2023 Week 12 (Texas)
This week wasn’t supposed to be in Texas. At the start of the year, I had figured I’d be making the trip to Iowa as I had made for several years not including 2020 when I went to South Dakota instead.
But, I had decided I wouldn’t be making the trip about two weeks ago for work. Which was unfortunate because there was also two games in New York I’d have liked to do. Both CSP and Salamanca were at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park for the Section 6 Finals.
However, I was going to be in East Texas, and it was just a matter of which games I would find. I would be shooting TXHSFB.net and Nacogdoches, where I was going to be, had options. I had considered some games further out from around Nacogdoches. But nothing particularly interested me. For Saturday, the only real close drive for games would be 2.5 hours to Houston. There was a single game in Bryan, TAPPS, as well as a game in Waco, and a few others, including Houston. But a doubleheader at Delmar Stadium in northwest Houston proper seemed like a possibility. But, a 5 hour round trip just didn’t seem appealing.
The only real issue was what two games I would do. Nacogdoches is considered the oldest town in Texas, founded in 1779. It has a population of 32,147 and is home to Stephen F. Austin University. Given its position as the oldest town in Texas, it’s fitting its university is named for the ‘Father of Texas’.
It was looking like rain on Thursday night, so of the two games, I was thinking the game at SFA would be wiser, as they might have better chance at coverage if it really comes down. But I had already seen one of the teams playing. Lindale was playing Vidor. I had seen Lindale back in 2020 against Argyle.
However, over at Nacogdoches High School, was Groveton and Shelbyville. The projected game was a tad closer as well. And if I was in Nacogdoches for a game Friday night, it was again two games to choose from between the two venues. So, my preliminary plan was Nacogdoches High School on Thursday and Stephen F. Austin on Friday.
On Thursday afternoon, the rain threatened all day but didn’t start until about an hour from kickoff. I made had lunch that consisted of boudin links and loaded mac and cheese.
Dragon Stadium is like many Texas high school stadiums. Tall, narrow, with a full track and large sidelines. The stands run between the 15s, while the visitor sideline sits shorter, and goes from endzone to endzone. Two concession stands are situated to the south endzone, including the primary entrance to the southwest edge of the home stands. The concessions were a touch overpriced for a high school. But looked interesting. I got a powerade for $3.
It’s a nice facility but essentially looks like a lot of other stadiums. It seats 6,000 though, and that was plenty for the 2A Division I Bi-District game.
#55 – Groveton v. Shelbyville
Both teams wore red, with the Groveton Indians in head-to-toe red. While the Shelbyville Dragons reminded me of a blend between Duncanville (TX) and Steubenville (OH). Using a block S with “ville” written across it in white.
Groveton would move the ball quickly, and go up 14-0 in the first quarter. Meanwhile in New York, CSP was winning their Section 6 Class D title over Wilson.
With that game out of the way, I had more focus on staying dry while photographing this one. I had brought a garbage bag to act as a liner for my camera bag, but instead ended up putting everything into it, and then tying it to my monopod so that it could keep everything dry.
In the second quarter, the two sides traded scores. A 17 yard run by Shelbyville to get on the board answered quickly by a 72 yard TD pass by Jackson Cathey. Shelbyville would get another one, just 1:03 left in the half, to cut the lead to 21-13 after missing the PAT.
With both teams being new, Groveton and Shelbyville were added to the list. As the 1,548th and 1,549th new teams.
Groveton’s Bryon Thomas would put the Indians up 28-13 early in the third and what would seem like a comfortable, though cautious, lead.
Later in the quarter, Shelbyville would score again, on a 1 yard run, but the kick would be blocked. Leaving Groveton up 28-19. With the rain pouring, Jon Jon Mathis would go 32 yards on a catch and run along with a two point conversion to cut Groveton’s lead to 28-27 with 12:45 left in the game.
In the fourth quarter, Eli Ferguson would score on a 5 yard TD, and then catch the two point conversion on his knees at the front edge of the endzone. To give Shelbyville a 35-2 lead. A fourth down stop later would clinch it for the Dragons, 35-28.
On Friday, it was a similar issue. The rain was lingering, but not much of a problem. Just a nuisance. I had considered a game in Lufkin, about 24 miles away. But, decided to see a second game in Nacogdoches. Over at Stephen F. Austin.
Over at NISD, the game was Chapel Hill v. Little Cypress-Mauriceville. Though I hadn’t seen either one before, calpreps had the projection at 44-14. The final score was 35-7. While, Athens and Lumberton was projected as a 31-28 favorite. And with a new location, I had opted to cover the Lumberton-Athens game.
I headed over to the stadium around 6pm. And found that it hadn’t opened yet. The game at NISD was slated to started at 7pm, while the game at SFA was scheduled to start at 730pm. So, I was a little over an hour early. However, the southwest gate was opened just before 6:30 and I made my way straight to the field.
The stadium layout is in an artificial bowl surrounded by large banks of dirt to support the higher stands and pressbox. When you enter, you walk uphill a bit to reach the midlevel of the stadium. There’s a rectangles that encircles the entire field. To the south, you can walk just in front of the base of the scoreboard to get to the far side. Down each sideline it becomes the primary thoroughfare through the middle of the seating. The stands are situated from the 20 to the 20. Just beyond that, built into a cutout in the grass hillside, is the concessions that operate a cafetaria style operation. Pick what you want and then pay for it as you exit. Also, from the corners, you can walk up an incline along the ridge of the stadium’s faux hill, to the press box or the top row of the stands.
To get to the field, you go along the main walkway, to the first row of stairs in the seating, and head down. Near the bottom, the pitch of the steps increases to get you all the way to field level. The first row of stands themselves are several feet above ground level.
