surpassed the overall rushing record of 325 yards set by Johnathan Gray, of Aledo, in 2010, and the Class 4A record of 311 yards set in 1978 by Sealy’s Eric Dickerson.
Needless to say, Whittington was voted the game’s offensive and defensive MVP.
But more importantly, he virtually put the Gobblers on his back and carried them to a 40-28 win over defending state champion Pleasant Grove (13-3).
“Not in a state championship game,” said Cuero coach Travis Reeve when asked if he had seen a performance like Whittington’s. “The way he took the game over was amazing. He’s a special talent. Just like the rest of our kids, he wasn’t going to be denied, and we weren’t going to be denied.”
Whittington gave a hint of what was to come when he ran 69 yards out of the wildcat formation for a touchdown on Cuero’s first play from scrimmage.
Before he was finished, he had added touchdown runs 54, 1, 12 and 20 yards.
His touchdown catch came on the final play of the first half, and his ability to get the ball across the pylon before being tackled allowed Cuero to go into halftime down 21-20.
“I’m getting in the end zone,” Whittington said. “That was everybody’s mindset. We are going to get in the end zone. Nothing was going to stop us.”
Second time’s the charm: Jordan Whittington @J_Whitt3 converts again on a 26-yard TD pass from Michael Barta. Kick no good. Pleasant Grove 21, Cuero 20 at the half. #UILState pic.twitter.com/huH1jBqkE8— Rey Castillo (@reycastillo361) December 21, 2018
Actually, Whittington was stopped four times. Three of those were by instant replay and another by a holding penalty.
But each time a Whittington touchdown was wiped out after the officials looked at the videotape, he was back in the end zone on the next play.
“They replayed it, and I guess it wasn’t what it was,” Whittington said. “Go back and make it happen. That was my mindset and theirs (his teammates), too.”
Whittington touched the ball on 33 of Cuero’s 66 plays, and accounted for 377 of its 523 yards.
“I have not coached or played against a guy that is dynamic as No. 3 – Whittington,” said Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson. “What a special day for him and his teammates, because it wasn’t all just him;, they were opening holes for him. But he’s so talented that he makes big plays like the one at the end of the half.”
Whittington put Cuero ahead to stay on a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:43 left in the fourth quarter, and he helped the Gobblers preserve the lead with runs of 12 and 20 yards.
“I told the linemen, ‘If each one of you blocks somebody, you can leave me one-on-one, and I’ll make it happen,’” Whittington said. “All credit to them, and I’m glad we did it.”
Having three touchdowns called back hasn’t phased Cuero’s Jordan Whittington. Whittington has followed with a score on each review. His recent coming on a 19-yard run to give Cuero a 40-28 advantage over Pleasant Grove with 2:54 left in the 4Q. He now has six TD. #UILState pic.twitter.com/2oPB43faDK— Rey Castillo (@reycastillo361) December 21, 2018
Whittington’s performance came two days after he signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Texas.
“Signing that was another dream that came to reality,” Whittington said. “Signing was special, of course, but this was the main thing I was worried about.”
Whittington admitted he got tired, but he never gave a thought to coming off the field.
“I did (get tired), but this was my last high school game,” he said. “I wasn’t going to slow down.”
Whittington will stay busy playing in the All-American Bowl in the Alamodome in San Antonio on Jan. 5 before enrolling at Texas the next week and preparing for spring practice.
But Whittington’s looking forward to showing off his state championship ring to father, Quincey, and uncle Arthur, who each have a ring of their own.
“I’m going to flash it off to them,” he said. “Ours is going to sparkle a little more.”