LBJ Jaguars lose championship game, but win bigger victory

A large contingent of purple and white made the trip to Arlington and for some, getting here was a victory in itself. 

School spirit and Austin pride filled the home team stands at AT&T Stadium Friday. The massive venue made an immediate impact on the LBJ football team and fans, like Shaun Rutherford.

"Man, I was walking in the tunnel, and I was amazed, I was ready to play," said Rutherford.

Rutherford trains several of the players, and he knows this game is certainly not your typical grid iron battle. It’s the first time LBJ has been to a state championship game and the first time since 1973 any football team from Austin ISD has been here.

"Just putting on for the city of Austin, you know normally we’ve got Lake Travis and Westlake are the teams that put on for Austin, but just to see another team form the inside, be able to produce and do good things for the city," said Rutherford.

The players are sharing this historic moment and the big stage with other LBJ students. The sound from the LBJ band and the first ladies dance team filed the stadium, as well as the cheer squad. It’s a lasting memory according to senior Saniah Phillips.

"They’re so excited, been like, we’ve got to practice, we’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to go over this, go over everything. They’ve been so ready for it," said Phillips.

The historic moment was not lost on Phillips, but at time, she wanted to just experience the moment. "I’m going to soak it in after all this ends, and be like, whoa, I was just at the Cowboys' stadium," said Phillips.

The weight of the moment may have factored into falling behind in the first half. But this team has been tested before, and they know real heartache.

Back in November, the son of head coach Jahmal Fenner was killed in a shooting in Pflugerville. 21- year-old Cameron Nelson was a big supporter of the team and was a shocking loss that deeply affected the LBJ community. Friday, the grit that kept the team moving forward was seen on the field and in the stands during the championship game.

"It means the world because we made it to this level, this is a stage a lot of teams never get to, and so we wanted to represent our community, it just didn’t turn out our way," said Fenner.

The game ended with a loss for LBJ, the scoreboard reading 38 to 21. Standout wide receiver Noah Baker was clearly disappointed, but is already looking ahead to next season. "We came up short, but we are on another mission," said Baker.

The scoreboard at AT&T Stadium showed a score of 38 to 21. AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, after giving the team their silver medals, was looking at something more impressive. "The score board doesn’t matter, what matters is our kids never gave up and look at the people that came to support our kids," she said.

The game may have ended in a loss for the team, but the fans had one message for them, "we are proud of you," essentially a message from all of Austin.

LBJ Jaguars head to Arlington to compete for state football title
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