25 Days of Champions -- 2013 Grandfalls-Royalty


Six-man expert

One of the schools with the smallest enrollments ever to win a state championship was the 2013 Grandfalls-Royalty Cowboys, who had just 26 students in high school and went on to win the six-man Division 2 state title that year at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Grandfalls-Royalty Cowboys had been progressively getting better every season since 2010. That season, when the seniors on the 2013 team were freshman, they scrapped out a three-win season and were competitive in all their district games. In 2011 they improved drastically, going 12-2 and ending their season in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, falling to Sterling City 74-23. In 2012 the Cowboys put together an even better 13-1 record and advanced one round deeper, falling to state runner-up Follett, in a nail bitter, 44-32, in the semifinals.

Head coach Joe Helms was now in his second season at the helm for the Cowboys and had returning for him a veteran squad. In fact, not only did that including all the offensive and defensive starters, but every single letterman from the previous season. In the backfield was the speedy duo of 1st team all-state running back Junior Marquez and Thomas Burns, along with quarterback Gilbert Nunez (2nd team all-state special teams) calling the signals. Burns, a returning 1st team all-state linebacker, was also a top defender along with Julian Helms, himself a two-way returning all-state player (1st team all-state safety and 2nd team wide receiver), 2nd team all-state cornerback Luis Morales and Austin Perryman.

Needless to say, Grandfalls was expected to be a top tier team in 2013 and entered the season as Dave Campbell’s Magazine’s preseason #1 in Division 2.

The first rattle out of the box was a misstep, as the Cowboys were beaten in their season opener by Water Valley in a close game, 32-20. Coach Helms undoubtedly used this loss as a wakeup call for his team, for they then proceeded to finish out their non-district schedule, winning the next four games by a combined score of 227-6.

In their five district contests, no one poised a real threat, as they won the District 6 crown, going 5-0 and outscoring their opponents 296-20. The Cowboys entered the playoffs 9-1, on the heels of a nine-game winning streak where they scored an average of 54.3 points per game and allowed just 5.8 points per game.

For bi-district, the Cowboys drew a rematch with Loop, whom they beat 50-0 in non-district play, and won again easily 68-20. For their second round game, they faced off with a top-ten ranked Blackwell squad and handily defeated them 57-8. In the quarterfinals, the Cowboys had no trouble with the Loraine, toppling the Bulldogs 68-14, in a game that ended at halftime. Then in their semifinal game, Grandfalls would face off with Follett for the second-straight season.

In the semifinal rematch, Follett held a 34-22 lead at halftime, but Grandfalls fought back and took their first lead in the game with 3:54 left in the third quarter when Luis Morales recovered a Follett fumble in the end zone to make it 46-42. Follett regained the lead early in the fourth quarter, 50-46, but Grandfalls stepped-up their defense and powered up their offense, scoring the next three touchdowns in the game, to take a 67-50 lead with just over two minutes left to play. Follett managed one more score, but it was too little too late and the Cowboys advanced to their first-ever state championship game, winning 67-58.

State Championship Game – Saturday 3pm in AT&T Stadium, Arlington
While Grandfalls-Royalty was making their first-ever title game appearance, that was not the case for their opponent, Milford. The Milford Bulldogs would be making the schools fifth state title game appearance, having won it all in 1979 and 1980 and finishing as runners-up in 1994 and 1995. The Bulldogs entered the game with a 12-2 record and riding a 12-game win streak, having lost their first two games of the season to eventual TAPPS runner-up Boerne Geneva, in a close 40-36 loss, and highly-ranked Division 1 Abbott, 96-50. In their semifinal game, Milford survived a back-and-forth seesaw of a game with Newcastle, eventually prevailing 66-58.

While Grandfalls had the dynamic duo of Thomas Burns and Junior Marquez, Milford had an all-state duo of their own in Jacobe Essary and Eric Evans. Essary was especially dangerous running the ball, coming into the contest having rushed for 2,700 yards and 51 touchdowns. Evans was the team’s premier defender with 182 tackles entering the final. He had also thrown for over 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns on the year.

By simple stat comparison, Marquez for Grandfalls had scored 32 rushing touchdowns with just under 1,200 yards, while the Cowboy’s leading tackler, Austin Perryman, had been in on 98 tackles. But as we know, in the state game such comparisons rarely matter.

Grandfalls jumped out on top early and their defense shut down the Essary-led Bulldog offense, as the Cowboys led 24-0 at the end of the first quarter. Just six seconds into the second quarter Junior Marquez scored his second rushing touchdown of the young game, and the Cowboys extended their lead to 30-0.