Homer Bryce Stadium is home to Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. A nod to the pine forests that dominate east Texas. The school itself is an FCS school, and appear to be making strides to ‘spruce up’ the old stadium with on-field tents in the south endzone for dignitaries and these closed up freight containers in the north endzone. The turf is nice, new, and has SFA with the axe logo at midfield. With purple endzones and their ubiquitous Axe ‘Em slogan on the sidelines as shown elsewhere around the stadium.
Despite the nice video board, only a static image of the two team logos was shown. Except for when scores or turnovers happened. Then a default graphic in team colors would show. No live replay or live video.
#56 – Athens v. Lumberton
I wasn’t quite sure how Lumberton was the road team in the matchup when they had the better record. Though Texas uses district seeding to determine the Bi-District playoff brackets. Lumberton finished third in their district while Athens finished second. Because it was all Lumberton. Three first quarter touchdowns, including a 32-yard TD pass to turn it from competitive to one-sided, gave the Raiders a 21-0 lead.
After another Lumberton score, Athens got on the board with an 80 yard TD pass through some trickeration. A backward toss to the RB who then sails it deep to a wide open receiver Jamauri Manning takes it all the way in for a touchdown. Lumberton’s 27-7 halftime lead woul be daunting though.
Lumberton would add another touchdown on a short TD pass that I managed to get a photo of, but not the yardage. The scoreboard isn’t visible from the south sideline due to the tents, and the yard markers were already moved. But it was good enough for the Raiders to go up by 30, 37-7 with 14 seconds left in the third.
After a 29 yard field goal by Lumberton, Athens would go down the field and score on a 4th and goal from the one. A run by the QB to the right tackle wide open. But it was too little, too late. Lumberton would hang on to win, 40-14.
My article from the game.
Lumberton and Athens would be my 1,550th and 1,551st different high school teams, all-time.
After the game, I headed over to the Whataburger just off campus. Had a double whataburger with cheese. Though they put everything on it. They were so busy with departing Athens fans, that I decided to just go with it.
I then finished up photos that night for the game, and was caught up and completely done with everything by 3am. I also watched a movie while doing them. Which definitely slowed me down. I had already passed on most opportunities for a Saturday game.
There was a doubleheader option in Houston. But the distance was going to be an issue. A single TAPPS game in Bryan was a tad closer. But again, not really worth it. I had found two games in Nacogdoches without much travel. So, I was going to pass on it. Plus, I had found that Stephen F. Austin was hosting their Senior Day game against Southern Utah.
Looking at the history, it looked like in 2022, the matchup proved entertaining. So, I decided to go to my first college game since 2017. I had not, though, looked into sideline photography. The site in Texas I go through just does high school games. And, it wasn’t something I was too keen on doing. I had considered bringing my camera, the zoom lens, at least, just because. But wasn’t sure if it could get into the stadium.
They seemed strict with their bag policy and usually places that are strict clear bag usually also always have camera restrictions. Until I was there and there were multiple people with large bookbags that were definitely not clear.
Around 3pm, I headed back to the university for the game. The atmosphere was far livelier. Tents and entertainment were setup around campus near the stadium. The one parking lot completely blockaded so you could use t as a fan zone. An alumni tent in another parking lot was packed with people.
I bought my ticket for $19 cash, though it was $17 had I bought in advance, and got a game program that consisted of just the two team rosters in very tiny print. About an hour prior to kickoff, I entered the stadium and made my way up high to sit. First stopping at concessions and buying a hot dog, pretzel, and a powerade. Total cost? $14.
It was sitting at the game without any camera that it really just didn’t sit well with me. I hadn’t been to a non-NFL game without a camera in a long time. At least before 2015, I remember going to a Twinsburg game when I didn’t take a camera with me.
NCAA FCS – Stephen F. Austin v. Southern Utah
It definitely is strange seeing a college game after years of high school games. The flow is different. More stoppages. And more time. That extra 3 minutes a quarter starts becoming very apparent. The teams traded turnovers, and by halftime, it was a 3-3 tie before southern Utah scored on a long pass to my corner, to go up 10-3. Still, though, it was close and was a fun late afternoon.
And then it wasn’t. Southern Utah kept scoring. They had found the weak spot in the SFA defense, and exploited it. A touchdown. Another touchdown. Another touchdown. A Lumberjacks TD broke the streak, but it was already trending toward disaster for the home side. And then Southern Utah scored again. And again. Their contingent of fans, numbering in the tens, were ecstatic on the far side of the field. Far to the end from the SFA band which took up the south end of the far side.
The crowd had thinned considerably after the halftime, and by the third quarter the section around me that had filled in, though still sparse, was wide open. I had moved further up, but then had walked to the top of the section. With about 7 minutes to go, I walked down the ramp from the top to the corner, and across the walkway by the scoreboard. And wanted to watch the ‘all-22’ view of the field. Except the tents block it. With just a couple minutes left, i watched the final plays, and missed the SFA touchdown with 3 seconds left. It was toward my endzone by the large tents blocked the view. SFA would go on to lose, 45-17 in a game that wasn’t nearly so close.
After the game, I headed back to the Whataburger. It was earlier, but I didn’t feel like finding somewhere else to eat. I wanted somewhere close. And Whataburger was close.
For the weekend I spent $217.12 on football related expenses. $19 for the ticket, $118 for food, and $88.12 for other costs. A lot of that was the college game. Which, in hindsight, I probably would have passed on.
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
58 New Teams
25 New Stadiums
1,551 different teams
493 different stadiums
1,430 total games
Not a clue just yet. Maybe still in Texas. But I’ll not make any decisions just yet.
For photos from this game, and others this weekend, click HERE.
For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/