You think your high school football team has to travel too far for its first-round playoff matchup? Try being El Paso Cathedral.
The Irish (4-6) will depart in the middle of night and traverse some 650 miles from the western-most tip of Texas to Fort Worth.
TAPPS teams Nolan Catholic and El Paso Cathedral have beaten UIL teams in 2012:
def. 4A El Paso High, 19-14
def. 2A Tornillo, 53-16
def. 4A Everman, 25-15
def. 4A Dallas Spruce, 48-6
Upon arrival Thursday morning, after a scheduled 10-hour bus ride spanning two time zones, they will finalize preparations to face defending state champion Nolan Catholic (8-2) in a TAPPS Division I first-round matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Doskocil Stadium.
As a top seed in the region, the Vikings get to be hosts for an opening-round playoff game. Gate receipts are split with Cathedral, though.
In some cases, lower seeds such as the Irish, have to travel vast distances during the postseason. Nolan coach Joe Prud'homme knows all about it; his 2008 championship team was forced to crisscross the state -- Beaumont, Austin, Coppell and Killeen -- before bringing home the trophy.
"The less travel you have to do in the playoffs, the better, as far as I'm concerned," Prud'homme said. "There's all of the logistics involved with the planning, the hotel stays, you have to set up your meals just right, have your meetings lined up and then you have to prepare for a football game."
El Paso Cathedral coach Rudi Forti shrugs it off.
"It's nothing really new to us actually, the last four years we've been to San Antonio for the playoffs, but we've also traveled to Dallas every year just for a regular-season game," Forti said. "The kids enjoy getting out doing different things and seeing different parts of Texas."
The Irish have a unique set of circumstances, even for TAPPS. As an independent without a district, Cathedral is forced to qualify for postseason play through a point system that rewards the team for wins against UIL teams. Yet even if Cathedral went 10-0, it still would be the bottom seed in its region and forced to travel.
Forti says that's OK because the Irish don't have their own stadium; in fact, they don't even have a practice field on campus.
Cathedral rents out available local stadiums for home games and drives 20 minutes to a city park for every practice.
"The park is not big by any stretch of the imagination, so imagine a field of 80 by 50 yards, with trees and landscaping," Forti said. "The funny thing is this past season they put in a sidewalk, so now my field has been condensed to 70 by 40. Either the grass is too tall or cut too short and we're dodging dog [droppings] every other day, so just to get in a practice is an act of Congress."
Despite all the obstacles, Forti, along with nine assistant coaches, two trainers and 28 players will make the trip to Fort Worth this week looking to upend the defending state champs.
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