Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Miss Black Friday Night Lights

One of the things I miss about home as I mentioned in a previous post is high school football, Texas-style.

There's nothing like it anywhere else in the country. The book, movie and NBC TV show Friday Night Lights was based on the legendary Odessa Permian Panthers. I enjoyed watching them get beat down by Jack Yates 37-0 in the 1985 Class 5A championship game at Texas Stadium even though we lost to JY in the 1985 Region III-5A final 21-15 in the Dome that year.

Region III, as southeast Texas is referred to in UIL parlance (University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school athletic and academic competitions), is the Houston-Galveston-Golden Triangle area. It contains some of the best players in the Lone Star State. If you think I'm just bragging, check the birthplaces of many NFL Hall of Famers, current NCAA Division One ballplayers or current NFL players. Most of them have southeast Texas addresses.

Just in HISD alone at the time I was in high school, Mike Singletary was playing at Worthing High, Dexter Manley at Jack Yates and Darrell Green patrolled the secondary for my alma mater Jesse Jones. There was some kid by the name of Thurman Thomas who played for a brand new high school in Fort Bend county called Willowridge.

Wonder what happened to him?

I'm taking this trip down memory lane because they played the Madison-Yates game last night. Watching those highlights on triggered a lot of fond memories. It was a must attend game. In the 1999 one a Madison Marlins quarterback by the name of Vince Young tore up the JY Lions.

Yep, the same Vince Young who now quarterbacks the Tennessee Traitors. (nope, I'm NEVER gonna let it go that Bud Adams moved my beloved Oilers to Nashville)

My dad was the play-by-play announcer not only for Texas Southern University games but HISD games when the station had the broadcast contract for them. As a result I got to see a lot of those big rivalry games such as Kashmere-Booker T. Washington, Houston Ross Sterling-Madison, Wheatley-Yates, Smiley-Forest Brook, and Yates versus 'errbody'. And since nearly all the majority Black schools in the area were performing in the same high-stepping style as TSU's famous 'Ocean of Soul' marching band, there were some great halftime marching band battles as well.

In fact, those high school band rivalries were so fierce that in 1978-79, thanks to the efforts of the late Artice 'C-Boy' Vaughn there was a contest initiated called 'The Battle of the Bands' to determine Houston's best. In 1979 it got moved from Delmar Stadium to Rice Stadium where it drew almost 30,000 fans just to watch the best high school bands in the area strut their stuff. The biggest shock to the crowd that night was Pasadena's J. Frank Dobie High taking the Superband Division of this predominately Black band competition.

In HISD we all hated JY, or "Burger King High" as we called them during my time at JJ. Burger King's uniforms in the 70's were in the same gold and red colors as Yates. They were not only our bitter rival, Yates is one of the original African-American schools in HISD along with Phillis Wheatley, Booker T. Washington, Kashmere and Evan E. Worthing.

Yates alumns and students never let us peeps who went to schools like Jones, Madison, and Sterling that started out as predominately white schools (but became majority Black thanks to white flight) forget that fact. They also rubbed it in our faces that many history making and prominent Houstonians such as Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and Debbie Allen once walked their campuses. We used to fight back at JJ by playing and singing the tune to the Burger King 'Have It Your Way' commercials and pointing to our academic prowess.

Jack Yates also won games with such nauseating regularity it became a big deal to the other Black schools to knock them off. We beat 'Burger King' during my sophomore year but lost a heartbreaker to Wheatley the next week that denied us a trip to the Dome for the opening round of the state playoffs.

There was also the historical and cultural angle of playing Yates. The Yates-Wheatley game back during the PVIL days (the Prairie View Interscholastic League, the African-American counterpart to the UIL during segregation) was played on Thanksgiving Day to sellout crowds at Jeppesen (now Robertson) Stadium on the UH campus. It was a major event in the Houston Black community. Anytime they played high school doubleheaders in the Astrodome Yates would be one of the featured teams.

My old school is in a slump right now since our all state running back Remus Nembhard moved on to the college ranks and JJ is in rebuilding mode. I also have to deal with the indignity of watching Ross Sterling, the school my neighborhood is zoned to become resurgent in football again at the same time. I'm getting teased about it by my family members who are Sterling alumni.

I'm also marveling at the new high school football landscape in the Houston area. Fort Bend ISD has grown from just Dulles High to enough high schools for their own ten team 5A district. I see new schools opening in the 'burbs every year because suburban districs such as Klein, Cy-Fair, Katy and Alief have experienced the same hypergrowth as FBISD. Even HISD has two new ones in Westside and Cesar Chavez. While some things have changed with Katy, Lamar and North Shore becoming powerhouse programs or once powerful 5A programs moving down to 4A, some have remained the same such as LaMarque's continued dominance of the 4A ranks.

While I remain a fan of Texas high school football in general and loving football is part of my DNA as a Texan, I just have mad love for the flavor of a Black high school football game. Oh how I'd love to be back sitting in the aluminum bleachers on a clear and cool fall night at Barnett Stadium (or any stadium complex in the Houston area) enjoying a high quality high school game again complete with high stepping bands.

Go Falcons!


Mes Deux Cents said...


Did you read the Friday (Weekend) edition of USA Today? They have a cover story about Southlake Carroll playing on ESPNU tonight..well actually they are playing right now. The game started at 4:30 p.m. eastern. It may even be over (I'm not sure how long football games last) They are playing according to the article for their 50th win in a row. The team they are playing is from Florida, Miami Northwestern. I hope you are watching the game!

I wasn't a football fan in High school, where I grew up no one was that into it. You're lucky, that Friday night lights experience sounds fun.

Monica Roberts said...

Ms Deaux,
I realize just how lucky I was after the fact. In addition to watching those future hall of Famers I mentioned in the article play, current Houston Texans coacj Gary Kubiak played at St Pius, Craig James and Eric Dickerson (Sealy High west of town) were also tearing up the fields.

NFL star Santana Dotson wa a BACKUP linebacker on Yates state championship team. Ny Falcons has to shut down Kashmere's (abd future New York Giant) Rodney Hampton in the opening round of those 1985 playoffs.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun and every now and then I'd like to relive it..

mamat said...

Does anyone remember Dwight Browder from the class of 1970? I recently found out I was related to him and heard he was a pretty food football player back then.

Monica Roberts said...

Hmm...have to ask my dad about him.

Speaking of just finding out about football phenoms you're related to, I just found out a few months ago I'm related to Vince Young.