A big playoff win over Allen, a record-setting wide receiver, one of the top passers in the Metroplex, the first trip to the state semifinals since 1987 and lots of offense.
These are some of the big accomplishments and special memories the Rockwall Yellowjacket coaches, players and fans will remember when they look back on the 2019 football season.
The Jackets finished with a 12-3 final record after making it to the state semifinals for the first time in 32 years.
Led by sophomore quarterback Braedyn Locke and senior wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Jackets averaged 46.1 points and 478 yards per game, including 301.3 yards passing and 176.7 rushing.
Locke finished as the top Class 6A passer in the Metroplex, throwing for 4,305 yards and 52 touchdowns. Locke was 268-of-455 passing with 11 interceptions.
Smith-Njigba, who is headed to Ohio State, finished his record-setting career with 109 receptions in 2019 for 2,132 yards and 34 TDs. Smith concluded his remarkable career as one of the top receivers in state history with 296 receptions for 5,384 yards and 63 touchdowns. He also ran for 395 yards and 11 TDs on 76 carries, returned 34 punts for 779 yards and two TDs and 32 kickoffs for 683 yards. He scored 76 touchdowns in his career.
The 6-1, 190-pounder has been named the Gatorade state football player of the year and the offensive player of the year on the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 6A all-state football team. He’s also been selected to play in the All-American Bowl at the Alamodome on Jan. 4 and was named to Sports Illustrated’s all-American roster.
The Jackets finished second to Longview in what Rockwall coach Rodney Webb calls “the toughest district in the state” and won nine games in a row, including playoff wins of 47-7 over Harker Heights, 60-49 over traditional power Allen, 37-27 over Klein Oak and 59-42 over Prosper in the state quarterfinals. The Jackets’ playoff run ended with a 56-14 semifinal loss to Duncanville, one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.
“One word to describe the season would be a roller coaster, since we had many ups and downs this season,” said senior placekicker Rich McDermott. “Even after we got blown out by Longview, it did not make our hope burn out. From then we continued on and won nine games in a row and made it to the state semifinals with victories over some great teams.
“My favorite memory from this season was the final stop of the Allen game. Joseph Schaefer and Tyler Ashworth made the final tackle and I was really happy for them because they were our leaders on defense and Joseph worked hard all offseason, so I was really happy to see him have such a great game,” said McDermott.
Teammate P.J. Barber, a senior defensive back, called the win over Allen his favorite memory “because we overcame adversity and we beat the odds that were against us.”
Barber described the Jackets as “ruthless.”
“Because we had to work ruthlessly for every game...and dig deep to be prepared for every game,” he said.
Wide receiver Caden Marshall took a pitch from Locke and then threw a two-point conversion pass to J.J. Williams for the winning points against Allen.
Williams called that two-point conversion his favorite memory, “getting revenge on them for last year.”
Williams also described the season as an adventure.
“Because we went through a lot of ups and downs, but still kept fighting as a family to get to the top.”
Senior linebacker Cole McMahan also pointed to the win over Allen as his favorite memory.
“Nothing comes lose to the feeling of beating Allen at AT&T Stadium,” he said. “It was the most electric atmosphere I’ve ever been in and we did something no one thought we could do.”
Junior defensive back Dariel Brown described the season as amazing.
“Because we put in so much effort into the run,” he said.
Senior offensive lineman Cole McAndrew will long remember the support the Jackets received from the Rockwall community.
“My favorite memory from this past season would be the community pep rally, because I really began to realize how big we were in the city of Rockwall. That was a special, breathtaking experience.”
McAndrew said the Jackets were a family.
“Because we would argue and complain like brothers, but at the end of the day we had each other’s backs and we cared for one another,” he said.