10 Players to Watch in 2023 UIL Football State Championship Game at AT&T Stadium

The UIL football state championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington will feature some of the top recruits in the nation and many of the best players in Texas. Here are 10 players to watch.

Duncanville vs Galena Park North Shore, 3pm Saturday

The four-star LSU pledge is rated as the eighth-best running back in the nation and has rushed for 1,797 yards and 32 touchdowns to lead defending Class 6A Division I state champion Duncanville back to the title game. He nearly matched his incredible junior year when he ran for 1,960 yards and 36 touchdowns and was named the offensive MVP in Duncanville’s 28-21 win over North Shore in the state title game. Duncanville is averaging 59.2 points in the playoffs, and Durham has thrown for 967 yards and 17 touchdowns in those five games.

The five-star junior is ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 1 cornerback and the nation’s sixth-best player in the Class of 2025. He lists 33 college offers, including Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon State and Florida. With North Shore clinging to a three-point lead over Austin Westlake late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s state semifinal, Sanchez had a deflected pass that led to an interception and North Shore won 23-14 to win its fifth trip to a state championship game in six years. Against Duncanville, he’ll try to help contain five-star junior wide receiver Dakorien Moore, an LSU commit who has 66 catches for 1,461 yards and 17 touchdowns.

DeSoto vs Humble Summer Creek, 7pm Saturday

The four-star junior is rated as the 17th-best running back in the nation in the class of 2025 and has 34 college offers, including Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Oregon. He sprained his right elbow in the season opener and missed five games, but came back strong and rushed for more than 100 yards in all five playoff games. He had his best game of the season in Saturday’s 45-38 semifinal win over eight-time state champion Southlake Carroll, rushing for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries as defending 6A Division II state champion DeSoto reached its third state title game in eight years.

Deondrae Riden Jr. (1) of DeSoto carries the ball against Southlake Carroll’s Carter High (8) and Southlake Carroll’s Sam Fuller (25) during the first half of a Class 6A Division II state semifinal at Eagle Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. in Allen. (Chitose Suzuki / staff photographer)

Aledo vs. Comal Smithson Valley, 7 p.m., Friday

The four-star TCU commit is rated the nation’s 15th-best quarterback in the 2024 class and was selected for the All-American Bowl. He has thrown for 2,571 yards and 25 touchdowns and is the team’s second-leading rusher with 960 yards and 12 touchdowns. Aledo will play in its 14th state final and try to win its 12th state title, which would extend its UIL record. He was named the offensive MVP in last year’s state final after accounting for 318 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 52-14 rout of College Station that gave Aledo its fourth state title in five years.

The four-star Texas commit is rated as the nation’s 42nd-best receiver in the Class of 2024. Dubose tore his ACL and broke four bones in his knee early in the season last year, according to San Antonio Express-News, and he missed the rest of the season. But he made a remarkable recovery and finished third in the 5A 400 meters at the state track meet last spring, running 48.68. Smithson Valley will be playing in its first state final since 2004 and is looking for its first state title.

South Oak Cliff vs. Port Neches-Groves, 11 a.m. Saturday

South Oak Cliff coach Jason Todd tweeted Saturday, “How come Danny Green isn’t getting more interest from colleges?” It’s a good question considering his only reported offer was from Grambling State, though he was one of the top players in the state during the playoffs. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in every playoff game and has 718 yards and 13 touchdowns in five postseason games. He ran for 162 yards and scored on runs of 62 and 70 yards in a 36-24 state semifinal victory over Frisco Emerson as South Oak Cliff moved within one win of its third straight state title. Green has rushed for 1,291 yards and 21 touchdowns, his second straight 1,000-yard season.

South Oak Cliff running back Danny Green (21) rushes Frisco Emerson defensive end Keaton Blanton (88) for a first down during the second half of a Class 5A Division II state semifinal football playoff game Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Frisco . South Oak Cliff won the game 36-24.(Smiley N. Pool / staff photographer)

Anna vs. Tyler Chapel Hill, 11 a.m. Friday

The three-star transfer listed 18 college offers, including Boise State, California State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Purdue and Tulane. After having 1,180 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, Emmers missed the first four games with a foot injury. He had 49 catches for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 11 games he played in as Anna reached its first state championship game. Emmers caught a game-winning 30-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to beat Frisco Panther Creek 42-38 in the regional semifinals and finished that game with six catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns. This will be Anna’s final game in 4A Division I before moving to 5A Division II in the February realignment.

The four-star recruit is rated as the nation’s 22nd-best running back in the class of 2025. He committed to SMU over offers from Michigan, Alabama, Oregon, Ole Miss and Missouri, among others. He has rushed for 2,797 yards and 40 touchdowns and is coming off a 220-yard, three-touchdown game in a 56-33 win over San Antonio Davenport in the state semifinals. Chapel Hill is in the state finals for the first time since 2011, when it won the last of its two state titles.

Gilmer vs Belleville, 3pm Friday

The three-star senior, who has offers from Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UT-San Antonio and Texas State, has rushed for 2,510 yards and 34 touchdowns. He rushed for 271 yards and four touchdowns in a 79-42 rout of Glen Rose in the state semifinals and rushed for 916 yards and 12 touchdowns in five playoff games — with three 200-yard games. Gilmer will be playing in its ninth state championship game and will try to win its fourth state title — and first since 2014. Gilmer pulled off one of the upsets in this year’s playoffs, winning 47-44 in overtime in a regional final against nine-time state champion Carthage, the defending state champion.

Tolar vs. Timpson, 7pm Wed

The five-star Texas A&M commit is rated as the fifth-best player in Texas and the 17th-best player in the nation. He is the No. 1 athlete in the country and showed why by leading Timpson to its first state championship game. In a 68-7 win over Corrigan-Camden in the first round of the playoffs, he threw for 304 yards and six touchdowns, then followed that up the next week by totaling 490 yards and seven touchdowns in a 58-20 win over Wolfe City. He has accounted for 728 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two weeks in wins over Garrison and Ganado.

On Twitter: @DMNGregRiddle

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