Texas High School Football is Better Than Any Other State
SAN ANGELO, TX--(Opinion) In my days as the punter for Angelo State, teammates from out of state didn't believe any of us Texans about Friday nights in Texas. These guys from Florida, California or even Illinois never thought the 17,500-seat San Angelo Stadium would fill up.
In the locker room I would always hear the guys from California and Florida debating who had the better high school football, excluding the Texans. But we kind of stayed out of the mix simply because we knew where the better place to play in high school was.
However, the argument as to why Texas is better for high school football would probably start like this:
First off, we put more people in the seats at our State Championship games than most collegiate bowl games do. Last year, 245,913 people went to the 12 State Finals from Class 1A to Class 6A. The 2016 matchup of DeSoto and Cibolo Steele in the 6A Division II final drew the biggest crowd at 40,318. College bowl games, such as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Gildan New Mexico Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl, just don't stack up averaging roughly 30,000 in attendance. Not to mention, in 2013, Allen and Pearland set the record for attendance when 54,317 people went to AT&T Stadium for the 5A Division 1 State Title.
I mean, look at what kind of stadiums these young athletes play in. Allen and Katy top the list with their high-end stadiums. Even at some of the smaller schools, the ground is hallowed because one or more guys grew up watching their brother play on that field. Those guys watching that led to dreams of playing on that field one day. Hardly any out of state stadiums compare to what we build here in Texas.
Secondly, the passion in Texas high school football is unrivaled by any other state. While at Crosby High School, a small town on the northeast side of Houston, I saw that. Yes, despite being a 4A town we were small back before 2011. The town would literally shutdown and congregate at our stadium behind the high school. Fans were tailgating, playing games and just enjoying themselves before they watch 15, 16, 17-year-olds try to knock each other's heads off. It was awesome to live and play in that atmosphere. But here's the thing, that doesn't just happen at little towns like Crosby, Wall, Grape Creek or Water Valley. Allen, home to the biggest school in the state of Texas, will shut down when the Eagles play on Friday nights. San Angelo, for the most part, shuts down on home games for the Bobcats.
That atmosphere also means the stakes are higher. My freshman year, back in 2008, we were playing a game against a rival school before Hurricane Ike hit. We had just scored to pull within one point. All we had to do was kick the extra-point and go to overtime. That extra-point got blocked and we lost. During the week and a half we were out of school due to Ike, I remember classmates leaving messages of disdain for the missed kick at my house or fans recognizing me and shouting obscenities as they drove by. While those aren't things you quite want to hear as a 14-year-old boy, it poorly encompasses the passion these towns feel when supporting their high schools.
People from out of state know about Texas high school football. They know that Allen built their $60 million horseshoe-style stadium in 2012, only to have to close it temporarily due to cracks in the foundation. They know about Odessa Permian's dance with Dallas Carter, even though it was portrayed as the state title game in Friday Night Lights when it was actually just a semi-final. They know the Katy Tigers have won eight State Championships, which is tied for the most in Texas history. They know about Frisco ISD schools using the Dallas Cowboy's 12,000-seat, indoor practice facility at The Star in Frisco.
California and Florida may put more players in to the Division I ranks of college, but Texas prepares their players to play on the biggest stage. Just ask the nine active quarterbacks in the National Football League who hail from Texas, or the 64 teams in the 10 different 11-man playoff brackets, or us journalists who eat, sleep, and breathe Texas high school football over the five month season and beyond. Texas high school football is superior.