Written by Matt Wixon
Broken down buses, failed short cuts and tight finishes are all part of Texas football playoff magic
Editor's Note: This is a column by Matt Wixon from a November, 20 2008 edition of The Dallas Morning News. This week he is sharing some of his top football postseason memories and they can be found here.
In 1996, No. 1 North Mesquite and No. 2 Odessa Permian met in a regular-season showdown of the state's top-ranked 5A teams. North Mesquite clobbered the famed Mojo, 27-0, but there was a bright spot for Permian:
At least it made it to the game. That was an accomplishment after one team bus overheated and another got lost on the way to Mesquite Memorial Stadium. Permian players had to borrow balls from North Mesquite to warm up because their equipment bus arrived late.
Sometimes getting to and from a game can be a bigger challenge than the game itself. Stories are told of buses running out of gas, drivers getting lost, and even a time when a bus broke down and a coaching staff hitched a ride with a sports writer. That writer was one of my colleagues, Randy Jennings, who in 1981 gave Grand Prairie coach Ken Murray and some of his assistants a ride after a 14-13 win at Euless Trinity. It was a very happy car ride, because Grand Prairie had clinched its first playoff berth in 12 years.
So as football teams prepare to hit the road for the second round of the playoffs, it seems like a good time to let a few coaches tell their funniest bus memories. Maybe it will create good karma this week as teams head to destinations across North Texas and beyond.
First, we go back to 1985, when Irving was traveling to John Clark Stadium for a game against Plano and Jim Bennett was in the second year of his 25-year stint as Irving's coach. The driver of Irving's bus said he knew a shortcut.
"We ended up on some farm-to-market road with one lane each way and a red light that must've had a three-mile backup," Bennett said last week before his team's playoff game at Texas Stadium. "I was not in good humor."
Irving's two buses crossed a plowed field - there were a lot of those back then in Plano - and made it to the stadium about 20 minutes before the game, which Bennett said started on time.
Fifteen years later, Cedar Hill was traveling back from a game in Arlington and rain was pouring down. Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire, then an assistant to Robert Woods, remembers that the bus skidded a little in some standing water. It startled him, so he looked back at the players.
"They didn't say anything," McGuire said, "but they started putting their pads back on and snapping up their helmets."
Cedar Hill made it home safely, and so did Kaufman coach Todd York after a very strange, and happy, victory celebration in 2002. After York's Corrigan-Camden team won the 2A Division I state title at Waco ISD Stadium, the team's bus broke down at the first red light. That was about 200 miles away from Corrigan, which is south of Lufkin in East Texas.
Parents had to bring cars to take the players to a restaurant for dinner as the kids waited for a bus carrying cheerleaders to U-turn and head back to Waco. Football players got on that bus, but then that bus had to stop when the engine overheated. The team missed the town's pep rally at 2:30 a.m.
The bus finally arrived in Corrigan at 5:30. It was a long night, but with a state championship trophy onboard, it was a fun night.
"I wouldn't trade that night for anything now," York said.