November 28, 2011

Keenan, Eagles in quarters

Argyle (Texas) offensive tackle and Texas Tech commit Trey Keenan shocked the three-time Texas 3A State Champion Carthage Bulldogs Friday in a 35-34 third round 3A Division II playoff victory and the Eagles are halfway to their first ever state championship.

Carthage had built its state legacy on extraordinary defensive lines, by the way. The Bulldogs' second of three straight state titles came in 2009 when now-Texas quarterback Case McCoy's Graham team was stood up at the line of scrimmage trying to go for a game-winning two-point conversion out of the field goal formation in the final minute of the state championship game.

Carthage's third state title in as many years came in part by way of defeating Argyle 44-27 last season.

Up 21-3 in the second quarter Friday after three Argyle turnovers, it looked like Carthage was well on its way to sustaining its run at championship No. 4. But Argyle willed its way back into the game and had the opportunity to win the game with a potentially game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter and in the first overtime period.

However, it wasn't until after Argyle converted a touchdown and the PAT and Carthage matched the touchdown but clanked its game-tying PAT off the right upright that the Eagles completed the come-from-behind victory. The end of a three-year era.

"I'm excited about the big win last week," Keenan said. "We've had nothing but the hardest way to where we are right now on the road to state. I think we're more prepared than we could have ever been in any other situation. It's just exhilarating to know how close we are to state now."

Keenan said turnovers cost the Eagles in both last year's loss and this past week's victory against Carthage.

"I wasn't intimidated after last year," Keenan said. "We had a rough loss last year that came down to essentially with us turning the ball over. We outmatched them physically which is hard to do against hard to do something against a defending two-time state champion last year. This year we came in and had three turnovers that resulted in 21-3 at halftime. We just had faith, our team came together and we just said 'we're going to run it down their throat and do all we can to win this.'"

Behind Keenan and the Argyle offensive line, the Eagles ran for 238 yards and threw for another 188 yards. Against that Carthage defensive line and its legacy.

"They had a solid D-line," Keenan said. "It wasn't an overwhelming line or just stacked full of athletes, but they had good defensive tackles, very big. I mean for 3A, they were both 250 pounds and about four guys they could rotate in. One defensive end was a real good player and the other was their weak side guy and we were able to pick on him a little bit.

"It was just good that we were able to stand them up as an offensive line and really have another dominating performance."

Next up for the Eagles is Gilmer, Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Corsicana, in the 3A Division II Region II finals, the quarterfinals of the Texas playoff system. Keenan said Gilmer is a team with a smaller defensive line than Carthage's, but they use speed, stunts and blitzes to get by. The key this week for Argyle will be pass blocking and taking advantage of a perceived weakness in Gilmer's secondary.

The Eagles have been to the quarterfinals four times in school history, including last season, but it's been rough from there. Argyle has surpassed the quarterfinal round just once when it went to a Texas State Championship game and fell short.

"At first when you go into the playoffs you think it's going to be a long, tough run to get to the state game," Keenan said. "But now you get here and we're getting deeper and deeper into the playoffs. You realize it's real, it's very doable and there's a good possibility for us to be the team that got it done three weeks from now."

Keenan himself has competed in a state championship game and even went on to win a National Championship during his days as a standout hockey player before shifting focus solely onto football.

"The select level I played at was a lot different than football," Keenan said. "You're playing your state tournament, then a regional tournament and then a national tournament. In Texas, we'd win the championship about 13-0 every year. Then you go out to Utah or Colorado, somewhere really pretty, in about February and you get to play in the regional tournament. We won it all three years we went to the regional tournament.

"And then you go to the national tournament which is held in different places. I was lucky enough to be on a National Championship team, which was the first ever National Championship team from Texas, and we got to play in Boston when we were 14 in front of 8,000 people there. It was a pretty exciting thing, it's a longer process but it's really fun."

As far as Keenan's commitment to Tech, it's still very solid despite the adversity the Red Raiders faced this season.

"It's not what you want to look for in a commitment, but you've got to look at it in a positive light," Keenan said. "You've got to see all the younger guys playing and you've got (Seth) Doege coming back next year. They had holes in their defense without a doubt, letting up 66 points. But offensively they were solid throughout the year.

"The loss to K-State, the loss to A&M, those were both games I thought the offense played more dominant in. The OU win was big time. I'm just going to try to think of those and kind of keep these last few games out of my thought process and hope that we can feed off the positive and leave what happened there for next season."

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