2021 Week 17 (Texas)

2021 Week 17 (Texas)

I’ve been to games in Texas every season since 2009. I have been to the Texas state finals each year since 2011. This marks the tenth championship weekend I had attended at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium). The lone exception has been the 2015 games that were hosted at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Also, the 5A doubleheader at San Antonio in 2009, and the single 1AD2 game hosted in San Angelo this past January. In total, I had been to 107 state championship games in four different venues. Of those, 94 were at AT&T Stadium. Though, I had been to 98 games at the stadium (adding a quadrupleheader in 2010). And 107 games in Arlington (9 games were down the street at Globe Life Park).

I had planned to leave Sunday night. I really did. Though that would have added another hotel to the expenses. However, getting home from the Browns game is never quick. Especially with my daughter. She likes to ride the train to the stadium, though the train doesn’t run to the stadium. So, we took the train to Terminal Tower, and then walked the 0.8 miles to the stadium. Which is fine. But adds time. So, after a postgame meal, we got home much later than I was hoping and instead tried to leave early Monday.

That did not happen. I felt like crap in the morning, and slept in until much later than I wanted. But, I was in no condition to drive. So, a little late, I headed out and stopped in Dover for lunch at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. And continued to Buckeye Lake and meet my friend Dave.

From there, we took his new car, west across I-70 into Indiana. Routing through Indiana to avoid a road closure on I-70 through the east side of downtown, and saw some sites.

We made it through Illinois and into Missouri before calling it a night in Lebanon. Next morning was a slight detour to touch the corner of Kansas. And then enter Oklahoma. I had taken this route in 2020, and a few previous times. it’s less traffic than the I-71 to I-40 to I-30 route. Though the US69/US75 route has some towns and lights. It is a more enjoyable route.

We stopped for lunch in Choteau, Oklahoma at Dutch Pantry. An all-you-can-eat Dutch Amish restaurant. It’s good. And I’ve been here twice before. Not a lot to it. As they seem to have an entree specialty each day. This time was chicken fried steak. The pies are amazing, though.

Then on to Texas. Stopping briefly in Anna, Texas at the walmart and something to drink at the Whataburger. Their sweet tea is well worth it, even though they had a ridiculously long line.

And in to Arlington via Dallas to avoid the Sam Rayburn Tollway. Got into the hotel, and then over to On The Border to meet my friend Tony from Texas and pregame the state finals over some Tex-Mex.

And then, it was on to football.

In the morning we drove over to the stadium early so they could get their media credentials and get setup early. Dave and I ended up just hanging around the reduced endzone lines as the side entrances were now in use. Even for the 6-man games.

Gates opened at 10am, and we were in and situated with great second level seats for the day. Unfortunately, tickets have been raised this year, from $15 to $20 for the day. And a $2.79 fee. Luckily media parking was free. Though it’s normally $20, credit only.

#92 – May v. Westbrook

The week starts with the two six-man games. Which tends to throw off some of my followers when they see the score. Even without score-by-score updates, it is a bit jarring to see a 46-44 halftime score.

This was my first time seeing Westbrook, the 1,388th different team I’ve seen. I had seen May previously in 2020. The second half would simmer down a bit, and Westbrook would hold on to win, 72-66 for their first state title.

#93 – Strawn v. Motley County

Up next was a rematch. I had seen Strawn thrice previously. And Motley County once before in 2019. This was also my 100th game at AT&T Stadium. True to form, two of Strawn’s three games I had seen ended with them winning via 45-rule. And Motley County losing to Richland Springs by 45-rule. And this one did as well.

Strawn pulled away after the first quarter, and in the third quarter got a stop and scored. Setting up a single point try to win 73-28 with 3:09 left in the third.

We had a long wait for the night game. As it was starting at 7pm. And the Strawn game ended at about 4:30pm. That did give me a moment for a late lunch. Though it wasn’t good. The Cowboys Cheesesteak was not worth it.

And then just meander around until the night game started. Aka, the Doug Brooks Show.

#94 – Shiner v. Hawley

I had seen Shiner twice previously, including last year. When the Brooks Brothers were a dominate force. But this year, Doug Brooks was just a man among boys. It took them awhile, but the Shiner Comanches pulled away ti win, 47-12. Including several highlight reel runs by Doug Brooks.

After the game, we stopped at Whataburger, and a ridiculous line, before heading back to the hotel. One day down, three to go.

#95 – Falls City v. Stratford

Stratford holds a special place in my heart. It’s a small town at the intersection of US54 and US287 in the northwest corner of the state. US54 being in that wheelhouse of mine of southwest Kansas through northern and Western Texas. It cuts through New Mexico before finally reaching El Paso. There’s not much to the town. And has been on my list for a while.

