UIL State Semifinals: Dodge ready for Swan Song at AT&T Stadium

UIL State Semifinals: Dodge ready for Swan Song at AT&T Stadium (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

WACO – When Todd Dodge took over Austin Westlake in 2014, the Chaparrals were not the brand of football in the Austin area.

That belonged to Lake Travis.

While the Chaps hadn’t won a state title since 1996 under Ron Schroeder, the Cavaliers under a mix of Jeff Dicus, Chad Morris and current coach Hank Carter had just come off a run of five-straight state titles from 2007-2011. They were the team in Austin.

Having a program like that in their own zip code to battle has paid off.

“They have made us so much better as the year’s have gone on,” Dodge said after a 45-14 Class 6A DII State Semi-Final win over Katy on Saturday afternoon. “The old deal that iron sharpens iron, I give a lot of credit to them for us getting better.”

The 31-point victory for Dodge’s Chaparrals checked off a few milestone boxes.

It was Austin Westlake’s 39th-straight victory dating back to the 2019 season. It also punched its ticket to AT&T Stadium for a third-straight season as they seek their third-straight title.

Heading into a season with that kind of “pressure” and the “outside noise” that comes with being back-to-back state champions, senior quarterback and Clemson-commit Cade Klubnik said they just tuned it all out.

“We just kept it in our fieldhouse and just not listen to the outside world,” he said. “Just knew what our task was. It was Katy football this week and we just take it one week at a time and enjoy every moment. Not let the hype get to us.”

As Austin Westlake now turns its attention to the Class 6A Division II State Championship, of course there are the numbers, records and streaks that are on the line.

But there is also a sense of closure that comes with it as well.

When Dodge coaches next week it will be his last as the head coach of Austin Westlake. Prior to the season, Dodge announced that this would be indeed his final season.

“Coach Dodge has been a part of my life since fourth or fifth grade,” Klubnik said. “For me to have the honor to be his last quarterback is huge. It just means so much, we’re playing for him.”

In his 23rd season as a high school head coach, Dodge will be seeking his seventh state championship as a coach and the 233rd and final win of his illustrious coaching career.

“I’ve been taking things in all year long,” Dodge said about enjoying these experiences in his final week. “I really have. I’ve been savoring it all. I’ve told our players and our seniors that it’s kind of like I’m a member of the senior class. We’re going out together.

“I always tell them don’t wish any of the preparation away. I promise you this week, I won’t wish any of it away. I will absolutely just let it all soak in.”