Spot­light shines its bright­est at state

There’s a lot more to do than lin­ing up when play­ing for Texas ti­tle.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Rick Cantu Upon Fur­ther Re­view


foot­ball coach Ja­son Dean faced a laun­dry list of high-pri­or­ity items Mon­day that had lit­tle to do with block­ing or tack­ling.

Dean and school of­fi­cials booked ho­tel rooms in Ar­ling­ton for roughly 75 var­sity play­ers. They sched­uled bus rides for the play­ers, their coaches, team man­agers, pep squads and the march­ing band. They also an­swered the phones as a non­stop flow of fans called the school’s ath­letic of­fice to pur­chase tick­ets.

As Dean learned Mon­day, there’s noth­ing about the first 15 games of the sea­son that pre­pares you for state cham­pi­onship week.

This week­end at Cow­boys Sta­dium, Ge­orge­town and Cedar Park will play for state foot­ball ti­tles for the first time. For both schools, a chaotic week will cli­max with the most an­tic­i­pated foot­ball games in their his­tory.

“I’m go­ing to han­dle as much of this as I can to al­low our as­sis­tant coaches to come up with a game plan,” Dean said. “When­ever you get the UIL in­volved, there’s a ton more pa­per­work to deal with. With me­dia re­quests, it can feel like (coach­ing) a col­lege or NFL team.

“We want to keep the dis­trac­tions for play­ers to a min­i­mum.”

Ge­orge­town’s and Cedar Park’s play­ers al­ready face enough dis­trac­tions. Both schools are busy with fi­nal ex­ams, and the hol­i­day break is just around the cor­ner.

And on top of it all, both the Ea­gles and Tim­ber­wolves will play at 80,000-seat Cow­boys Sta­dium in a hand­ful of days. Cedar Park will face Lan­caster in the Class 4A, Di­vi­sion II fi­nal at 8 p.m. Fri­day. Ge­orge­town will bat­tle Denton Guyer for the 4A, Di­vi­sion I ti­tle at noon Satur­day.

Dean’s team will ar­rive in Ar­ling­ton a day early be­cause the Ea­gles are re­quired to be at the sta­dium by 9 a.m. Satur­day.

This sea­son, both area teams have set new stan­dards for foot­ball. Cedar Park, guided by first-year head coach Joe Wil­lis and fea­tur­ing its “Black Rain” de­fense, boasts a 13-game win­ning streak. Ge­orge­town, led by quar­ter­back Jake Hube­nak and a posse of tal­ented play­mak­ers, is 15-0 and win­ning its games by an av­er­age score of 45-13.

No one is more fa­mil­iar with the stresses of cham­pi­onship week than Lake Travis coach Hank Carter, who led the Cava­liers to the fi­nal two ti­tles in their his­toric run of five straight Class 4A state cham­pi­onships from 2007 to 2011.

Lake Travis tack­led one obli­ga­tion by hav­ing a me­dia day early in the week. Former Cava­liers coach Chad Mor­ris, now the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Clem­son, al­lowed re­porters full ac­cess to his play­ers for a day but barred the me­dia from prac­tice the rest of the week.

Carter con­tin­ued the pol­icy as Lake Travis’ head coach and said, “Our play­ers would have fun with it. You’d get some goofy guys singing Christ­mas carols” for lo­cal TV cam­eras.

Carter re­called, too, that Cava­liers coaches were forced to make a ma­jor ad­just­ment be­fore the team’s 2010 ti­tle game against Denton Ryan at Cow­boys Sta­dium.

“You can’t use your own head­sets at Cow­boys Sta­dium,” Carter said. “You have to use the head­sets the sta­dium uses for NFL games. I was ner­vous at first be­cause com­mu­ni­ca­tion is such a huge part of the process.”

To help the play­ers be­come ac­cli­mated to the sta­dium, the Cava­liers ar­rived a day early to watch other ti­tle games.

“We’d sit there for about a quar­ter just so they could get all the oohs and ahhs out,” Carter said.

For­tu­nately for Dean, he can rely on a mem­ber of his coach­ing staff for some first­hand ad­vice this week. Ge­orge­town of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Michael Wall was an as­sis­tant coach for three state ti­tle teams at Lake Travis.

“I spoke to Mike, and I’ve al­ready talked to Steve War­ren, the head coach at Abi­lene who I once worked with,” Dean said. “I’ve made a call to Hank Carter. I’m leav­ing no stone un­turned.”

Un­like the other UIL state foot­ball cham­pi­onships at Cow­boys Sta­dium, the Class 4A, Di­vi­sion II fi­nal in­volv­ing Cedar Park won’t air live on Fox Sports South­west. In­stead, the Tim­ber­wolves’ matchup against Lan­caster on Fri­day night will be tele­vised lo­cally on Fox Sports South­west Plus.

A spokesman said Fox Sports South­west Plus may be viewed on Time Warner (Ch. 77), DirecTV (Ch. 685), Dish Net­work (Ch. 448), Grande Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (Ch. 134) and U-Verse (Ch. 755).

The Cedar Park-Lan­caster matchup was bumped off of Fox Sports South­west be­cause of a con­flict with the San An­to­nio Spurs’ game against the New Or­leans Hor­nets.

The Class 4A, Di­vi­sion I fi­nal be­tween Ge­orge­town and Denton Guyer on Satur­day af­ter­noon will air on Fox Sports South­west.


Ge­orge­town’s Chuy Perez holds up the 4A state semi­fi­nal cham­pi­onship tro­phy af­ter a 42-14 win over Rouse on Satur­day that sent Ge­orge­town to the state fi­nal.

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