Written by Michael Florek
4 high school teams having their best football years ever: With 300 plastic horns and trashcan lid banging
Plano West running back Sotonye Jamabo’s walk through the hallways on Mondays has gotten a lot longer.
After scoring 10 touchdowns in two playoff games, Jamabo has the school in the third round for the first time in its 14-year history. Still a sophomore, he’s a year away from attending the main campus, but his trip between classes at feeder school Shepton has an almost mayoral feel.
Congrats on the game!
You were amazing!
You’re not human!
“The school kind of loves me,” Jamabo said. “The day after the game, people just hassle me all the time. I’ll take it, because it feels really good.”
At the main campus, the feeling has been the same.
“I wasn’t really expecting everybody to be at this next game since it’s in Waco,” linebacker Jake Wodka said. “So many people have come up to me in the hallways and said, ‘Hey, I’ll see you at the game.’”
Plano West’s students have entered a football-manic state, packing more sections of bleachers with each successive win, making signs and painting their bodies.
“I’ve been here 11 years and I haven’t seen the excitement or the involvement from the student body as much as it has been this year,” Plano West coach Mike Hughes said.
With a handful of teams making unprecedented playoff runs, the scene has repeated all over the Dallas area. Red Oak and Lancaster are in the third round for the second time in school history. Wylie East is in the third round in its third year with a varsity program.
As Plano West won the first of three successive games to close the regular season — wins necessary just to make the playoffs — plastic horns became a staple in the student section. Five games later, quarterback Travis Korry said there are now about 300 of them.
“People weren’t really expecting much,” Wodka said. “Once we won, they were like ‘Hey, this team is pretty good.’ Then we won again, and now everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon.”
At Red Oak, students bang on trashcan lids, complete with logos and Red Oak’s slogan of Win the Day.
“The last game, I couldn’t even hear the other linebacker calling a call,” Red Oak linebacker Connor Barnett said. “[He was] five feet away.”
In school, Barnett and his teammates receive congratulations — and a barrage of questions.
How far will you go?
Will you win the next game?
How hard will it be?
What does the other team look like?
“[They ask] in class too, especially in class,” Red Oak running back Cameron Bausley said. “Even from the teachers.”
Unlike Plano West, Red Oak is in a one-high school town. Restaurants have put up signs of congratulations. Red Oak coach Mike Shields is receiving emails from teachers who remember players from elementary school.
After weeks of playoff buildup, it could be all over in a matter of a couple of hours. Coaches and players say they try to stay focused on the game and not focus too much on what this game and this run have done for the school and community.
For coaches like Shields, always focused on the next task, he said everything will sink in when it’s finally over.
For the players it’s a little different. Every now and then, in between touchdown runs, Jamabo can’t help himself.
“I’m not going to lie,” Jamabo said. “I look around a lot.”
Follow Michael Florek on Twitter at @michaelflorek.
Going deep into the playoffs
Teams to have matched or exceeded the best playoffs runs in school history:
second round (2004)
Saturday vs. Lufkin
third round (2007)
Friday vs. Fris. Centennial
third round (2000)
Saturday vs. Prosper
first round (2011)
Friday vs. Mesq. Poteet
*Wylie East is in its third year of varsity football