GLEN ROSE — The Glen Rose football finished the season 11-2 overall and 4-0 in district play and wrapped up their third consecutive district championships, while setting a total of 20 school records in the process. According to Glen Rose football coach Cliff Watkins, it all is the reward for all their hard work that started as sophomores for many of them.

“These guys have no reason to hang their heads. They did so many special things and gave us such a fun ride this season, and I’m so proud of everything they accomplished,” Watkins said.

For only the second time in school history, the Tigers advanced to the state semifinals before falling to Iowa Park, 31-28, at the Ford Center in Frisco. 

The Tigers hung their hats on a group of six seniors who started as sophomores, as well as quarterback Cameron Griffin who moved in for his junior and senior seasons. The entire team bought into the process, and the Tigers answered with one of their best seasons ever.

“I’m so disappointed for these seniors in how it ended. They are a special group of guys for me,” Watkins said.

Westen Halcom, Hayden Shaw, Jess Niedziela, Keegan Bunt and River Costello were solid contributors for three years, and each received some sort of district honor as seniors. Halcom was the two-time Offensive Player of the Year; Shaw the Lineman of the Year; and Niedziela, Bunt and Costello were first-team selections.

“Those guys wanted to put in the work and wanted to be great and got better each year, and then their senior year was something special,” Watkins said.

For the season, the Tigers set four game records, 10 season records and six career records.

Beginning at quarterback, Griffin, who was also named APSE First-Team All-State and District 4-4A MVP, set records touchdown passes in a game (7); touchdowns in a season (52); passing yards in a season (3,837); and touchdowns in a career (86).

And he accomplished all that while throwing just six interceptions on 353 passing attempts.

“The progress he made from his junior year to his senior year was unbelievable. It’s crazy,” Watkins said. “He’s a smart guy that understands the game and loves the game, and he did a great job taking care of the ball, and he was a big part of making our offense go.”

Halcom set records for yards in a game (326); rushing TDs in a game (5); points in a game (36); yards in a season (2,002); touchdowns in a season (28); points in a season (240); yards in a career (4,274); touchdowns in a career (63); and points in a career (492). He also notched 35 catches for 623 yards and nine touchdowns. 

“He was an all-around back and leader of our football team,” Watkins said. “When things were going awry, he was one of the main guys our guys were going to look too. He was going to get the ship right.”

As a team, the Tigers averaged a school record 583.2 yards per game and scored a school record 698 points behind an offensive line that never missed one snap all season due to injury. One lineman missed one game due to illness.

“For those guys to play as hard and as physical as they did and stay healthy for the whole season is something pretty awesome,” Watkins said of Zach Powell, Hayden Shaw, Ty Smith, Isaac Navarrete, Saul Delgado and Max Matheny.

“If you can’t protect, come off and be a physical group up front and control the line of scrimmage, none of that is going to happen,” he said. “Those guys a lot of the time are the unsung heroes, but they deserve a lot of the credit for what happened this year because they made it happen.”

Also offensively, tight end Davis Shackelford set a school record for touchdown receptions in a game (4); and TD receptions in a season (16); and he’s tied for TD receptions in a career (21). He finished with 51 catches for 1,053 yards and 16 TDs. He also had 105 tackles. Harrison Hawkins had 48 catches for 965 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Heading into the year, Watkins said the defense was a big question mark, but it rose to the occasion.

“The thing about our defense was most of the year when we had to have a stop they stepped up and made a stop,” Watkins said. “When it was time to step up and make a play they made a play.”

Junior linebacker Ricky Douglas set a school record for tackles in a season (179) and tackles in a career (307), while Bunt set a new high-water mark for sacks in a season (9), and Niedziela for sacks in a career (15).

“It starts up front with those guys being able to get pressure on the quarterback and not letting the quarterback sit back there and feel comfortable,” Watkins said. “That helped out the secondary a lot.”

The Tigers were relatively unproven at linebacker and in the secondary with like Teddy Starnes, Austin Worthen, Braylen Meador, Bryan Pounds, Dristan Cathey, Garrett Gilbreath, Coby Riley and Cory Aper. 

But the secondary, in particular, rose to the occasion.

“We were inexperienced and really didn’t know how that was going to unfold, and those guys stepped up,” Watkins said. “Early on in the season we played some passing teams and we were anxious to see what would happen, but those guys accepted the challenge and did a great job.” 

Meador earned Defensive Player of the Year, was second on the team with 162 tackles and Pounds was third with 120. Worthen, who was the district’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year, led the team with four interceptions, while adding 88 tackles. 

In all, the defense tallied 23 sacks, led by Bunt’s 9.0 and Aper’s 4.0, as well as more than 110 tackles for loss with 16 from Douglas and 15 each from Bunt and Aper. The Tiger defense also had 12 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions.

The Tigers opened the year with wins over Grandview and Waco Connally before falling at Springtown (49-43). They then reeled off nine consecutive wins before falling to Iowa Park to end the season.