Plus, there’s a long sequence of US287 schools in Colorado I have seen (with only Genoa-Hugo from I-70 to Oklahoma excepted). Also, in Oklahoma is Boise City (Pronounced like Joyce, not the city in Idaho). And then Stratford. So, it’s definitely one to look at in the future. Especially since I’ve also seen, in Kansas and Oklahoma, Liberal and Hooker.

Falls City, I have seen previously. So, the Stratford Elks were the 1,390th different team for me. Second new team of the weekend. It started slowly for the Elks. Falls City edged through the first three quarters nursing a slim lead. But the fourth quarter was all Stratford, turning a 27-21 deficit into a 39-27 victory.

After the game, I went the the usual concession stands, as the brisket stand wouldn’t open until Friday, and tried the Cheesesteak Fries. And they were worth it. Though, that’s relative to AT&T Stadium prices. Which are still ridiciulously high for food.

#96 – Lorena v. Brock

I had seen Brock previously, twice. However, this was the first time seeing Lorena. Located along I-35 between Temple and Waco. They’re my 1,391st different team.

Lorena jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, and held off the Brock Eagles through the end. Winning 35-18.

For the night game, it was another matchup of two teams I had seen previously: Franklin and Gunter.

#97 – Franklin v. Gunter

This was a great game. Back and forth. Tied again and again. 35-35 going into the fourth quarter. But Franklin, looking for their first title ever, scored and was able to score again to put it away. Gunter, an upstart that had won two titles in recent years, would lose, 49-35.

After returning to the hotel to catch some Zs, it was back to the Death Star. First up was a huge crowd of Stephenville fans already crowding the vestibules. We got in without much incident and the third level was already open. So, we headed to the escalators and were given passage to the third level.

And then all hell broke out. Turns out, the stadium let fans into the 300 level by mistake. And they weren’t opening the club level. So, they had to move through and clear everyone out. This was bad for us, because the game had started and now there was no decent seating in the lower level. We headed down to the lower level and stood along the endzone railings. Before spying a group of second row seats in the second level. On the LBJ side.

#98 – Stephenville v. Austin LBJ

By this time, Stephenville was well ahead of LBJ. And it didn’t look promising. LBJ did make it interesting, but the damange had been done. THe disastrous first quarter could not be overcome. And the 17-0 deficit would be the losing margin for them, 38-21.

It was also the first game featuring two new teams for me. But with everything going on with the seating, didn’t make the day that enjoyable. Luckily, the group sitting front row, who had planned to stay there all day, left and said they weren’t returning. This gave us front row, even though it was in the endzone.

But between the games, it was Brisket Nacho Time.

I say it every year. But for $12 (now $13.50), it is the best meal deal at the stadium. But only open on Friday and Saturday. It’s good.

#99 – China Spring v. Gilmer

This was my first time seeing China Spring. I had seen Gilmer a few times previously. Including a crushing loss last year to Carthage. During the game, I was apprised of a Erie native was sitting not far from me. Related to someone playing for China Spring, they were actually in the 100 level below me. Which was a cool moment of happenstance.

The game itself was fairly one-sided. China Spring got an early lead and built on it throughout the game. Winning comfortably, 31-7.

The night game was featuring two new teams. Literally. Katy Paetow had only been in existence for 4 years. While College Station had existed for 9 years.

#100 – Katy Paetow v. College Station

I would’ve seen College Station a few years earlier, but in 2018, I left after Friday night to make it home Sunday afternoon. My wife and daughter were flying in from Florida, and I had driven my wife’s car to Texas.

Also, Paetow, as their fans so astutely thought to carry signs stating, is pronounce Pay-Toe. Paetow is part of the Katy ISD and was their 8th high school. Now, the 8th of 9, as Jordan opened in 2020.

The game was a close one. A smaller crowd on hand. But Paetow was keeping pace and it went, 21-21 through regulation. In overtime, College Station settled for a field goal, to take the 24-21 lead. But, Paetow would score from two yards out on a run up the gut. And win, 27-24 in gripping fashion.

During the game, Texas Bob (texasbob.com) and his son stopped by to meet up during the Katy-relevant game. It was nice meeting him after last year we had skipped over it when he left earlier than planned. But, for everything that could’ve gone wrong this year, I was one day away from finally finishing things. 100 games done. Three more.

Saturday, though, was a whole other affair. First, was checking out of the room. Since I don’t generally stay Saturday night in Arlington. The few hours drive to at least New Boston or Texarkana makes Sunday a much easier goal of getting home.

Also, we were out early to stop at Texas Live! across from the Globe Life Park for the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football subscribers meet and greet. One of the perks of membership. Also, can’t pass up some free breakfast burritos and coffee.

