2020 Week 18 (Texas & Arkansas)

2020 Week 18 (Texas & Arkansas)

After Mississippi, I wasn’t quite sure that I was going to see any games the rest of the 2020 calendar year. I had considered maybe seeing the title games in Georgia. A week after Christmas. I still had wanted to see the Texas finals. But, with only 8 games scheduled of the 12, I was not quite sure I wanted to make the drive for that.

However, I didn’t take into account a few things. First, was that after taking a weekend off from attending football games, I was planning to drive to Texas. Even with just 8 games, I figured I had made this trip every year since 2011. I also, failed to account for the 5A and 6A playoff games would still be played.

Also, there were games elsewhere. Florida had 8 title games being played in Tallahassee. And, the major stumbling block was Texas’s ticket distribution. Playing in cavernous AT&T Stadium would normally be enough open space. But, Texas isn’t normal.

Now, AT&T Stadium had a maximum capacity of roughly 15,000 for these games. The tickets were increased from $15 to $20 per day. And the Friday games were sold as two separate tickets. Parking, again, was increased to $20 across the board, and all via credit cards. No cash this year.

But, tickets were allocated to the participating schools first. Using access codes. Luckily, I knew those codes for the 8 games. They honestly weren’t that hard to figure out once you knew one of them. But, tickets weren’t going on sale until Monday morning for the prime sideline seats.

At AT&T Stadium, the 100, 200, and 300 levels between the 20s or so area ‘luxury’ seats. Plush, with flexing backs and very comfortable to sit in for a whole day. The rest of the stadium are very stiff, narrow plastic seats with much less support and I’ve sat in one for one game and chose to never again sit in them.

And unlike previous years where the seats are all general admission, these tickets were all assigned seats in pods of 2, 4 or 6 tickets. The rest, we would find out, were closed in place with zip ties. So, before Monday, some corner 300 level pods and 200 level endzone pods. I made the mistake of purchasing two seats in the 300 corner for Wednesday’s game.

I balked at any more. Waiting first to see if sideline seats would open up for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday’s two game slate. If not, I was planning to just head to Florida instead. However, Monday morning, the pods went on sale for the sidelines under the access codes. Because of limited media for these games, my friend’s son needed a seat in the stands this year. So, we split a pod of 2 seats for all three days.

However, there’s more to it than that. Primarily, there were the 5A and 6A games. There was a tripleheader at Globe Life Park on Friday, and a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. I had planned to probably see all five games there and give up the individual tickets at AT&T Stadium.

However, since the pods were available and my friend was purchasing them anyways, I decided to forego seeing the Friday games at Globe Life Park. I also, then, had already booked my hotel for just two nights. Not sure of my Friday plans. However, I did add another day for Thursday night at the hotel I usually stay at.

The other factor, was the Browns were playing on Sunday night now. Which meant I would prefer to get home to see the game. I already would see the Monday Night game somewhere. The two Saturday night games basically meant either miss the Browns game with my wife at home, OR have to leave early on Saturday. There were a few afternoon single games at Grand Prairie and Mesquite.

It was after I had given up plans to go to Tallahassee, that I realized Kentucky’s state finals were being played this same weekend. I much shorter trip, even with individual tickets it would be a far shorter trip to Lexington.

But, then, as I was stumbling around the Saturday schedule. Knowing my options were slim. I saw that Arkansas, a state that splits their titles over three separate weekends, had two games scheduled for Saturday. One game at noon, and another at 630pm. Though it would be a bit of a drive, the miles elapsed between Arlington and Little Rock would put me into Little Rock somewhere near kickoff with a short stop somewhere along the way. I could stay for the night game. Or just keep heading home. As I headed out, I still had my plans up in the air.

I left home at 8:23am on Monday. I made it to Rolla, Missouri by the time Monday Night Football started. I missed the kickoff. But, got the Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the rest of the Browns-Ravens game. Then, after a game that didn’t want to end was finally over, I continued on my way. Having taken the I-71/65/40 stretch of driving a few times recently with the trip to Mississippi, I took I-44 to US69/75 into Dallas. This is a slightly less swift way to go. But, it’s a leisurely drive. Plus, with weather being good, the trip through Missouri isn’t bad. At least it’s better than I-40. The other option is I-69 to US412 to US67 to Little Rock. But, still, stuck taking I-30 into Dallas. A route notorious for bad roads and heavy traffic.

