Friday Night Lights – CU at the Game takes in Texas High school football

October 9, 2009          Bastrop Bears 24, Westlake Chaparrals 21

Junior quarterback Josiah Monroe put up 335 total yards of offense in leading the undefeated Bastrop Bears to a 24-21 road win over Westlake. Monroe threw for three scores, including a 66-yard pass to Josh Taylor late in the fourth quarter to give Bastrop the lead. A last-minute attempt to tie the score for the Chaparrals fell short when cornerback Bernard Blake intercepted a pass from Westlake quarterback Tanner Price.

With the win, Bastrop is, in the words of the Austin American-Statesman, in the “25-5A driver’s seat”. The Bears are now 6-0 for the first time since 1998, and, more importantly, 3-0 in District 25-5A play. The home-standing Westlake Chaparrals, meanwhile, fell to 4-2, 2-1 in league play.

Okay, so you really aren’t interested in the District 25 5-A standings, but, rest assured, there are many, many fans in the greater Austin area who are.

Our adventure began innocently enough. We had no set plans for our Friday night in Austin, other than to check in on a few CU Alumni Association events at the hotel and a nearby bar. It was Brad who suggested we get a first-hand look at “Friday Night Lights” (I don’t watch the series, but I was a big fan of the book when it came out over a decade ago). He did the research. According to the Austin American-Statesman website, the regional game of the night was the tilt between 5-0 Bastrop and 4-1 Westlake.

We called for a cab, and our adventure began – with a thud. Our cab driver had no idea where Chaparral Stadium was. He consulted a map. He consulted the doorman at the hotel, getting directions. Still unsure as to whether we would ever find the game, we headed out. Eventually, we found the stadium (“Friday Night Lights” finally saved us, as “head for the light” took on a whole new meaning).

We sat with the visitors, as better seats were available on the far side of Chaparral stadium. It was a cool night by Colorado standards (mid-50’s). This dip in temperature, however, was apparently too cold for some of the faithful, as the stadium (I’m guessing 10,000 capacity) was about 2/3 full. Our initial (disappointed) impression that Texas high school football was not all that different from other places was soon quelled. First, there was the scoreboard. It had its own jumbotron – one not all that far removed from what exists in Folsom Field. Next, there was the quality of play. The offenses were sophisticated (Bastrop, behind Josiah Monroe’s talented arm and legs, was a spread option offense, while Westlake, without the benefit of as gifted a quarterback, had a power running game).

Two aspects of the game bear special mention. They weren’t on the field, but definitely made you realize that we had stumbled upon something special.

The program

Quick. Think about the game program from the last high school football game you attended. Hold that thought.

Okay. The Westlake game program is 100 pages long. 100 pages. We learned that Westlake, in its 40 years of existence, has qualified for state ten times, six times making the state finals, winning it all in 1996. The school has sent numerous players onto play college ball (most, of course, stayed in Texas, but 2005 grad Patrick Massey did play for Colorado State). The head coach is Darren Allman, who came to Westlake after coaching for four years at Odessa-Permian (yes, that Odessa Permian). Allman has 12 assistant coaches – not counting the four freshman coaches.

But wait, there’s more. There are also a number of pages devoted to the cheerleaders (24 varsity, 14 junior varsity, 20 freshmen), plus six members of the “push up squad” (young men who sprint around the field with “C-H-A-P-S” flags after a score, followed by the corresponding number of pushups). Then there is the Hyline, the 40-member dance team (more on them later). And finally, there are eight pages devoted to the band, with a final two set aside for the “Tech Crew” (the students who film the game and run the jumbo-tron – these were the AV nerds when I was in school). All of this leads us to …

The Halftime Show

Okay, this was surreal. Halftime took 35 minutes. I’m not kidding. The scoreboard clock started with 30 minutes, and ran out before the programs were done (both teams had their bands there for the game). Halftime took so long that the two football teams came out and stretched out in an area past the endzone. From the choreography of the stretching, it was clear that a long halftime is an anticipated event in these parts.

First, the Bastrop Bear band came on and played three songs, then stepped aside and played while the Honey Bears (the  Bastrop version of the Westlake Hyline) did a five minute show. Next, the Westlake band took the field, and, after three songs, dutifully played while the Westlake Hyline did their routine. The costumes were top of the line, and you just knew that there were dozens of aspiring Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders out there on the field. It was only after the bands were leaving the field that we felt comfortable that it was acceptable to head for the concession stands.

Amazing – truly amazing.

We were enjoying the game, but we felt that it was prudent to try and get a cab back to our hotel before the game ended. We called at the start of the fourth quarter, and we would have missed the exciting finish if the cab had showed up on time.

We would have missed the celebration of the visiting fans, and the quick and quiet exit of the home team’s fans, if the cab had come when the game ended.

We would have missed the clean up crew closing up the concessions, if the cab had come within a half hour of the game’s end.

Almost an hour after the game had ended, and almost 90 minutes since we placed the first call, we got our cab. Our relief, however, became concern when the cab driver had difficulty … getting out of the parking lot. Our concern became outright dread when our cabdriver needed assistance in finding … downtown Austin. I kid you not. Our cabbie wasn’t sure how to find the downtown Hilton hotel. For the second time in as many cab rides, “head for the lights” became the phrase of choice.

All in all, we had a very rewarding experience at Westlake High School. We saw two very good 5-A Texas teams play a very good game. We watched two bands and dance teams perform which could compete in the “Drums Along the Rockies”, or other similar drum and bugle corps competitions. We were treated, despite our CU hats and jackets, with respect, even hospitality.

But I’m pretty sure that Randy, Brad and I have taken our last cab ride in the city of Austin …

One Reply to “Friday Night Lights”

  1. Stuart –
    before coming to CU, that is what I had come to expect in high school football (Class of ’80; Alief Hasings HS, Alief, TX). Now you might understand why there are only two sports in Texas – Football and Spring Football! [or as I like to say “… and the rest of ’em”]. Go Buffs!

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