Wednesday, November 22, 2006

high school game of the week

Matchup's hype reaches prime time - Matt Wixon, Dallas Morning News

Friday's Southlake Carroll-Euless Trinity game has garnered national attention

So Southlake Carroll and Euless Trinity will finally meet. Champion against champion. Flash vs. Smash. The most highly anticipated high school game ever.

Well, maybe if you're under age 20. Or if you bleed Carroll green or know all the words to Trinity's haka chant.

That's not to scoff at the enormity of Friday's matchup of Trinity, last year's Class 5A Division I state champ, and Carroll, the Division II champ the last two years. Carroll has won 43 straight games, Trinity has won 26 and both teams are ranked in the National Prep Poll. They'll clash for the first time in a game fit for Texas Stadium.

And, apparently, a game fit for the national news. Last week, a staff member of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric contacted Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver about a story. Seriously.

That's pretty big time. But the biggest game ever in North Texas?

If we had a way to measure hype, maybe. But the best way to judge interest is by fan support, like the 49,950 who watched Plano beat Port Neches-Grove in the 1977 4A final at Texas Stadium. That was the largest crowd ever at a Texas high school football game, and Carroll and Trinity won't reach that figure.

Most likely, nobody ever will.

"Only one team [from each district] went to the playoffs then, so I really think that helped attendance," said Tom Kimbrough, who coached Plano from 1976 to 1991. "Before, you had people from other towns who were going to see the game."

This week, however, the titanic matchup comes when many playoff teams are still sailing. It's part of a week filled with heavyweight bouts, including Cedar Hill (11-0) against Hebron (10-1) in 5A, Highland Park (11-0) against Texarkana Texas (11-0) in 4A, and Madison (10-0) against Celina (11-0) in 3A.

Most of the past Games of the Year – or Decade, or Century, depending on your perspective – have come deeper in the playoffs:

The 1964 matchup of Garland and Amarillo Tascosa that drew 42,000 to the Cotton Bowl was a state semifinal. The '77 Plano miracle comeback against Highland Park was a state quarterfinal, as was Trinity's painful loss to Hurst L.D. Bell in the '82 playoffs (Bell advanced on the old "penetrations" rule). The Friday Night Lights game of 1988, featuring Carter vs. Odessa Permian, was a state semifinal, and last year's Carroll-Plano matchup of unbeatens, which drew nearly 35,000 to Texas Stadium, was a region final.

The Trinity-Carroll game will be unique in another way. The University Interscholastic League began splitting the playoffs into two divisions in 1990, and since then, reigning 5A champions have never met in the playoffs. But it happened four years ago in 4A, when reigning Division I champion Denton Ryan and reigning Division II champion Ennis met in a state semifinal at Texas Stadium.

In that game, Ryan scored 15 points in the final two minutes to win, 18-14. If the first matchup of 5A champs is anywhere near as dramatic, it probably will make national headlines. Maybe even bring Katie Couric to Texas.

It's a big one, no doubt. And no matter what game fans are at Friday, most will want updates from one of the greatest matchups in history.

Especially if it becomes one of the greatest games in history.

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