At 8:15 am, Saturday December 17, my family and I pulled up to Dallas Cowboy stadium to get in line to just be let into the parking lot, which weren't even opening till 9. There were about 10 cars ahead of us, T-minus 4 hours until kickoff. Yes, you read that right. The crazy Temple fans were at it again. Anything to be one of the first in line. Shortly after pulling up, we realized some of us could go ahead and line up at the gate, while someone else stayed in line, in the car. Designating a person, the rest of us grabbed our stuff and trekked through the large parking lot to the first set of gates that weren't set to open until 10, and the second set to open at 10:30. Excitement already brewing as Temple fans began collecting around. Lots of hellos and hugs and chatter filled the area as the crowd grew. So much anticipation for the game ahead.
Finally, time passes and both gates are open. Temple fans flood in, with still no Highland Park fan in sight might I add. Some people idled along, as others took off running to get their perfect seat. Now just an hour and a half from game time. Fans from both teams left no seat unclaimed. Wildcats from all over joined family and friends to support their team. Even people who aren't Wildcats joined the mix to support the community. The community that Temple has is one that puts so many others to shame. We all have unconditional support for one another. It's something I would never give up. I love this town and this community. The stadium filled more than ever expected.The first two tiers were stuffed full, and they even opened the third level for more seating. Over 35,000 fans were recorded to be present, although somehow I don't find that to be true. It just seemed so much more.
The Temple High School Wildcats were gearing up to play the Highland Park High School Scots. The Wildcat defense is an impeccable one and we knew would be our key aspect in this game. However, the Scots defense was also incredible, along with key quarterback, John Steven Jones, grandson of Jerry Jones, who happened to own the stadium that held the state championship game. Even still, the Wildcat nation was behind their team and didn't let the odds stacked against them, affect them.
The time was finally here. 12 o'clock. Game time.
School songs and the National Anthem were played. Both teams were introduced, and took over the field. Coin toss. Highland Park wins and chooses to receive.
Ready. Set. Kickoff.
Both teams were visibly prepared for this moment. As the cameras zoomed in on both sides, the looks of determination and will were plastered on their faces. Nothing was going to compare to these next 48 minutes. Like they say, "48 minutes to play, a lifetime to remember." Especially for the boys who will never play a high school football game again. So much emotion for the seniors, all wanting to win it all.
The first quarter went by quickly. Both teams going back and fourth. 4 downs for Temple, 4 downs for Highland Park. Temple, HP, Temple, you get the idea. Finally, with just under 5 minutes left in the first quarter, #20 Jemyiah Franklin ran the ball for the first touchdown of the game. Excitement exploded from the visitors side, as Wildcat fans celebrated the lead. We could almost feel victory as time got closer, even though there was still so much ball game left. Shortly after the Wildcat score, the Scots counteracted and scored a touchdown of their own in the 2nd quarter. It was halftime and the score was tied 7-7.
Photo Credit: Temple Wildcat Athletics
Halftime came and went. Bands performed and again, amazed us all with their musical talents. Yeah Band! Then, time was up and the boys of fall ran back onto the field for the last 24 minutes of their season. The players drove back and fourth across the field once more, but only for the Highland Park Scots to score once more just before the 3rd quarter ended, putting the Scots ahead 14-7. The Wildcat nation was stunned, but took the chance to cheer on their boys like never before, in hopes to put some pep into their tired minds to lead them through these last minutes. As 4th quarter approached, we had hoped that it would again belong to the Cats, as it had so many games before. In the final 5 minutes of the game, The Scots had tackled quarterback Reid Hesse in their end zone for a safety. The score was 16-7. The Wildcats fought hard, however, they still fell just 9 points short of the Scots as the time clock ran out.
Wildcat nation grew quiet as they began to mourn for those boys in blue. Every heart broke because only we knew just how hard they had fought to be there. Every Saturday of playoffs, these boys were told again and again that they would lose. That these opposing teams were bigger and better. Yet each time, they proved them wrong and continued to win. All the way to the state championship game.
One thing that bothered me to no end, yet showed the respectful upbringing that our boys had. As our broken-hearted Wildcat players lined to shake the hands of the Scots as players do after every football game, they were disrespected by their opponents as they were too preoccupied by fans that had stormed the field (when they weren't supposed to do but yet found privilege to do so with the ties they had to the Jones family) to form a line and tell our players good game. If it were me, I probably would have just walked away, but our guys went out of their way to brave the large crowd on the field to find the opposing players and shake their hands. So much class from these Wildcats. So much respect for them. They then returned to the sideline to receive their runner-up medals and plaque. Wildcat fans erupted into cheers once more, showing their boys that no matter what, we will always support them, never a disappointment. Shortly after the awards, the boys were approached by someone they didn't quite expect. Owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones. He told them how proud he was of them, and that no one could ever take it away. This talk was one these boys will most likely never to forget, even after such an upsetting loss.
All in all, we are forever proud of these boys. Especially first year coach Scott Stewart, on their remarkable season this year. We will forever stand behind you. Can't wait for next August to start it all over again. Way to go Cats! We are absolutely so proud of you.