We didn’t stay too long. The lines we were anticipating at AT&T Stadium necessitated moving out quickly. But, when we got there, we were in shock. There were no lines. None. The gates had already opened at least a half hour earlier than anticipated. Normally they open at 10am for an 11am game. This time, they were opened at 930am. Which wasn’t horrible, as we got in and still managed to find seats in the front row of the 200 level.

They weren’t great seats. Down by the endzones. But they were front row. And didn’t need to wait for the 300 level to open. The reason was, we were anticipating a rush of Dallas area fans to show up for the South Oak Cliff game. Trying to be the first Dallas ISD school to win a state title since 1958 (Carter did win in 88, but that title was stripped).

#101 – Liberty Hill v. Dallas South Oak Cliff

South Oak Cliff, or “SOC” as they’re known far and wide, were decked out in all white, and their fans did, too. The late arriving crowd swarmed the stadium. And by halftime, over 42,000 had shown up. They’d be the last new team of the season for me, #1397 in my life.

SOC would go up 7-0 after one, and be tied, 14-14 through the second and third quarters. Liberty Hill favoring the run, while SOC was a mixed bag. In the fourth would take the lead on a 29 yard FG, and put the game away with a 17 yard TD run with 3:12 remaining. It would give Dallas ISD their first state title since 1958, and South Oak Cliff their first ever championship.

The last two games of the day were Class 6A. Including the third game between North Shore and Duncanville. Skipping over last year’s game between Southlake Carroll and Austin Westlake.

#102 – Houston North Shore v. Duncanville

Now, the first title game between these two ended in stunning fashion. A last play hail mary by North Shore to win, 41-36, in 2018. The next year, it was good, but nothing could live up to the hype of 2018. So, I wasn’t looking forward to another possible let down this year.

In comparison….

The game started with North Shore playing as the aggressor, and Duncanville trying to match wits. They kept pace, but were clearly struggling to do so. North Shore had a slim 17-10 lead, and Duncanville got the ball with little time left. But they just could not pull off the improbable. And North Shore would win their third title in three matchups against Duncanville, 17-10.

And then, it was down to one final game.

#103 – Austin Westlake v. Denton Guyer

It’s funny that this is the way things would end. See, I’ve been to Texas a lot for games. This being my 142nd game overall, in the Lone Star State. My fourth game ever in Texas was Denton Guyer v. Longview. Played at SMU’s Gerard S. Ford Stadium.

Guyer trailed 17-0 at the half. Losing a fumble into the endzone at one point. But in the second half, they started chipping away at that lead. Down 17-7, then 20-7, 20-14, 27-14, and 27-21. With a minute to go, Longview was burning the clock, but were forced to punt. Guyer blocked the punt, and returned it to the 15. On the next play, Guyer scored on a 15 yard TD pass. The PAT was good, and Guyer led, 28-27. A 17-point comeback, capped off with a blocked punt and TD with 10 seconds left? How could you not like them.

And that’s really when it started. The next year, Guyer was playing as part of a quadrupleheader. They’d lose, but they were quickly becoming ‘my team’ in Texas. Then a state title appearance. And a victory. And another. In 2019 they’d lose to Austin Westlake. Their starting QB would go down, and freshman Jackson Arnold would come in, but it wouldn’t work. Westlake would walk away with an easy 27-0 victory. But by this point, Denton Guyer was my team.

This game didn’t look any more promising. Westlake was a juggernaut. A quick score by Westlake made the doom and gloom all too real. However, Guyer would score on an Arnold 15-yard TD run, to take a 7-6 lead. An improbable lead. Westlake would pounce quickly on a 62 yard pass, but Guyer would answer again. Leading 14-13 after one. Could it happen? This was the first team to reall smack Westlake in the mouth. And that was with a short punt return on what was a block (the defender simply caught the kick before the line of scrimmage). And a scoreless second kept the underdog cats in it, 14-13.

Again, after the break, Westlake would score first, but Arnold would lead them with a 6 yard TD run to retake the lead, 21-20. Westlake refusing to bite at the chance to make up the missed point.

And then, it happened. Guyer had ground Westlake’s offense to a halt, and on fourth down, far from the goal line, looked to force a punt. A one point lead, the ball, late in the third? Seemed perfect. But then Westlake trotted out Charlie Barnett for a 53 yard field goal. And it was good. All that momentum was gone. The air in the stadium grew heavy and constraining. That lead that Guyer was looking to build upon was gone. The crowd could feel it.

Two minutes later, Westlake would score again. A 69-yard TD pass to a wide open receiver. The game got too big for the Wildcats. All that sweat and effort evaporated. The chilling realization that this was not a normal opponent. Westlake had dominated this season. And were about to show why.

