With most of the national attention being drawn to California, Florida and Texas, it was two games in Pennsylvania on Friday that easily were the best games of the day.
In the Class A state final, Clairton (Pa.) High rallied from what is believed to be the largest deficit in state championship history to win its second-consecutive title.
And in Class AAA, Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic edged out a state title by a single point in a back-and-forth game that came down to a defensive stop in the game's final minute.
Class A: Clairton 36, Riverside 30
Clairton (Pa.) High's ride to a second consecutive state title was as topsy-turvy as the loops of the amusement park roller coaster towering behind Hersheypark Stadium.
The Bears (16-0) finished the season unbeaten by rallying from a 24-0 deficit Friday with five straight touchdowns against Taylor (Pa.) Riverside for a 36-30 win in Class A to kick off the PIAA's championship weekend with a thriller.
The comeback was thought to be the largest in a PIAA final.
It might have been one of the longest title tilts, too, lasting 3-plus hours thanks in part to 27 combined penalties for 249 yards, and the unexpected shootout involving a Bears defense that allowed just 34 points entering the afternoon.
Quarterback Desimon Green ran for a score and connected with Tyler Boyd for two touchdown passes - the second an 82-yarder early in the third quarter to give Clairton its first lead at 28-24. The defense - which hadn't allowed an opponent more than 8 points in any game all season until Friday - clamped down on what had been an explosive Riverside offense.
"We have a fearless group of players, they're not going to be intimidated by anybody's record or reputation," Riverside coach Harry Armstrong said. "For our guys to jump out to a 24-0 lead was unexpected for just about anybody except our own players."
Riverside (14-2) quarterback Corey Talerico was 17 of 36 passing for 223 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the game, but was an impressive 6 of 9 for 100 yards and a score in the Vikings' dominant first quarter.
At that point, a title repeat looked bleak for Clairton, which was outgained 181 to minus-15 in the first quarter. Nick Rossi scored on a 64-yard scamper, and Talerico threw for touchdowns of 60 and 23 yards. Riverside also converted three 2-point conversions to go up 24 with 9:46 left in the second.
But Clairton dominated from there with its impressive collection of speedsters. After Green's 2-yard touchdown run gave Clairton its first score, Riverside had a 4th-and-57 from its own 13 when Talerico was sacked with 3-plus minutes left in the first half. Clairton scored twice more from there to get within 24-20 at the half.
"That's where the momentum shifted," Armstrong said. "If we could have put together a drive there, the game might have changed in that sequence. From there on, (Clairton's) playmakers were doing it."
Class AAA: Allentown Central Catholic 28, Bishop McDevitt 27
With his team pinned deep in its own territory on a 3rd-and-long late in the fourth quarter Friday night, Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic coach Harold Fairclough dusted off a play named after one of his assistants.
"Coach Al's Play," as Fairclough identified it, will go down in school lore as the spark that lifted the unbeaten Vikings to the Class AAA championship.
Quarterback Brendan Nosovitch ran for three scores and connected with Jack Sandherr for the 70-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-13 to set up the go-ahead touchdown in a thrilling win over Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Sandherr, the 6-foot-3 tight end, said about the completion that set up Nosovitch's 18-yard scoring run on the next play with 2:09 left.
McDevitt (13-3) later drove from its own 35 to the ACC 40, but blitzing linebacker Teddy Airoldi sacked quarterback Matt Johnson from the blind side on fourth down with less than a minute left as the Vikings (16-0) hauled a shiny new championship trophy back to the bus for the return trip to Lehigh Valley.
Nosovitch also threw for a score, while Johnson nearly matched him big play for big play in a duel of tough quarterbacks.
Johnson's 9-yard touchdown run late in the third tied the game at 21 before fellow senior Jameel Poteat ran from 3 yards out with 6:54 left to give the Crusaders the lead.
But McDevitt's extra-point attempt sailed wide left of the upright to keep the score at 27-21, leaving the space that ACC needed to rally for the thrilling win.
For complete coverage of championship weekend in Pennsylvania, visit PaPreps.com.
For complete Texas coverage, including in-depth breakdowns of all the state title games, visit TheOldCoach.com.
Class 4A-DII: Aledo 69, La Marque 34
Johnathan Gray rushed for 320 yards and eight touchdowns and Aledo (Texas) High defended its title with a victory against La Marque (Texas) High.
Gray finished the season with 58 rushing touchdowns, breaking the state record of 57 set by Sugar Land's Kenneth Hall in 1953.
Aledo (16-0) won its third state title in its fourth championship appearance. La Marque (11-4) is now 5-5 in 10 trips to the title game.
La Marque's Tim Wright had several spectacular runs but couldn't keep up with the steadiness of Gray, a junior. Wright finished with 198 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Gray put Aledo ahead for good at 34-27 on a 42-yard scoring run with 1:28 left in the first half.
Class 3A-DII: Carthage 47, Coldspring-Oakhurst 22
Anthony Morgan threw for 392 yards and six touchdowns, including an 85-yarder on his first play, and Carthage (Texas) High won its third straight championship with a victory against Coldspring (Texas) Coldspring-Oakhurst on Friday.
Morgan had 213 yards and four touchdowns by halftime, with Cortlyn Ware and Jalen Claiborne each scoring twice. Ware caught the long opening pass in stride about 40 yards downfield and went in untouched.
Carthage (14-2) took control with two third-quarter TD passes by Morgan, one each to Ware and Claiborne.
Coldspring's Sherman Gilbert answered Morgan's arm with his feet for a half, rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown before halftime. He finished with 149 yards.
Coldspring (14-2) fell to 0-2 in championship games.
Class 1A-DI: Falls City 32, Windthorst 7
Colin Dziuk rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown, Cameron Soto added two scores on quarterback sneaks and Falls City (Texas) High won its first state football title with a victory over Windthorst (Texas) High.
Falls City (14-1), about 45 miles southeast of San Antonio, had the game under control from the start.
The Beavers took an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 68-yard touchdown run by Dziuk. On the extra-point attempt, Falls City ran a fake, pitching the ball to do-it-all Luke Swierc, who powered in for the two-point conversion.
"I just saw an opening and a big gap, but I didn't know I'd score until I got to the end zone," Dziuk said of his TD run. "I just can't believe we won the state championship. It's amazing."
Falls City accomplished the feat with its ground game, gaining 398 yards on 56 carries. Dziuk gained his yardage on 20 carries, while Swierc added 105 yards on 14 carries.
Alec Fisher scored five touchdowns to lead La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop's School to a 40-14 victory over Stockton (Calif.) Brookside.
Fisher scored on runs of three, two, seven and eight yards, and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass for The Bishop's School (14-0). Fisher rushed for 169 yards on 23 carries. Robby Stiefler also scored on a 39-yard interception return.
Tony Rodriguez threw two scoring passes to Larry Fullard for Brookside Christian (12-1), which has 111 students.