CEDAR HILL, Texas - Stardom arrived for Avery Davis in his sophomore season finale.
Then a little used backup, Davis engineered the game-winning drive for Cedar Hill in the Texas Class 6A Division II title game. His 52-yard run set up a 25-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to give Cedar Hill a 23-20 win over Katy and second straight state title.
Davis had 10 carries for 126 yards plus 68 yards passing and a touchdown while backing up starter Justin McMillan, who’s now a quarterback at LSU.
Even before that game many saw Davis as the heir apparent to McMillan. But when nearly 50,000 fans filed out of AT&T Stadium in Dallas that mid-December night, they knew a star on the Texas high school football landscape had been born.
“It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain,” Davis said. “But it’s a great feeling and one that I wanna get again. It’s a surreal moment to know you’ve been battle tested, you’ve played the best of the best and come out on top. Playing for this school, it means a lot.”
Davis ascended to starter as a junior. He didn’t miss a beat, completing 65 percent of his passes for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Davis ran for another 873 yards and 13 scores. He threw just four interceptions all season.
Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire opened up the playbook, facilitating all that production.
“Whenever we got in the playoffs we had a package for him and we just built a package each week,” McGuire said. “He really turned it loose in the state game and then in the last two years he’s come on as being one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever had.”
Davis garnered all kinds of attention by the end of last season.
Most recruiting outlets listed the 6-foot, 192-pound prospect as a four-star prospect. Notre Dame offered a scholarship, hosted a couple visits and scored a commitment from Davis by that spring.
Over the summer, Davis earned an invitation to the Elite 11 Finals. He led Cedar Hill to the Texas state 7-on-7 tournament too.
All the while Davis turned into a celebrity around Cedar Hill, a city of about 46,000 located 20 minutes southwest of Dallas. Davis first noticed it when speaking to children at an elementary school. He’s been flagged down in public often enough it’s commonplace.
“There’s always love,” Davis said. “That’s something that’s progressed as I grew up. My sophomore year not a lot of people knew who I was and stuff like that. I’ll go to the store at like 12 o’clock at night to get toothpaste or something and I’ve got people that are like, ‘Hey, that’s the quarterback. Can you take a picture?’ It’s all love. It’s cool.”
Attention is part of the deal when you’re a starting quarterback at one of the top programs in Texas. It’s something Davis embraced.
Being the starter at Cedar Hill is one of the earliest football-related goals Davis set. McGuire admitted it probably would’ve happened as a sophomore if not for McMillan. Davis waited. Reality, eventually, matched up with his expectations.
“It’s a blessing,” Davis said. “It’s an honor. Dreamed of it as a kid. It’s coming to an end now and it kinda hurts. But I’ve enjoyed it and I’m still enjoying it.”
Davis is the unquestioned leader of Cedar Hill and its prolific offense. He puts that on display Friday nights while working with future FBS receivers Charleston Rambo (Oklahoma), Camron Buckley (Texas A&M) and Jaylon Jackson (Colorado). Running back Kaegun Williams holds some top offers. Needless to say, opposing defenses have their hands full.
After a 28-21 win over South Grand Prairie last Friday, Cedar Hill is 7-2 with one regular season game remaining while averaging 45 points per game.
Consider his numbers over the past five weeks: 71-of-96 (74 percent), 1,172 yards, 21 touchdowns, one interception. Overall, he’s completing 68 percent of his passes (112-of-165) with 1,615 yards and 24 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games this season.
Rambo, one of the beneficiaries when Davis is on top of his game, sees a quarterback not just with raw talent but ability to think the game.
“First of all, he’s big,” Rambo said. “He reminds me of Cam Newton. They’re both big, can throw and can run. He’s smart. Some people try to question him about reading defenses but I know if he’s got the ball, Avery can really read it and get us the ball wherever we’re at.”
It’s the combination of talent and calm in the spotlight that make many around Cedar Hill sure their latest starting quarterback will be successful in college.
Nobody is sure exactly what the situation at Notre Dame will look like in the spring, so Davis might want to be ready. Malik Zaire could transfer for his fifth season. DeShone Kizer could be off to the NFL Draft.
That leaves sophomore Brandon Wimbush and freshman Ian Book. Both are red-shirting this year.
Being the starting quarterback at Cedar Hill certainly doesn’t compare to doing so at Notre Dame, playing on a national stage weekly. But there’s something to be said for being comfortable with scrutiny.
“He played in such huge games that he was prepared,” McGuire said. “He’s played on ESPN twice. He’s played on Fox Sports. He’s played in a state championship game where there’s 54,000 people in the stadium at Cowboys Stadium. There’s still always gonna be a growing when you’re a freshman at Notre Dame then playing on the stages they play on. But I do think he’s better prepared than some kids that haven’t been in that spotlight.”
Davis has paid attention to how Kizer has handled himself this season, which is perhaps more telling since the Irish are 3-5 after last week’s 30-27 win over Miami.
No matter what happens in his own Notre Dame future, Davis plans to approach it the same as his rise at Cedar Hill.
“I could picture that being crazy,” Davis said. “I’ll just stay humble, remain humble and remain focused on the goals. And remember what it took to get there.”