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Les Knutson: High school football, Texas style

Les Knutson

Daily Globe sports columnist 

ARLINGTON, Texas — A book, a movie and a television show all named “Friday Night Lights” are based on Texas high school football, highlighting the storied traditions at Odessa Permian in the west-Texas oil country region.

While it wasn’t Odessa Permian, it was four of this year’s best high school football teams in Texas that I was lucky enough to see play at the magnificent AT&T Stadium, better known as “Cowboys Stadium” or “Jerry Jones World” on the Friday after Thanksgiving — two weeks ago today.

Our daughter, Chelsey lives and teaches sixth-grade reading in the Houston area, but her boyfriend’s grandparents live in Coppell, a suburb of Dallas.

So on Wednesday, Nov. 26, I took a plane flight from Minneapolis to Dallas and was greeted at the airport by Chelsey and her friend, Robby Gonzales, who lives and works in Spring, a suburb of Houston.

Robby and Chelsey, along with Robby’s parents — Tim and Bambi — were all in Coppell for Thanksgiving Day dinner at Bambi’s parents, Bob and Sarah Knox.

Sarah and Bambi served up a delicious, home-cooked meal and Bob, who turned 77 last week, is a big sports fan. So, of course, we had to watch the Cowboys rally to beat the Raiders. That was after the Lions “gobbled up” the Packers earlier.

A retired architect, Bob built churches throughout the country, but mostly in Texas where he was also a high school basketball referee for decades. Besides that, Bob announced high school football games.

Chelsey had told me that I shared a lot of interests with Robby’s grandfather and would get along with him well. She was right on. Bob’s storytelling was interesting and he had us all laughing. It was a great day in Coppell.

A tradition for the Knox and Gonzales families on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is for the women to all go shopping and for the guys to go watch the high school football games at Cowboy Stadium. So, I rode with Bob — who had to leave early to work at the Dallas Stars hockey game in the evening — and we hooked up with Tim and Robbie just outside the huge stadium, which looks a bit like a giant spaceship.

I had my picture taken by Tom Landry’s statue and we went inside the fabulous facility and found great seats in the second deck near midfield.

The day’s first game featured highly-favored Highland Park tangling with the Mansfield Legacy Broncos in a Class 4A regional final. The winner would still have to win three more games to claim a state title.

Highland Park is a close-in Dallas suburb, while Mansfield is an outlying suburb to the southwest. Both squads were loaded with numbers and each team entered the field through huge blown-up inflatable replicas of their mascots. It was a memorable experience.

After a close first quarter, Highland Park’s diversified passing attack put the Scots in control and the game ended up being a one-sided 48-0 victory. Legacy, which looked impressive in pre-game warm-up, was held in check more and more as the game progressed.

Close second game, a

“classic” all the way

But, the second game was different, much different.

Two western Dallas suburbs — Euliss and Southlake — were represented by perennial football powers in a Class 5A regional championship clash which turned out to be one of the greatest games I have ever seen.

With exceptional post-season tradition, Southlake Carroll was slightly favored, but Euliss Trinity had an awesome-sized offensive line and was known for its powerful rushing attack.

Plus, Trinity “fired up” its large crowd with its famous pre-game dance and chant, similar to the one used by Highland rugby players in the movie “Forever Strong.”

The two teams traded touchdowns throughout the fiercely-competitive contest.

Trinity scored first, pounding the ground. But, Carroll’s effective airial attack sparked the Dragons to a 21-7 lead. The Trojans, however, rallied back and eventually took a 28-24 edge.

The lead exchanged hands several times, and Southlake was up 31-28. Euliss had a 35-31 lead. Southlake, which was 39-of-48 passing in the game, claimed a 38-35 edge. But Trinity answered with another long run and the Trojans were on top 42-38.

The Dragons were driving again when the game’s only turnover happened. A Southlake receiver was sent airborne on a hit right in front of us, forcing a fumble.

One of those big Trinity linemen showed a lot of speed and hustled to recover the ball before it bounced out-of-bounds. Euliss, which rushed for nearly 500 yards, kept the ball on the ground and ran out the clock, earning the final four-point victory.

But what a game. I did predict this one right. I thought that by game’s end, the rugged rushing attack might outlast the pretty passing attack. But it sure would have been exciting to see Southlake Carroll score and recapture the lead one more time.

If they had, I think that Euliss Trinity may have scored again, too. It was that type of a game.

The 2012 Luverne vs. Jackson County Central game at Marshall for the Section 3AA championship and a 1980 late-season classic between Chandler-Lake Wilson and Heron Lake-Okabena at Heron Lake are two memorable high school games — in my mind — which rivaled this one for greatness.

But, way more fans — football-crazed Texans — saw this game in Arlington.

So, thanks a bunch, Bob, Tim and Robby. It was a great afternoon of watching Texas high school football.

A stop at Dealy Plaza

and on to Houston

Saturday, it was a stop at Dealy Plaza in downtown Dallas and a chance to step on the X along Elm Street where JFK was shot 50 years ago. I didn’t realize that the motorcade was traveling downhill or that the book depository (where Oswald was perched) was so close to Kennedy’s car.

After that interesting stop, Robby, Chelsey and I were on our way to Houston — some four hours down Interstate 45. We passed by the Cotton Bowl on the way and listened to the exciting finish of the Auburn-Alabama game as we entered the northern suburbs of Houston.

After a great supper at Pappasino’s where both Chelsey and Robby work, we spent Sunday at Tim and Bambi’s home in suburban Tumball, watching NFL football.

The Texans led the Patriots, but lost at the end and the Vikings beat the Bears in overtime.

Then, on Monday (Dec. 1), I left the green scenery and 71 degrees of Houston for a flight home to Sioux Falls — and was greeted the next day with the permanence of a Minnesota winter.

But what a trip it was.