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I Love High School Football

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bill Jones
Having grown up in Irving, Bill has deep roots in the DFW area. ...
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CBS 11 Sports Anchor Bill Jones wrote this in December 0f 2003

I love high school football.

I love pep rallies.

I love the big sendoff when the state bound football team departs on the team bus for the big game.

I love elementary school students and teachers lining the street waving pompons and cheering wildly as the team buses drive by their school on the way to the big game.

I love loading up family and friends in our Suburban and driving five hours to San Antonio.

I love it when my daughter’s friend pulls out a CD she wants to listen to on the drive, and it’s a Kirk Franklin gospel CD.

I love to embarrass my daughters by dancing in my seat to a Kirk Franklin gospel CD while I’m driving.

I love seeing dozens of Carroll Dragons Wagons with shoe-polished “State Bound” windows and green car flags all headed southbound on I-35.

I love driving down the highway, playing the School Nickname Game.  The Itasca What’s? Wampus Cats!  How about Troy?  Trojans!  Round Rock? Dragons!  New Braunfels?  Unicorns!

I love “people watching” until 1 a.m. in a downtown San Antonio hotel lobby the night before the big game. (And why are these San Antonio Reagan High School kids making out on a couch in the middle of the Marriott Rivercenter lobby in front of hundreds of people? And where are their parents?)

I love the anticipation as we retire for the night on the eve of a state championship game.

I love waking up early and going for a morning jog as the sun comes up on a State Championship Saturday.

I love the hustle and bustle of checking out of the hotel the morning of the big game.

I love walking into the Alamodome 1 1/2 hours before kickoff and already there’s a sea of red on one side of the stands – probably 10,000 Katy fans who made a three hour drive from Houston – and another 10,000 Carroll fans decked out in green on the other side, each of whom having made a five hour drive from Southlake (unless they made it in 45 minutes in Daddy’s private plane!)

I love red on one side and green on the other. It’s December 21st and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I love Charlie Stalcup, the 49 year old Carroll defensive coordinator who’s battled Grade 4 melanoma for four years.  The five year survival rate is less than 10%, and here he is, having just finished six months of chemotherapy, having just been hospitalized two days earlier undergoing a blood transfusion, having been such an inspiration to all these teenagers and adults alike by keeping his head up and doing what he loves to do, doing what he’s called to do, coaching in his second straight state championship game.

I love watching Charlie Stalcup before the game. He summons up all the strength he has just to walk slowly to the team bench at midfield.  He takes a seat to rest for a few minutes before the team comes on the field for pregame warmups. And then Charlie Stalcup slowly, deliberately, determinedly makes his way onto the field to coach his team one final time…to teach his kids how to live life…even when you’re dying.

I love the excitement as kickoff approaches.

I love the roar of the crowd when both teams race onto the field through their 15 foot high, 25 foot long inflatable helmet tunnels filled with dense smoke comng out of the booster club’s fog machine.

I love the Carroll Band blaring the school fight song…”On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin, on to victory…”

I love seeing a hundred high school kids with helmets off, kneeling in the end zone, their bleached blonde heads bowed in prayer.

I love the deafening eruption from the Carroll crowd when Chase Daniel throws a long touchdown pass to Kenton Gedwed on the fifth play of the game.  Daniel would go on to become the best quarterback in Missouri Tiger history, a Heisman Trophy finalist.

I love the eerie silence on the Carroll side when the Katy Tigers, in their Nebraska-like red pants and white jerseys, methodically march down the field.

I love the excitement of the closest of games.

I love looking up in the stands when all around them are standing and screaming and jumping up and down, and there’s my 8th grader Jessica and her friends, sitting down with mouths agape, wondering what just happened.

I love fantastic finishes.

I love Garrett Hartley lining up a 45 yard game clinching field goal attempt.  Six years later, Hartley would kick an NFC Championship game winning field goal to send the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl.

I love the Katy Tigers wildly racing off the field in jubilation, realizing their dreams have not been dashed, when Hartley’s kick sails wide right.

I love the thrill of victory.

I love the heartbreak of defeat.

I love seeing Carroll players cry when they lose.

I love seeing Katy players cry when they win.  Number 7, Ryan Mouton, who made the game winning touchdown catch and the game saving interception, is now bawling his eyes out in euphoria.  Five years later, Mouton would be playing in the NFL.

I love seeing Katy coaches rolling on the ground in total elation.

I love seeing Carroll coaches showing grace and dignity and class in defeat.

I love a postgame meal with family and friends on the Riverwalk.

I love hearing my 6th grader, Jordan, proclaim, “Next year I’m bringing a friend with me on this trip!”

I love making the late night long drive home when the other seven in our Suburban are fast asleep.

I love that feeling of family and community.

I love high school football.

Footnote:  Charlie Stalcup would pass away less than 8 months later, just prior to the 2004 season.  The Dragons would dedicate that season to their late defensive coordinator.  Carroll won the state championship in 2004 on a last second field goal at Texas Stadium.  The program would go on to win three straight state titles, a total of four championships in a five year period from 2002-06.  The game described above marked the Dragons’ only loss in an unprecedented stretch during which they amassed 79 wins and only one defeat, an achievement never accomplished at the Class 5A level of Texas high school football.

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