Zach Duncan
Jun 9, 2015

DeSoto is regarded as one of the preeminent high school football programs in the state.

The Eagles have won 38 games the previous three seasons, advancing to the state semifinals in both 2012 and 2013.

If not for Allen having knocked DeSoto from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons en route to championships, the Eagles could very well have a state title by now.

When DeSoto was ousted by its nemesis 25-22 in the 6A Division I Area round this year, offensive lineman Ke’Jaun King figured his final game with his teammates would be a defeat.

But that won’t exactly be the case in Saturday night’s Oil Bowl at Memorial Stadium. King is one of six DeSoto players taking the field one final time together. Also standing on the sidelines will be Kendrick Brown, who was DeSoto’s defensive coordinator before taking over at Little Elm in 2014.

“I thought my last game with these guys was going to be a loss,” said King, a Class 6A third-team all-state selection who will play football at Missouri S&T. “I just want to play with them one more time. I’m not going to see a couple of these guys for another year or so.”

King was one of the leaders on an offensive line that helped DeSoto average 46.6 points and 481.3 yards per game, recording 92 pancakes without allowing a sack. Guard Dilland Gardner (East Central) and center Roderick Smith (Utah State) also are in town for the 78th edition of the all-star football game.

The other three DeSoto representatives at the Oil Bowl are defensive end Carrington Nelson (East Central), defensive lineman Kendall Jennings (Kilgore College) and safety Miles McBride, who is a Midwestern State signee. Nelson plus the three offensive linemen were first-team District 8-6A selections last fall.

McBride was first contacted by East Texas coach Jayson Lavender about playing in the Oil Bowl. Once he agreed, McBride called up his buddies, who were excited for the opportunity. A seventh DeSoto teammate, defensive back Damon Weaver (Incarnate Word), had to pull out of the game with an injury.

“It feels pretty cool. All of us have basically grown up together out of Little League and through middle school, so it’s pretty cool to play our last game together,” said Jennings, who missed his senior year with an injury.

DeSoto owns a streak of five consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. During the Eagles’ 38-4 record since 2012, their only losses have come against eventual state champions — Allen in all three playoffs and District 8-6A neighbor Cedar Hill in 2014.

“All we do is work. When we come to school, it’s time to work,” Smith said. “We take pride in our work ethic, we take pride in how we play and we take pride in the Eagle wings that are on the helmet.” Brown called DeSoto one of the country’s best programs and said the only thing it’s missing is a state championship. Brown served under Claude Mathis, who went 74-18 in seven seasons with the Eagles before taking an assistant coaching job with SMU after the 2014 season.

“The last three years, you still can’t take away from what the players and coaching staff have done there. It is one of the top programs in the nation still,” Brown said. “They’re knocking on the door and eventually they’ll knock it down and get that state championship.”

Brown is excited to be reunited with his former players.

“Those guys were freshmen when I was there so I’m familiar with all those guys,” Brown said. “It was kind of bittersweet when I left, but it’s going to be nice to spend this last time with them.”


District 8-6A is well-represented on the East Texas squad. In addition to the six DeSoto players, three guys played on Cedar Hill’s 6A Division II title team — receiver Darris Harper, defensive back Josh Atkinson and offensive lineman Justice Powers.

Other 8-6A representatives are Duncanville’s Jayon Abdul-Karim, Samuel Jimenez and Quailon Haynes, giving the district 12 of 38 East Texas players.

West Texas coach Danny Russell added a fifth former Wichita Falls High School standout as quarterback Eric Butler has joined the team. Butler will be playing with Coyote teammates L.J. Dabbs, Aaron Gonzalez, B.J. Mayze and Quentin Sims, making it 14 area players on the West Texas squad.

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 located at 5101 Henry S. Grace Freeway. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Maskat Offic