A first glimpse at HS football in Texas

A first glimpse at HS football in Texas
October 20, 2012, 10:30 am
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(Dave Zangaro)

As I parked my car in the huge parking lot, meandered my way through the seemingly endless marching band members and walked into the field house to pick up my press credential, I started to realize … I wasn’t in Jersey anymore.

By the time 12,000 people packed Jack Rhodes Memorial Stadium in Katy, I finally got a sense what Texas high school was all about.

Passion.

See, I stepped foot in Texas for the first time just over a week ago. I moved to Houston from the southern part of New Jersey to take a job with Comcast SportsNet. I covered high school sports in Jersey and figured how different could it really be?

I was wrong. It was different. Really different.

By the time I walked onto the field about 45 minutes before kickoff, there were already about 400 people in the stands – even with the extra traffic getting to the stadium. That alone would be a good crowd for some of the games I used to cover.

The game started off close but Katy’s defense ended up suffocating Seven Lakes in the second half and won the game 38-13, but truth be told, I wasn’t there for the game. I was there for the experience.

Before the game even started, I took a lap around the perimeter of the field. I wanted to get a better look. The first thing I noticed was the huge big-screen monitor on the far side of the stadium. That’s where I got a chance to see some replays later on.

Where do they have that? Replays at a high school game?  

Oh, yeah. Texas.

One of the more impressive displays was the way Seven Lakes came out of the locker room and onto the field. The players ran through a giant inflatable Spartan helmet filled with smoke and through a giant banner. It looked like the entrance of a pro team. The only way they could have beaten it was if they did the Remember the Titans dance into the stadium.

Then the game started. Yeah, the talent level in these schools is pretty high, at least from what I saw Friday night. But really, football is football. I’ve seen it at every level, from the pros to pee-wee. The field is still 100 yards. There are still goalposts on either end.

What makes it so sensational at Katy, isn’t the football. (Although anyone there is happy to tell you they’ve won six state titles.) What makes the game so much fun is the atmosphere, the 12,000 people roaring for their respective team.

When Seven Lakes returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown early in the first quarter to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead, I almost forgot I was at a high school game. As the Tigers drove down the field, I walked over to their sideline. I wanted to hear the reaction from the Katy fans. But almost as soon as I made it to the other side, Seven Lakes scooped up a fumble and returned it all the way.

See, some things are the same! I’m still a jinx.

I missed a good portion of that play as I tried to get settled on my new sideline and I was bummed. Until I remembered … they have a giant screen for replay. But the experience was about more than just a fancy big screen. It’s about passion.

The fans are nuts. The traffic is crazier. And they just keep packing these stadiums full of fans, bands and football teams.

As I walked out of Rhodes Stadium and headed to my car, I turned to an older woman I had talked to earlier in the game.

“Is it always this crazy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “It’s high school football.”

Only in Texas.

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