High school football is often a family affair, but rarely does it play quite like this. And by rarely I mean: quite likely never before in the history of the sport.
Playing for the Class 6A Division I Texas state championship at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night will be Austin Westlake and Southlake Carroll. Westlake is coached by Todd Dodge, Carroll by Riley Dodge -- Todd's son.
Todd Dodge was the head coach at Southlake Carroll from 2000-06 and reached the state championship annually from 2002-06, winning four. Dodge, a former Texas quarterback, is as responsible as any other figure for popularizing the spread offense in Texas high school football. His quarterbacks at Carroll included Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy, and Riley Dodge.
Todd's "Dodge Ball" teams, with their bleached hair, high-income parents and propensity for winning every game they played, were the teams everyone in Texas high school football either loved or loved to hate.
Todd left to become the head coach at North Texas in 2007 and Riley joined the following year before finishing his career at McNeese State.
Todd returned to high school football in 2012 and became the head coach at Austin Westlake in 2014, where his father-in-law Ebbie Neptune was the head coach for five seasons and AD for 22. "This is one unique and special place to my family," he said at the time. "I can help honor my late father-in-law’s legacy. It’s a feeling of needing to give back and knowing my family has been a part of that from the day it started."
Riley entered coaching at the college level following graduation but returned to the high school ranks in 2015 and was named Carroll's head coach in 2018, at the age of 29. "I’m honored and humbled to be the next head football coach at Carroll High School," he said. "I will not take this opportunity and responsibility lightly and I’m extremely excited to be back home."
Carroll vs. Westlake will be a classic dance of irresistible force against immovable object. Carroll has the best quarterback in the state in Texas-turned-Ohio State commit Quinn Ewers, a junior. Westlake's defense is the best in the state, surrendering 5.5 points per game with six shutouts, including a string of three consecutive earlier in the season. Carroll reached the title game by upsetting two-time state runner-up Duncanville in the semifinals; Westlake got there by upending two-time defending champion Houston North Shore. North Shore averaged 50.4 points over their first 14 games; Westlake held them to 21.
Todd Dodge led Westlake to the 6A Division II title last year, its first since Drew Brees piloted the Chaparrals to the 1996 state championship. Carroll is looking for its first state title since 2011 and its second since coach Todd and quarterback Riley teamed up to lead the Dragons to the 2006 state crown.
And if all those storylines aren't enough, Riley watched the Dragons win their state semifinal game from home after testing positive for COVID-19.
Wild as it is to see the Texas 6A Division I title game turn into a Dodge Bowl, it was actually an inevitability for the family. Southlake Carroll and Austin Westlake were originally scheduled to play in the 2020 season opener, but that game when the UIL pushed the season back a month at Texas's two highest levels.
Now they'll meet, on Jan. 16, in the last game of an unforgettable 2020 season.