Zach Duncan
Jun 11, 2015

Darris Harper and Josh Atkinson have competed on football fields together since they were on the same peewee team.

They’ll be teammates for the last time Saturday night at the 78th annual Oil Bowl. Then the two Cedar Hill graduates will head off to rival Oklahoma colleges in the Great American Conference.

There’s a good chance Harper, a receiver headed to East Central, and Atkinson, a safety going to Southeastern Oklahoma State, will cross paths again at the NCAA Division II level in the coming years.

But none of those paths will be bigger than the one they and fellow Cedar Hill teammate Justice Powers crossed this past fall.

The three former Longhorns who will suit up for East Texas on Saturday at Memorial Stadium helped Cedar Hill win back-to-back state titles.

In 2013, the Longhorns scored 24 consecutive second-half points to take down Katy in the 5A Division II title game, 34-24.

December’s 6A Division II title game was even more dramatic as Cedar Hill edged Katy with a field goal in the final minutes to repeat, 23-20.

“It was a great feeling to win it back to back,” Harper said. “It took hard work and a long season, a long two seasons.”

“I felt like it was more pressure because people didn’t expect us to do it for a second time in a row,” Atkinson said. “It was definitely harder.”

Powers was Cedar Hill’s starting left guard during the run and was a first-team 6A all-state selection by the Texas Sports Writers Association after finishing with 184 pancakes and allowing only one sack.

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman is a signee with Trinity Valley Community College, where Hirschi’s Cedric Battle will play next year. Powers said both title runs were equally exciting.

“You’ve already been through it, so you pretty much knew what to expect,” Powers said. “It’s very rare for us to do that — go three years in a row and win twice.”

Atkinson made 24 tackles in the secondary last season, while Harper was Cedar Hill’s third-leading receiver behind a couple Division I signees in Damarkus Lodge (Mississippi) and Denvre Daniels (Liberty).

Harper caught 30 passes for 457 yards and three touchdowns. In the 6A title game at AT&T Stadium, Harper recorded three catches for 11 yards, but his biggest contribution was grabbing a two-point conversion that helped the Longhorns start their comeback from a 13-2 halftime deficit.

Powers moved from California his freshman year as his family was looking for a better school and environment, and he said coming to Cedar Hill, which is 15 miles southwest of Dallas, was a smart decision.

All three Longhorns made the decision to spend the week in Wichita Falls playing in the Oil Bowl.

“You get to play with your family one more time, get to share the field with each other one more time and put on pads with each other one more time,” said Powers, whose nickname “Tank” is quite fitting. “Once we found out we were all playing in it, we wanted to join together.”


The only other Oil Bowl football player who won a state title this season also repeated on the gridiron. Crowell’s Mitchell Parsley led the Wildcats to their first two championships, and just like in Cedar Hill’s case versus Katy, both came against the same opponent — May.

Both all-star football teams will have their final two practices Friday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. West Texas will be at Memorial Stadium in the morning, and East Texas will be on the game turf in the afternoon.

The East Texas and West Texas teams will square off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Reserved seating is $12, and general admission is $10. Tickets can be purchased at the Maskat Shrine or by calling 940-766-4511.

The Oil Bowl Banquet will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Maskat Shrine Center at 5101 Henry S. Grace Freeway. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Maskat office or by calling 940-766-4511, or at Jerry’s Scoreboard until 6 p.m. before the game.