Over the past decade, North Shore has become of the top programs in the state, and quite arguably the nation.
The Bearcats have won seven UIL state football titles in the past 10 years.
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Another victory over Duncanville will give the football team their ninth state championship, which would be a new UIL 11-man record. It would tie Richland Springs, which won on Wednesday, for most in any classification.
Kickoff for the 5A Division II game is set for 11 a.m.
But that has never been the mindset for head coach Tim Buchanan and his players this season.
“I’ve never brought it up, some of the kids might have, but it’s a different year, different team. Some of these players weren’t starters last season,” said Buchanan. “Every year is a challenge. You take a new group and try to turn them into a good football team, but we honestly don’t talk about it. We’re not worried about records.”
Buchanan returned under the headset earlier this year as head coach. He had spent the past five seasons as the school’s athletic director while defensive coordinator Steve Wood took over the program, starting in 2014.
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North Shore head coach Tim Buchanan talks to his team after beating Ennis, 43-36 in the 5A Division II State quarterfinal high school football playoff game played at the Ford Center in Frisco, TX Friday, December 6, 2019. Steve Nurenberg Special to the Star-Telegram
The two coaches switched roles again as Wood is North Shore AD.
Coach Buc was on the sideline in 2018 when North Shore won its UIL-tying eighth title, against Marshall, 55-19.
“I remember their speed,” he said of Marshall. “They could run and knock a whole in the wind.”
Four-star running back Jase McClellan, who signed his letter of intent with Alabama on Wednesday, was a workhorse like he has for his entire career.
McClellan finished with 21 carries, 149 yards and three touchdowns, and caught a 22-yard TD pass, and was voted title game Offensive MVP for the second time in three years. He won the award in 2016 as a freshman.
“Marshall’s offensive line is much improved,” said Buc, who won five state titles during his first stint with North Shore. “They weren’t bad last year, but I think that’s one advantage we had last season, our defensive line getting pressure on their O-line. Not sure if we have that advantage this time.”
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North Shore running back Jase McClellan (9) gets stopped by Ennis linebacker Dane Vernor (44) during the first half of the 5A Division II State quarterfinal high school football playoff game played at the Ford Center in Frisco, TX Friday, December 6, 2019. Steve Nurenberg Special to the Star-Telegram
McClellan has 1,268 yards rushing and 27 TDs this season.
North Shore lost Week 1 against fellow state qualifier Denton Guyer, but has since won 14 straight.
Senior quarterback Jake Bishop has thrown for over 3,600 yards and 39 TDs to only three interceptions.
“Jake has really matured a bunch, physically and mentally,” Buc said. “Especially last two games against Ennis and Lubbock-Cooper. He has 100% confidence and when you’re QB is confident, running the offense, you have a chance to win.
“Our line has gotten better every week as well. They’re young with no returning starters, but the kids have done a really good job and turning into a very solid offensive line.”
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North Shore’s Jake Bishop (9) looks to pass the ball during the 5A Division II state semifinal game against Lubbock-Cooper, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at Wildcat Stadium in Abilene, Texas. [Brad Tollefson/A-J Media] Brad Tollefson Lubbock Avalanche
North Shore’s last two games have been among the toughest on its schedule, 43-36 in overtime against Ennis in the quarterfinals, then 28-21 vs. Lubbock-Cooper in the semis.
“It’s helped solidify in their mind how good we can be,” Buc said. “We didn’t play extremely well in the last two weeks, but we’ve overcome some mistakes. It makes the team stronger.”
North Shore and Marshall, which made state for the first time last year (the school opened in 2002), are nearly identical in points per game. The Bearcats are allowing 18 per game while the Buffalos are six points better on defense.
“Their defense front to back is better. A year older and a lot of Division I players,” Buc said. “They got guys all over the field.
“Offensively we can’t be one dimensional. We have to be able to throw and run the football multiple times or they’ll stop us,” Buc said. “As for defense, it comes down to one thing, taking good angles. We do that and we’ll be all right.”