Pure silence. The arena is empty. People piling in line outside, anxiously waiting to run and grab the seat they desire most. Players fill the locker room, preparing for the next three or so hours ahead of them. Focused. Ready to go.
Doors open. Silence is broken. Seats are filled. Players take the field. Spirit is in the air.
Lights. Whistles. Action.
Let the games begin!
This atmosphere is like none you can imagine. People all around. Fans from all over. Two teams. One game. One goal. You look around to find no empty seat as far as you can see. It's ridiculous really. Why would people drive 2 hours (four hour drive for the opposing team) to watch a silly high school football game that didn't even start till 9pm? The answer is simple really. We're Texans. It's what we do!
Last night I attended a high school football playoff game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tx. The Temple Wildcats versus The Manvel Mavericks. You see, I've been following the Temple Wildcats to theses playoff games for sometime now, since my mom works for school district. We are avid football watchers, so we try not to miss a game. ESPECIALLY a playoff game. We have followed this team all the way to this Class 5A Division 1 Region III game. The Wildcats were not picked, by ANYONE (but the Wildcats themselves of course), to defeat the UNDEFEATED Manvel Mavericks...but I bet you could guess by where this is going, that they did just that.
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In 2015, Shea Walker of Fox Sports Southwest told the sports world, "Temple has the craziest fan base in Texas!" And this year was by far, no exception. I truly believe that it is the fans that make this an experience like no other. I mean seriously, look for yourself:
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And that's not even close to half of the fans in these stands at the Berry Center in Cypress, Tx, where the Wildcats defeated the Port Arthur Memorial Titans in the third round of playoffs, 39-7. Trust me. These Wildcats have the entire Centex area behind them. They're obnoxious. They're loud. And it's a beautiful thing.
So, AT&T Stadium. Blanketed in blue. Noise makers blown up and ready to go. School songs are played. National Anthem is sang. Coin is tossed. Officials are placed. Players are positioned for kickoff. It may be 9:30pm, but it's also GAME TIME.
Photo Credit: Temple Independent School District
The first quarter I'm convinced, was the fastest quarter ever played. The teams determination to obtain the beloved golden ball was very obvious. The defense on both sides were no where but on that line. No touchdowns are made, however, a field goal is kicked, and the Wildcats take the lead, 3-0.
The 2nd quarter contained a little more action, as both teams scored, bringing the game 9-7, Temple ahead by only 2. Never at anytime was a person around quiet. If Temple had the ball, there were screams of "Go Cats Go!", "Let's Go Cats!", and noise makers banging obnoxiously wonderful all around. If the Wildcats were defending the Mavericks, a constant cheer of "DE-FENSE!" was echoing throughout the arena. At one point, the band was apparently not playing at a convenient time for the referees, so they asked them to stop. Well that just received a response expected from the notorious Wildcat fan base. An EXTREME uproar in cheers and screaming and noise makers galore. Sorry not sorry zebras. They're just gonna have to learn to deal with some noise. Within the final minute of the first half, the Wildcats punted to the Mavericks, and then pushed them into the Wildcat end zone for a safety. Wildcat fans in an uproar. End of second quarter 11-7, Wildcats with the halftime lead.
You would think halftime would be a perfect resting time. Especially for fans such as these who stand, yell and scream the entire game. Nope. Not Wildcat fans. They not only have unlimited support for their Wildcat football players, but also for their band and drill team. Seriously. This community has a bond that can NEVER be broken. Both bands play, and the fans stand up and cheer, yes, for both. It's amazing. I love it.
3rd quarter kickoff, and OH MAN, is this one heck of a half! Both teams have both had their intense halftime pep talks, are back and ready to go. Determined. Same as before. Manvel won the toss at the beginning and chose to receive, so Temple will get the ball this time. Back and forth both teams drive across the field. 7:30 left in the 3rd quarter, Manvel Mavericks kick a field goal. Temple up by only one point. 11-10. Temple responds with a touchdown as well.18-10 with 4 minutes left in the quarter. Both fan bases are in uproars as the game is too close for comfort, for either team. Constant shouts never left the air. Seriously. You lose your voice trying to keep up with these people! Manvel receives the ball at the kickoff, and explode into a 100 yard touchdown, past every single defender on that field. For the first time, the Wildcat fans are speechless, the Manvel Mavericks scream with excitement. Somewhere in there, Manvel manages to score AGAIN, 16 points in the last 12 minutes, as the third quarter ends. 23-17. Manvel Mavericks.
So here we are. Moment of truth. 4th quarter. 12 minutes to go. Momentum is higher that it has been the whole game.. if you can believe it. These fans letting their team know that they stood behind them. No matter what happened. But let me tell you, the 4th quarter ALWAYS belongs to the Cats. This time was no exception. Temple defense came to play, and that's what they intended to prove in this final quarter. These teams were NOT giving up. These defenses were over the top, but with just 3 minutes left, the Temple Wildcats found a loop in Manvel's defense and powered through for a touchdown, and even though the two-point conversion failed, the Temple Wildcats were ahead. 24-23. Talk about "HOLD'EM CATS HOLD"EM." Well, they did just that. They drove the undefeated Manvel Mavericks to four downs, and with 56 seconds left, took a knee for the win, at 12:15 am, Sunday morning. Another victory.
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The Temple Wildcat football players swarm the field. Temple Fans explode into a celebration, known only by member of the craziest fan base in Texas. Another gold ball has been obtained. An undefeated team, defeated. The sports world stunned, as the Wildcats head off to the Class 5A Division I state semi-finals, with nothing but victory on their minds. This team, these fans, this community is what makes the Temple Wildcats, well, the Temple Wildcats. It's an unbelievable experience. Partake in it if you can! It is well worth the exhaustion, sore throat, and loss of voice the next day. It's so worth the experience that is like no other.
Way to go Wildcats! Blue Front. White Back. Magic!