Football players from Colleyville Heritage and Grapevine will get something Friday that the state’s academic curriculum will never provide in a million years.
Twenty-five years from now, they’ll each likely stumble over helping their kids with algebra homework, but they’ll never forget what they were doing on Oct. 21, 2016, the date of this year’s annual showdown between the subjects of the Grapevine-Colleyville school district rivalry.
This year’s edition could be for the District 8-5A title.
But it’s almost always about something more — pride, the sin that can turn angels to demons — that has inspired high jinks from the student body that has often eclipsed the standard of boisterous fun and has led to more than one embarrassing moment for the Grapevine and Colleyville communities over the course of 21 years.
Since Heritage’s opening in 1996, this game has featured a little bit of everything, including an accusation of treason.
To get everyone in the right frame of competitive spirit, school district athletic officials hosted Wednesday what will likely be the first of an annual luncheon for seniors on the teams’ respective leadership councils.
“This year, it’s more like a family gathering,” said Heritage quarterback Cam Roane, a San Diego State commitment. “Obviously, there will be football played and we’re going to hit each other, but it really is more about football this year. We’re really striving to make this about football.”
The message from both school and team leaders was leave the ill will of the Hatfields and McCoys to the history books.
Everybody got along swimmingly at the event, and it didn’t hurt that pasta and salad were on the menu. Put food in front of a football player and you’ll likely get the brightest hue of lovable on his mood ring.
Light humor aside, the good vibes were sincere. It was clear that both teams understood the specialness of the stage and the moment they will share Friday when thousands will pack Mustang-Panther Stadium.
“Personally, I lived down the street so I could hear the crowd going crazy,” Grapevine’s Blake Stiles said. “I remember coming up here and watching it. I thought it was the pros. I couldn’t imagine playing in the game, so it’s kind of cool.”
The Grapevine Mustangs own the history, with state titles in 1996 and 1998, but Heritage owns the present with six straight victories in this series. Grapevine hasn’t won since Alex Mueller’s 42-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the 2009 game.
“My brother played in this game … he played when Grapevine beat them last,” Grapevine’s Graham Ryan said. “I got to be on the sidelines. Everybody went insane on our sideline. It was something that stuck with me for a long time.”
“It’s been at least since then a dream of mine to beat Colleyville Heritage. It means a lot to me just to be able to play this game with the guys on my team that I love, being able to go up against good opponents like Colleyville … it’s great competition.”
Both are good this year and appear playoff bound. The Mustangs are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in 8-5A, coming off a close loss to Richland last week. The Panthers are 5-2 and 4-0.
Heritage players admitted that it would be an awkward moment to be the first team in eight seasons to lose to Grapevine, but it wouldn’t be nearly as awkward as a memorable moment in 1997. At a similarly staged Unity Breakfast, then-Heritage coach Chris Cunningham introduced Tellis Redmon, a future Baltimore Raven who the year before had been the catalyst for Grapevine’s 1996 Class 4A state title.
The following February, he did the unthinkable to many and transferred to Heritage, leaving many in Grapevine with a bad case of the collywobbles.
“I have some real mixed feelings about it,” then-Grapevine coach Mike Sneed said at the time.
For his part, Redmon said at the time that beating Grapevine would be bigger than winning the state championship. “I really want to win this game,” he said.
Grapevine got the best of its little brother that year, winning 25-23.
This year, the meeting is no less meaningful, but the moments of drama — hopefully — will only be about football and two teams chasing after championship ambitions but with the same urge to win as any sibling does in a family rivalry.
“This year it matters. It doesn’t just mean our rivalry. It’s for the playoffs,” Grapevine’s Collin Margiotta said. “But we also have a ton of fun. This is the only week we’ll use players names. And not just their numbers. We know their offensive linemen, their receivers, their quarterback. They’re not just No. 1, No. 5.
“We actually know them and have a bond with them. This lunch we just had was a great idea to get us to focus on the game and not on the everything else that goes on.”
Players of the Week
Arlington Martin senior quarterback Matt Cook is the dfwVarsity football offensive Player of the Week for Week 8, and Justin Northwest senior linebacker Caden McDonald is the defensive Player of the Week. A total of 48,837 votes were cast.
Reach John Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @John_F_Henry