Written by Matt Wixon
Playoff routines: Highland Park coach advises holding off Thanksgiving turkey; SOC coach says eat what you want
Three rounds into the playoffs, there’s no reason to mess with success. So although football players are out of school and Thanksgiving will throw off the routine, coaches are trying to make this week like any other.
But at Highland Park, which is in the third round for the sixth time in the last seven years, preparations include something out of the ordinary: A discussion of tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid in turkey that produces the brain chemical serotonin, which promotes calm. Some people believe it makes you tired, citing the thousands of people who conk out on the couch after a Thanksgiving feast.
“We’re having some talk about maybe not having turkey until after the game Friday,” Highland Park coach Randy Allen said.
Overly cautious, perhaps. But Highland Park does have an early wake-up call on the day after Thanksgiving. The Scots (11-1) play Mansfield Legacy (10-2) at 12:30 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium in a Class 4A Division I regional semifinal.
Highland Park and Legacy, along with the dozens of other area teams playing this weekend, could be sluggish after the holiday. If a team lets the distractions of an unusual week seep in, Black Friday might describe more than the crazy shopping day.
“Every team in the playoffs this time of year is going to need to have self-discipline and focus without its normal routine,” Allen said.
Mesquite Poteet (11-1) also has an early-afternoon game Friday – a 1 p.m. start against Whitehouse (12-0) in a 4A Division II regional semifinal. In 3A Division I, Frisco Lone Star (8-4) has a 2 p.m. start against Kilgore, and in 5A Division I, Southlake Carroll (11-1) and Euless Trinity (10-2) kick off at 4 p.m.
Other area teams don’t play until later Friday, such as South Oak Cliff (11-1), which is in the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and faces Wylie (8-4) at 7:30. SOC Coach Emmett Jones said that when he ends practice early Thursday, he’ll remind the players that they need to be focused on Friday.
But then he’ll tell them to have fun.
“I’m not going to tell them what to eat or how to eat,” Jones said. “I just want them to enjoy the holiday with their families.”
Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire wants the same thing for his players. That’s one reason he prefers to schedule a Thanksgiving-week playoff game on Saturday. Cedar Hill (10-2), a state runner-up in 5A Division II last year, faces Abilene Cooper (8-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“If you play on Friday, you have to tell them, you know, don’t overeat,” McGuire said. “But they’re high school football players. They like to eat.”
On Thanksgiving, Cedar Hill players will have a light morning practice with no pads and work on the game plan for Cooper.
“And then at the end,” McGuire said, “we’ll go around and ask the kids, ‘What are you thankful for?’”
They’ll talk about family, friends, health and, even if it falls much lower on life’s priorities, the chance to keep playing football. It’s a good reason to be thankful, as well as proud of the achievement.
After Thanksgiving, there are no turkeys left in the playoffs.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.