Essary found a running lane on Milford’s ensuing possession and just 11 seconds and 43 yards later, the Bulldogs were finally on the board, 30-8. Grandfalls would not be deterred, scoring two more touchdowns before giving up one to Milford, who scored on a six-yard pass from Evans to Jacarvus Gates with just 43 seconds left until halftime. The Bulldogs seemed to have a little momentum, however, the Cowboys immediately marched down the field and scored again as time expired in the first half, with Thomas Burns connecting with Julian Helms for a 17-yard touchdown, to take a 52-14 lead into the locker room.

Milford would have the first possession of the second half and quickly narrow the Grandfalls lead a little when Essary scored on a 28-yard run. The Bulldogs then intercepted a Cowboy pass at their own five-yard line to shift momentum their way.

That momentum shift was only for a moment, as Thomas Burns and Junior Marquez blew up the Bulldogs’ line on two-straight plays, culminating with Marquez recording a safety, giving his team two more points and a 54-22 lead.

Less than a minute later, Luis Morales would find pay dirt on a 22-yard run and the lead was now extended to 60-22, with 5:23 left in the third quarter.

Eric Evans opened up the Bulldog passing attack on the next drive and got them back on the board with 9-yard touchdown pass to Jose Owens, cutting the score to 60-28. However, Grandfalls answered with a steady dose of run plays by Marquez and Gilbert Nunez, answering with a 26-yard scamper by Nunez for a score. The third quarter came to an end shortly thereafter, with Milford moving the ball once again by an Evans led pass attack and the score 66-28.

Grandfalls defense came out firing on all cylinders to start the fourth quarter, getting a big sack on Evans and then, after an incompletion and a 15-yard reception by Essary, Milford faced a 4th and 12. Nunez busted through the Bulldogs line and came up with a big sack, forcing the ball over on downs.

The Cowboys only took four plays to move the ball down the field, ultimately scoring on a 26-yard pass Morales to Nieves Rodriguez. After the 1-point PAT pass from Burns to Robert Canals was good, Grandfalls-Royalty were state champs, defeating Milford via the 45-point mercy rule with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter, 73-28.

Grandfalls out-gained Milford, 553-206, behind their teams 415-yard effort on the ground, with Junior Marquez being the game’s leading rusher, gaining 228 yards and scoring two touchdowns on just 14 carries.

-This was the first year the six-man games were played at AT&T Stadium.
-The DII state game was the late game in 2013, as the DI state game was a 12 noon kickoff time.
-Official UIL state game stats were used for this piece.
-Grandfalls-Royalty is a school district comprised of the small towns of Grandfalls and Royalty (unincorporated), which are only about a mile apart in Ward County. Royalty supposedly only has a population of 1 or 2 at this time according to Wikipedia.
-Many people just refer to the school as ‘Grandfalls’ when speaking.

I can't find my state game program from that season but I think they had a roster of 15-16 players just about every boy in HS played (GR* folks if you're out there let us know if that is correct)

*fixed it for ya
First off it's GR. lol But yes, I believe we had 18 boys out for football and had 29 total students in HS.
Saw the semifinal game in Muleshoe vs Follett. I had seen Follett play a few games that year with their stud named Dakota Woods. If Woods had not been on Follett's roster, I thought Grandfalls and Follett would be a good game, but with Woods I thought he was going to be the X factor, and Follett would come out on top. In the end Grandfalls had too much speed and team quickness and stayed in a close game late with a chance to win. The temperature was very very FRIGID, and by late 4th qrtr., Follett's kids looked like they were running on low fuel. On the otherhand, Grandfalls kids seemed to find another gear and Woods finally got gassed being chased at Spread Back all night. This was the true STATE Championship game as these two teams were clearly the top in Div. II six man. Hot chocolate made Muleshoe concessions some money that night, and Grandfalls proved they were worthy of winning it all, in which they did! Seeing a small school with 27 students try and fill up Jerry's World was comical but these guys played little giants role all year!! Hats off to Helm's and staff for having his kids fired up every week, they definitely got the most of out their kids who had a motor that wouldn't quit!
This team defended the spread better than any team I have ever seen. They were SO fast it looked like they gobbled up the ball carrier in a sea of red.
Coach Hester was right. The game at Muleshoe was a frigid one. Kickoff temp was 29. Fans had to go to their cars at halftime to warm up. The hot chocolate helped but if you didn’t drink it fast it became a block of ice. Great game in spite of the brutal weather.