Spotlight shines its brightest at state
There’s a lot more to do than lining up when playing for Texas title.
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.