Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Desirable matchups certain to threaten 35-year-old attendance record for Texas HS football game
Back in 1977, when Texas Stadium was only 6 years old, the matchup of Plano and Port Neches-Groves attracted 49,953 to the home of the Cowboys. It was an amazing crowd, but it’s probably more amazing that the attendance record for a Texas high school football game has survived longer than the stadium where it was played.
“We’re sort of proud of that record,” said Tom Kimbrough, who coached Plano to the victory in that Class 4A title game. “But we realize records will eventually be broken.”
But what will it take to break that record at the University Interscholastic League’s football championships next week?
How about a showdown of two undefeated nationally ranked teams? A matchup of DeSoto and Katy could determine a mythical national champion and would attract thousands of fans with no affiliation to either school.
Or how about Katy taking on Allen? That would match teams with two of the largest fan bases in the state, and Allen’s band alone can fill 600 seats at Cowboys Stadium.
Unfortunately, neither of those matchups can happen this year. DeSoto and Allen are in the Class 5A Division I bracket and Katy is in Division II.
Here’s another lineup that could draw a record crowd:
Katy (14-0 and No. 3 in the Rivals.com national rankings) vs. Cibolo Steele (14-0 and No. 17) in the 5A Division II final, followed by DeSoto (14-0 and No. 1) vs. Allen (13-1 and No. 6) in the Division I final. Four nationally ranked teams for the price of one ticket.
Those matchups, unfortunately, are also impossible. On Saturday, Allen takes on DeSoto in a Division I semifinal and Katy plays Steele in a Division II semifinal, so two powerhouses won’t make it to Cowboys Stadium.
It wouldn’t be that way in any other UIL sport. In football, the semifinals always set up Region 1 vs. Region 2 and Region 3 vs. Region 4. But in other sports, the UIL uses team records to seed the state semifinalists because that increases the chance of the best two teams meeting in the championship.
Unlike in other sports, the UIL football semifinals aren’t at a predetermined location. Seeding the football semifinalists would add to travel costs for teams and could complicate the process of choosing a neutral stadium for the game. The UIL has never seriously considered seeding the football semifinalists, spokesman Chris Schmidt said, and probably won’t unless there is a push for it from coaches or school administrators.
If the teams were seeded this year, Katy and Steele would meet either Cedar Hill (10-4) or Austin Westlake (10-4) in the Division II semifinals. DeSoto and Houston Lamar (14-0) have the best records in Division I, so they could meet either Allen or San Antonio O’Connor (12-2) in a semifinal.
Of course, any team that has made it this far in the playoffs is tough. And regardless of what teams play on the final day of the season, the crowd will be large. But on the 35th anniversary of the Plano vs. Port Neches-Groves game, that record crowd is more impressive than ever.
Even if the attendance record is broken, Kimbrough points out, it won’t be the same. The state championships now have multiple games to draw in fans, whereas the 49,953 were just there to see one game.
“To me, it’s two different categories,” Kimbrough said. “It’s apples to oranges.”
That’s true. But any way that gets nearly 50,000 fans to a championship game is great for the teams playing. It’s a very sweet fruit after a season of labor.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitterat @mattwixon