IT’S A GAME, AN EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY, a community bond, the state religion, the biggest show in town every Friday night in the fall, a character builder, a revered symbol, an inspirational rallying point that offers a rare moment—more like 48 minutes—in which all races, religions, and economic strata put aside their differences to get behind the home team, a traffic generator for the local Dairy Queen, and topic A in coffee shops from Roscoe (“How ’bout them Plowboys?”) to Itasca (“Go Wampus Cats!”). Yes, even today.
But for all that, and for all the stereotypes fostered by the impressions of outsiders—we’re thinking of Jon Voight’s sadistic small-town coach in Varsity Blues —the modern phenomenon of Texas high school football is not something your daddy or his daddy would immediately recognize. These days, for instance, the suburbs rule the bigger classifications; in the nineties they’ve dominated the playoffs, with an ebb and flow between the Dallas—Fort Worth sprawl and the Houston-Beaumont—Port Arthur megalopolis. (The North Texas schools are currently on top, though H-Town fans will tell you it’s because they’ve taken to beating each other up. Then there was that player at Katy who was ruled ineligible the day before the state championship, causing his team to be disqualified…) And the sport has grown alongside the college and pro versions. Sophisticated pass-oriented programs have left the three-yard formula in the dust. Training regimens are now year-round. Coaching systems are implemented in the seventh grade. Texas Football magazine’s Web site carries ads for creatine, a controversial strength-building compound. Private schools are lobbying the Legislature for the right to compete against the public schools. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has banned prayer before games. Who can be called upon for an extra edge now?
But even if change is afoot, Texas high school football remains one of the few institutions that distinguishes us from the rest of the universe. We have more players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, and pep squads than anyone else. We send more of our boys to colleges and the pros than any other state (more than three hundred signed letters of intent to play for Division I schools last year alone). Our fans are more fanatical. Our boosters are more loyal. Our parents are more passionate. So believe the hype: We’re number one. And don’t you forget it.
See You in the Playoffs
4A La Marque has made it to the state finals six straight years. 3A Sealy won four consecutive state titles between 1994 and 1997. Both teams have racked up more than a hundred victories in the nineties, as have 5A Austin Westlake, 5A Converse Judson, 4A Corpus Christi Calallen, 4A Stephenville, and 2A Schulenburg. 5A Midland Lee, the top-ranked team in the nation according to USA Today, has made it to the postseason sixteen of the past seventeen years.
Won’t See You in the Playoffs
4A Fort Worth Trimble