Photographer Captures The Team’s Battle For The State Title
Text by Melanie Saxton | Photography by Diana Porter of Design Online
For those unable to attend the exciting high school championship football game held recently at AT&T Stadium, an award-winning sports photographer was on hand to commemorate the milestone. Diana Porter ran the sidelines to capture phenomenal images in what can be described as “history in the making.” At stake: the UIL Division I, Class 6A state championship between the Cy Ranch Mustangs and the Allen Eagles.
The quest for the state title was all the more inspiring because Cy Ranch High, a relatively new school, opened in 2008. It only began a varsity football program in 2010 and celebrated its first graduating class in 2011. Through the years, Porter’s photography chronicled the Mustangs’ efforts leading up to 2014. They faced the Katy Tigers in 2012 for a first-ever playoff appearance in the regional final.
Head Football Coach and Campus Athletic Coordinator Gene Johnson traveled with his assistant coaches and team to the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington. “The challenges don’t come any bigger,” he said of the 8 p.m. game that took place on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. The formidable Eagles were considered by many to be “high school football royalty” aiming for a third championship after winning state titles two years in a row prior.
Adrenaline and Fans
People from other states are intrigued with Texas’ fascination with high school and college football, but the Mustangs’ winning trajectory could convert anyone into a diehard football fanatic. You just never know which football program will shake things up and put the spotlight on rising talent. This season, all eyes were on Cy Ranch’s Myles Roll, Keon Williams, Collin Rock, Charlie Booker, Dominik White, Cameron Grier, RJ Sneed, Chandler Thomas, Jackson Solbeck, Joe Johnson and Dylan Proske (to name just a few notable players).
The chance to play at the state level was a hard-earned rarity, and the Mustangs were well aware that a state win would be a monumental honor for CFISD. Cy Falls played in a state championship in 2006, and now Cy Ranch embraced the same opportunity. They had recently beaten Converse Judson (a team with six state championships) at the Alamodome in San Antonio with a score of 38-31, winning UIL Division I, Class 6A state semifinals. This breathtaking victory qualified the Mustangs for the championship game, which some called a “David vs. Goliath” match.
Community support was tangible. The halls of Cy Ranch High were thoroughly decked out in all things “Mustangs” leading up to the finals. Students at other CFISD high schools tweeted the excitement. The Berry Center posted a good luck message, and rival Katy High cheerleaders sent a congratulatory banner to the Cy Ranch campus.
An Epic Effort
This is the first year that Texas has a Class 6A comprised of schools with an enrollment with more than 2,100 students. A total of 245 schools fell into this classification, including the Mustangs. They lost the first and third game of the season and were predicted to finish somewhere in the middle. But their talent was underestimated and they defeated both the status quo and all the rest of their opponents leading up to the state championship.
Buses left around 11:30 a.m. with convoys of supporters following throughout the day to fill AT&T Stadium with tons of spirit and team colors (mostly gold/yellow, because Allen shared the blue hue). Pumped parents and frenzied fans hoped that the Mustangs’ 12-game winning streak would continue on the big stage in Arlington. But the team was trumped by the Eagle’s No. 1 ranking, plus 42 consecutive wins, including the last two state championships.
Cy Ranch’s well-known “ground-and-pound” tactics managed to contain the Eagles’ acclaimed quarterback Kyler Murray and tied the score during the first half. But the tide turned and Cy Ranch was unable to score again. Turnovers hurt the Mustangs, and Allen fed on momentum to defeat Cy Ranch 47-16 to win a coveted third consecutive state title.
The game produced a state runner-up trophy and some spectacular photo ops. Win, lose or draw, parents and fans love nothing more than revisiting the memorable images produced by Porter. She arrived in Arlington two days early to shoot six state level contests that same weekend, including Cy Ranch’s best effort.
As a sports mom herself, Porter has followed the Cy Ranch Mustangs since the inception of their varsity team in 2010. She sees both the euphoria and despair in games held all over the state, and has covered sports for ESPN and Vype magazines, the Houston Chronicle, and pro teams. In January 2012, she became the first woman to ever shoot the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine featuring Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III taken in Waco on the campus of Baylor University.
Certainly, the match in Arlington had its fair share of highs and lows. “Many young players dream of one day playing pro football,” she notes. “Yet the Pro Football Hall of Fame is filled with ‘agony’ shots as well as ‘jubilation’ shots. Winning and losing is part of the glory.” Focusing on the emotion of the game while running the sidelines carrying 50-60 pounds of equipment, Porter juggled three pro cameras, a large telephoto, one mid range zoom lens, and a wide angle. Throw in the GoPro, as well, and it can get a bit unwieldy working at full speed for three hours, but she managed to encapsulate heroic moments frame by frame.
The result is an extraordinary portfolio tracking the newly raised profile of the Cy Ranch Mustangs.
With a new year in front of the team, 2015 brings another chance to try again. As always, Porter will be on hand to shoot the game. The fans will arrive to cheer on their beloved Mustangs. The band, cheerleaders, drill team, parents and supporters will rally the crowds. And the players and coaches will do their utmost to live up to a state championship
Cy Ranch Mustangs, Through the Lens
Category: Cy-Fair People & Places