That made it more than 1,000 miles in one day. It was once US69 transitioned to a freeway by Euafala, that I started to feel tired. Stopped for gas, and then stopped in Checotah, Oklahoma.

It was really cold the next morning on the drive into Texas. And then, near the state line, turned to a drizzling mist.

I stopped in Anna at the Walmart and got my first Whataburger of the trip. I had made great time on my trip. And even with the Browns game layover, I made it to my hotel in just 32 hours.

I met up with my friends, including the one I’d be sitting with for the next–now–seven games for dinner on Tuesday night.

We went to Over The Border. A tex-mex place that had very good enchiladas.

Now, for Wednesday, unfortunately, the early game had been postpone due to covid. Balmorhea-Richland Springs. Two teams I had seen previously had their game pushed back to a still undetermined future makeup date.

So, first kickoff wasn’t going to be until 2pm. So, we stopped at Whataburger again before heading over to the stadium.

The really ‘shocking’ thing about this weekend was that, for the first time, the state finals weren’t on the Dallas Cowboys field. Instead, it was painted and decorated around the seating bowl for the Big XII Championship Game. Adorned with OKLAHOMA and IOWA STATE in the respective endzones.

#68 1AD1 – Sterling City v. May

Of the two games still on the schedule, this was projected to be the closer of the two. However, a few injuries and a decent gameplan propelled Sterling City to their first title in shortened fashion.

In Texas 6-man, a team winning by 45 points in the second half ends the game. And despite an overwhelming halftime lead, it took only 23 seconds into the third quarter for Sterling City to win it all.

After that, it was a long wait until the 7pm kickoff for the first 11-man game of the weekend. Mart was looking for their fourth straight state title. Against a novice Windthorst team.

#69 2AD2 – Windthorst v. Mart

Windthorst looked like they were going to fall behind, but managed to keep it close, at 14-14 at the half. A 21-14 second half deficit held as Windthorst kept the stellar Mart offense stymied. And then, scored and went for two. For the win. A crazy, ridiculous completely unsuspecting victory.

After the game, it was a quick stop at Wendy’s for a change of pace. Before returning to the hotel.

The first game of the day featured two teams I had seen previously. Post was in their second straight title game. Looking for their first win.

#70 2AD1 – Post v. Shiner

Shiner is from southeast of San Antonio. And is well-known for their namesake brewery. And it wasn’t difficult for them to win their second state title as a city in less than a week. The Shiner St. Paul football team had won the TAPPS title the previous weekend.

The long stretch of games on Thursday meant I’d eat something at the stadium. So, with no Brisket Nachos in sight, I got the Chicken Tenders and a water. The cheapest possible option. That was still over $12.

#71 3AD2 – Canadian v. Franklin

The middle game of the day was two teams I had seen previously. Canadian is from the northeast corner of the panhandle. Franklin is from down near College Station/Bryan area. The Canadian Wildcats have been frequent visitors to the state finals lately.

The Franklin Lions scored to take the lead, 34-28, but missed the PAT. Canadian would score, and win, 35-34.

#72 3AD1 – Jim Ned v. Hallettsville

The night game featured two new teams for me. Jim Ned is the alma mater of Colt McCoy. They’re from Tuscola, which is located southwest of Abilene along US83. Hallettsville, the Brahmas, are from down near Shiner, southeast of San Antonio.

Hallettsville featured Brooks, a cousin, as a running back, of the tandem brothers from Shiner. Hallettsville looked like they’d run away with it. Up 14-0, and then 21-7 at the half. Jim Ned came back to tie it, 21-21 at the end of regulation. Hallettsville would score first in the extra frame, 28-21. Jim Ned would score as well. And then, go for two. A fade to the back of the endzone. The touchdown and two point conversion would make it another 1-point state final. Jim Ned 29, Hallettsvile 28

After that, it was a short drive back to the hotel for the last day of football. With a big gap between games, the plan was to eat dinner somewhere during the 4 hours between games.