The fourth quarter was an exercise in futility. Guyer was not going to beat a relaxed, composed, leading Westlake squad. Two more scores made it 40-21. And that’s how it would end. A tough way for Guyer’s season to end. And a disappointing, though expectant, way for my season to end.

103 games from August to December. 157 total from January through December.

What a wild ride it had been.

During the waning moments of my season, I wrote it out, here:

After the game, we all assembled in the east endzone. Talking about what might have been in a game that had no business being so close. After all, the 19-point margin of victory was the slimmest Westlake had faced all year. And not once could they say they trailed at halftime.

It ended just as so many other seasons, normal seasons, had ended. Standing under the east endzone ribbon boards. Looking out over the field. Chatting it up with all the people I’ve come to know over the years. Tony, Antony, Sam, Dave, and sometimes others. Another year in the books. It was just now a matter of heading to the car. Back to the hotel to get our car. Say our goodbyes, and head on out to Texarkana. Hopefully.

After a brief stop for Whataburger on the Arkansas side of State Line Ave, we got gas, and headed back to our hotel. All on the Arkansas side this year. In the morning, we headed out fairly early.

Looking for fastest and most efficient is easier on Sunday. Unlike the drive to Texas, where avoiding DFW traffic is a must, the drive out Saturday night isn’t bad. So, we rush straight across I-30 toward Little Rock, and I-40 to Nashville. This made our one long stop of the day pretty simple.

There was a restaurant I had been to previously, an all-you-can-eat southern restaurant that had signs up along the highway, that I had thought I had stopped at once before. Though, once stopping, I realized I had stopped elsewhere. However, we weren’t going to move on from the Ole Sawmill Cafe.

This place was great. As the food would attest. The ribs, chicken, turkey in grazy, corn, catfish, broccoli, fried apples, bread pudding, …. was all perfect. And the sweet tea was on point. This is definitely a must stop from here on out on trips to Arlington.

It wasn’t too far to get into Tennessee.

And by 7:15, we were crossing into Kentucky.

Just three hours-plus later, we were crossing into Ohio. But still a long way to go.

We stopped at my friend’s place to retreive my van, and drive the remaining three hours home in the dark of night. And at 5:05am, my 2021 high school football season had concluded.

But that wasn’t the end of my travels. See, the Browns-Raiders game scheduled for Saturday night had been postponed due to Covid. To Monday. I was now home on Monday morning at 5am.

So, at 2pm, I picked my daughter up from school, and we made the fast track to Cleveland for the rare 5pm Monday Night game.

NFL – Cleveland Browns v. Las Vegas Raiders

This was my first time seeing the Raiders as their Las Vegas incarnation. And the game was looking weak. If I had an option to sell, I would’ve. But the secondary market was through the floor. With the Monday afternoon and late rescheduling, there was no real way to clear out all the tickets from those that now couldn’t attend. My extra ticket sold for $14. Big money, I know.

One feature of the night game, was this moment. Which I thought was quite cool. The Browns came back, and took a 14-13 lead. And the defense got the ball back on a Greedy interception. But the offense couldn’t get one single first down to ice the game. Instead, the Raiders got the ball and a beleaguered defense gave up enough yards for a last play field goal try. And it was good.

And that’s how my in person 2021 football season ended. Though I could’ve attended the Bengals game to close the season. I had already made plans to not be home that weekend. Alas, it didn’t matter. As the Bengals had ended the hopes of that game’s importance.


Total cost for the weekend was $655.00. I’m shocked it worked out to a whole number. The biggest cost was food at $267.46. The stadium cost a lot, but there was also On The Border, Dutch Pantry, and Ole Sawmill Cafe. Gas cost was split, and my total was $108.65. Tickets were $22.79 a day, and I also bought two souvenirs at the Walmart for the trip. The total for tickets and miscellaneous being $111.16. I spent $8 at Walmart on non-football related trip costs (I believe that was for Iboprophen). And lastly was hotels, which despite splitting some and getting one freebie cashed in, my total was $169.63 for for six nights. Not exactly breaking the bank.

Photos of the Week

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

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2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

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2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

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2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 17 Texas

Next Week

This time, there literally isn’t a next week. Though that’s not because there wasn’t games. Hawaii had games on 12/23 and 12/30. But I had already looked into it. Not spending that much for what could be, at most, 2 games. Not that I hadn’t considered it. For me, ending in Texas was the way it was just meant to be. Hawaii will happen one day. But not this year.

2021 Statistics

103 Games
197 Teams
46 Stadiums

16 States

100 New Teams
27 New Stadiums

1,397 different teams
443 different stadiums

1,273 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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