Football reigns king in Texas. No one else does it like the Lone Star state.
Next week, the greatest spectacle in the state is about to go down — the Texas high school football playoffs.
More than 700 programs — 704 to be exact — ranging from Class 6A to 1A will begin the six-week journey in an attempt to get to AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the state championships that conclude just before Christmas.
Perennial powers such as Allen and Aledo look to add to their mantels, while some schools will take the state by surprise.
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But for some, it’s another trip to the couch.
“We put in the time and get better than the day before,” said Matt Miracle, who is in his fourth season with Fort Worth Paschal — third as head coach. “Our time is coming, and I can’t wait until it turns around.”
Since 2004, the Panthers are 23-116. They haven’t been the playoffs since 1995.
“We’re aiming for progress, not perfection, so anything we can do to make the school better in years to come, that’s what we’re here for,” senior fullback James Farley said. “I love every one of those guys in that locker room and I’d fight to the death for them — it’s just worth it to me.”
Paschal is 0-9 this season — with a game Friday against Arlington Bowie — and has already been outscored 462-31. But that doesn’t stop students, parents and fans from coming to games and cheering for the Panthers.
“It’s nice to see the boys work hard even when they don’t get the outcome they want,” said Paschal senior Katie Nance, who’s on the volleyball team. “Everyone is just proud of the boys for sticking with it.”
The baseball team has gone to the playoffs eight times in the past 12 years. In 2016, the softball team went undefeated in district.
Last season, the volleyball team was outright district champion and has clinched back-to-back playoff berths.
“The volleyball team likes to go and support them because they do the same for us,” Nance said.
Glenn Good took the job as Paschal booster club representative three years ago. His son, Harrison Good, is a senior lineman.
“I took the job because I didn’t think the team was being supported in the way they should be,” Good said. “This has probably been one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, but the most rewarding.”
Good spends nearly 30 hours a week preparing activities around football, activities such as concessions, meetings with coaches, team dinners, pregame meals and more.
“We have a great group of volunteers, but it’s a small group, and the same people get tasked with doing everything time and time again,” Good said. “The work brings people close, and they become like family.”
Against Arlington on Oct. 27, Paschal trailed 54-0 before senior kicker Charles McGuill hit a 21-yard field goal in the third quarter.
As a senior it’s really not about winning — it’s about going to every event we can and supporting all sports teams. Football games are about coming together as a school and community.
Paschal senior Maggie Hurst
The people in the stands gave the Panthers a standing ovation.
“I really appreciate all the fans that come out,” senior quarterback Cooper Bates added. “It’s nice having parents cheer you on even when you’re losing. It’s a nice community we have here.”
Hurst L.D. Bell went to the playoffs in 2013, but the Blue Raiders have gone 7-32 since.
Mike Glaze, who’s in his third season as coach, said it’s more than just wins and losses.
“We’re trying to use the game of football to teach them about life and how to be successful in society,” he said. “We try to preach brotherhood because they love the guy beside them.”
Outside of football, the band has gone to the UIL state competition 11 times, winning it in 2000 and 2004. The boys and girls gymnastics teams have combined to win 36 state titles.
“There are four steps to turning a program around: changing culture, learning to compete, learning to win and handling success,” Glaze said. “We’re in between competing and winning.”
Changing the culture and mentality is where I’ve seen the most growth. The kids continue to play hard and fight until the clock hits triple zero.
Glaze came to Bell after spending seven years at Cedar Hill — five as the offensive coordinator — so leaving a program with state title expectations every year was a tough transition.
“My first day I walked in not knowing anyone and it was a weird deal,” Glaze said. “But our motto was ‘brick by brick’ and we wanted to lay down the foundation.”
Bell has a good support system too. The school has a pep rally on every game day.
“We have great support especially the student section. They put on a great show every game, they’re loud and stay positive,” Glaze said. “Sometimes scoring, period, is important and celebrating those small victories can pile up and lead to bigger things.”
“It develops a sense of family,” Bell senior Lauren Cuevas said. “When there’s struggle, you see the masses come together and we all come together every Friday night.”
Keller: Football hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003, but they are in the 2017 postseason. The softball and girls cross country teams have won the past two UIL state titles. Boys basketball went to state last season.
Arlington Sam Houston: Football hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002. Boys soccer went to state in 2015 and was runner up in 2017.
FW North Side: Football hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1979. Boys soccer has 12 consecutive post-season appearances.
FW Diamond Hill-Jarvis: Football has lost 76 consecutive games. Boys soccer has advanced to the regional quarterfinals three straight years.
North Crowley: Last football playoff team was in 2008. Finished no higher than sixth place in district since 2012. Boys basketball has made the playoffs 17 of 18 years, with eight regional qualifiers and a state championship in 2008.