#73 4AD2 – Gilmer v. Carthage

I’ve seen both of these teams before. Carthage is located in far “Beast Texas”. Their opponent, Gilmer is from between Longview and Mt. Pleasant, also in East Texas. And they gave Carthage everything they could muster. Trick plays. Onsides. And had a 14-0 lead. But, it would not last. Three interceptions, two straight plays returned for touchdowns, and a whopping 42-14 halftime lead en route to a 70-14 blowout victory.

After the game, we headed over to Saltgrass. Though it is a chain steakhouse, it’s at least one that isn’t common to my parts of the country. And it’s not far from the stadium.

#74 4AD1 – Argyle v. Lindale

Now, I had seen Argyle previously. They’re from northwest of Dallas/Fort Worth. While Lindale is in East Texas, just northwest of Tyler. Both being the Eagles. A theme in Texas, for me, it seems.

This game, though, wasn’t projected to be close. At least not the blowout of the early game. Argyle would open up a 28-0 halftime lead, and coast to an easy 49-21 victory.

After the game, it was a quick ride over to the hotel to get my car and a 5-plus hour drive to Little Rock. I stopped just short of Texarkana to get in a nap before the noon kickoff at War Memorial Stadium.

I wasn’t 100% certain I was going to make the game. But, I did get my ticket online earlier. The Arkansas titles were $7 each. With $5 cash parking. It was also going to rain. But, I wanted to finally cross Arkansas off my list. The last middle-of-the-country states.

#75 – AAA 4A – Shiloh Christian v. Rivercrest

In Arkansas, the state is split into 6 classes. From 2A to 7A. Two classes have their titles each weekend over three straight weekends. The reason being the size of each class varies. So, 3A and 4A, have their titles the last weekend of the season. And with the delayed start, their titles were the same weekend as Texas’ originally scheduled titles. The two games are split, one at 12pm, and the other at 630pm. So, you would need a second ticket for the next game.

I had considered staying for the second game. But, the long wait just for kickoff meant getting home to Ohio in a reasonable time unlikely.

The stadium in Little Rock is in great shape, though is an older style. A simple, complete, bowl with a large press box on the west side. The stands are split in two, and the two fanbases can’t mingle. The ‘home’ fans must enter from the west side.

The game started with the pageantry of a state final. Color guard. Anthem. But drizzle was unrelenting. Luckily the wind was mild and my tarp kept me mostly dry. Though made photography a bit of a nuisance.

Shiloh Christian, the Saints from northwest Arkansas town of Springdale near Bentonville, were clearly the better team. Though Rivercrest kept it close at first. Trying to stay stride for stride. But, then, some turnovers and poor play bit them. A 35-13 lead cascaded into a 58-20 victory after a late safety provided the finishing touches.

After the game, I decided not to stick around. I drove quickly eastbound, but was stopped I-40 closed in eastern Arkansas. A stretch of road I despise. And one that I kicked myself for not taking US67 to Walnut Ridge/Hoxie and cut over to Union City, Tennessee that way. Avoiding much of the hassle that is the Little Rock-Memphis-Nashville stretch.

But, I did get around it. And being tired, stopped just east of Memphis when the road I detoured on reached I-55 near West Memphis. I didn’t head north, which I question why I didn’t.

Early the next morning, around 5am, I started and drove to Louisville for gas before getting to Cincinnati. There, I stopped for Lee’s and then drove the rest of the way home. Arriving late afternoon. Plenty of time to be ready for the Browns Sunday Night Football game against the Giants.

Total miles for the weekend, was 2,606. Total cost was $689.64. Just about $86.21 per game.

Photos of the Week

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Texas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Arkansas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Arkansas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Arkansas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Arkansas

2020 HSF Wk 18 Arkansas

Next Week

Since it’s already done, my next week will be three games on Saturday back in Arlington. It was a bit of kismet that I would be in West Texas. So, getting to Arlington wasn’t much of a hassle. In fact, I’ll be there the week after as well.

2020 Statistics

75 Games
147 Teams
54 Stadiums
11 States

82 New Teams
44 New Stadiums

1,246 different teams
380 different stadiums

1,113 total games

For more, and larger, photos from this weekend, click HERE.

For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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