Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Mess With Texas (In High School Football)

The debate is ongoing. For eternity, there will be no right or wrong answer.

Which state is the best for high school football?

The opinion of a few self-proclaimed “experts” generates the national rankings. The USA Today started the madness in the 1980’s and from there due to technology and information overload via the World Wide Web, rankings are everywhere.

Are these publications right, or are they wrong? How can we prove if they are spot on, or way off base?

MaxPreps, the company that pays me, has elected to go to a BCS computer system in order to determine the top teams in the nation. Even a computer spits out rankings that are filled with flaws.

For example in Texas, national No. 9 Longview lost to No. 10 Allen earlier in the season, 21-7. Allen’s only loss was to No. 6 Euless Trinity, 24-14. So how could Longview be ranked ahead of Allen after a two touchdown loss?

Somebody has to put the data into the computer for the rankings to come out. Californian Ned Freeman has the daunting task of making the MaxPreps rankings make some sort of sense. It’s a job I would never want in a million years, so give the guy credit for trying.

However, Mr. Freeman happens to be from California. In his Top 25, five teams hail from California. Seven more are ranked between 26 and 50. Is California really that much better? Or is there at least some bias towards the non-biased system?

Staying in Texas, Euless Trinity is ranked No. 1 according to ESPN Rise and Trinity – the defending 5A-Division I state champions in Texas – are loaded with Division I talent on both sides of the football. Dontrayevous Robinson, committed to Nebraska, shares carries with sophomore Tevin Williams. Talk about depth.

USA Today has Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) at No. 1. Another computer generated product called the Massey Ratings has Trinity at No. 1, with Byrnes checking in at No. 5. On Friday, Byrnes lost to Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.) 35-28. Dorman was ranked No. 13 according to the MaxPreps computer entering the game.

Which state is best?

Since nobody is right, I will weigh in. In my non-expert opinion, Texas is the ‘lone star’ when it comes to high school football.

In college football, fanatics are inundated with SEC overload. Most fans get their information from ESPN – who doesn’t? ESPN and the SEC have a long-term contract together, high rankings for SEC teams mean high ratings for ESPN, so obviously ESPN will make darn sure they talk about SEC football and hype it to death if given the chance to do so.

What bothers me is the speed argument out of the SEC. Are kids that play in the SEC really that much faster than everywhere else? There are fast players everywhere you look. You could find athletes in almost every state in the union.

In Texas, honestly, you probably have more speed, strength, and athleticism than in Florida and California only because Texas has the most high school football programs in the country. A prospect that runs a 4.4 in Texas runs a 4.4 in Florida.

States like Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are loaded with athletes in every corner of the state and in between. The southern speed argument is bunk.

High school games in Texas, at times, have 15,000 fans in the stadium. The commitment high school football in Texas is second to none.

The Texas state record for single-game attendance is 49,95, set in the 1977 Texas 4A State Championship game between Plano and Port Neches-Groves at Texas Stadium. That number would have ranked 41st in NCAA Division I attendance in 2006, ahead of both Baylor and TCU. It is over 10,000 more fans than Houston and North Texas averaged combined in 2006.

I realize 11 games in state history have had more than 36,000 fans in attendance, so comparing these numbers to NCAA average attendance can be misleading. I used those numbers simply to make a point.

Atmosphere is what separates high school football from college football and the National Football League, in my opinion. There is something special about the crisp autumn air under the lights with the sound of marching bands warming up two hours before kickoff. Have fun finding a better atmosphere outside of the Lone Star State.

Gridiron legends in Texas are treated like royalty. Names like Earl Campbell, Doak Walker, Billy Sims, Kenneth “The Sugar Land Express” Hall, Adrian Peterson, and Sammy Baugh, just to name a few.

Other states have had comparable names that have stepped foot on football fields across its state. Some of the all-time legends have hailed from Texas.

Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes high school football. As they say, don’t mess with Texas.

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