SAN ANTONIO – In 2010, the Steele Knights won the high school’s first state football championship, and a group of Cibolo middle schoolers were among the team’s biggest fans.
Six years later, that same group has a chance to write their own names in the record books when Steele faces DeSoto Saturday in the Class 6A Division II state championship game.
For this current group of Steele seniors, the journey to this weekend’s state title game began in the seventh grade.
They have come close over the past two years, falling in the state semifinal round both times. Now is their chance to leave their own legacy.
“They always talk about 2010 and the legacy that they left, and it’s trickled down ever since,” said defensive lineman Joshua Croslen. “So it means a lot for us to be the next class to be able to go up there and bring everybody up there with us.”
Croslen is one of the senior leaders on defense, a unit that has been exceptional in the playoffs, holding each one of its opponents to 21 points or less. A similar effort will be needed when they face a high-powered DeSoto offense.
The Knights and Eagles are familiar with one another. DeSoto beat Steele in 2014, while Steele returned the favor in 2015.
They did not play during this year’s regular season, but the Knights tested their mettle against another state power earlier this season when they lost a triple-overtime thriller to Lake Travis.
It was Steele’s only loss of the season, but a defining moment for the team.
“We had the Lake Travis loss and we had a lot of people doubting us so we just stepped back and started reminiscing about all the hard work we had put in since middle school,” said tight end Trai Armstrong. “Throughout the playoffs we just bought in.”
“Before the playoffs started, we were having a rough season. We were winning, but not playing up to where I felt we should have been playing,” said quarterback Xavier Martin. “We sat down in our leadership council and talked about things we needed to change and I feel like after we did that, that’s when we started to turn things around.”
As the quarterback and one of the leaders on offense, Martin understands that despite the dreams of the senior class, it will take a total team effort to beat DeSoto.
The Knights offense has now scored 35 points or more in the past three playoff outings to balance out the team’s run to the state final.
“Our coach tells us every week that all this is about us,” Martin said. “If we do bad, it’s on us, if we do good, it's on us. We’re really doing it for each and every one of us.”
Head coach Scott Lehnhoff was Steele’s offensive coordinator in 2010. He said he wished every coach was able to experience being on this stage with their staff and players.
“We talked to our staff and talked to our kids about all the stuff that’s going into this,” said Lehnhoff. “Make sure you take some time this week to sit down and think about how lucky we are to be playing here, because a small fraction of high school players and a small fraction of high school coaches get this chance.”
Saturday afternoon’s state title tilt will be played under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
It’s the moment the entire team has waited for, dating back to those middle school days, playing under the Cibolo neighborhood lights.
“Now that it's finally here, I don’t think it’s going to sink in until we get under the lights and on the field,” said Armstrong. “But it just feels great that we finally reached our goal. We still got one more step, but it feels great to be here.”
“We’ve been working for this since seventh grade, and coming out with a victory has been our main goal since we saw the state team in 2010 and 2011 go on the parade,” said Martin. “It’s just something we have always dreamt about.”