Football, Texas and ESPN

By Don Wallace, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 11, 2008 - Football, Texas and ESPN.

Those are three of my favorite things.

So with the nationally televised ESPN2 game with Sulphur Springs against Wichita Falls Rider coming up, it certainly did my heart good.

I'm as happy as a hog in slop.

To have good, scrappy Texas football broadcast across the nation. It makes my heart swell up with pride, I feel a Bum Phillips story coming.

ESPN, my favorite channel for years, has really struck gold with broadcasting high school football on their family of channels. So what would be better than the circus coming to town and getting one on the airways right from Gerald Prim Stadium.

The whole nation will be watching Thursday night when the ball is kicked off. The game features a lineup of two of the most highly touted quarterbacks in the state - Tyrik Rollison and Shavodrick Beaver. Both are seniors, dual threats to run or throw and highly recruited. Beaver has already verbally commited to be a Wolverine, as in the frigid land of Ann Arbor, Mich. Rollison is doing what he does on Friday night, he is keeping his options open.

The game is expected to draw more than 5,000 fans locally, perhaps the largest crowd in Sulphur Springs history. Not to mention the huge television audience.

The work on the game began in January. ESPN will bring 40 people and several semi-trucks of equipment to broadcast the game from six different camera angles.

Both teams are used to playing under the Friday night lights, but they gladly prepared in a short week so they could present their talents to a national audience.

"We took our Wednesday practice, it really doesn't affect us that much," said Sulphur Springs head coach Greg Owens. "Wichita Falls is like some of the teams we have seen all year. Defensively, they are simplistic in what they do, but they execute it very well. Offensively, they run the spread offense like we run. Those things don't really change."

Owens said the Thursday night game means one less day of rest for the players and one less of preparation for the coaches. But since both sides have to work with the schedule, it is fair for both.

"We just need to be focused, it's a short week, it's a unique thing to be involved in," Owens said.

Owens knows the eyes of the nation will be on the game on ESPN2. He does not take the responsibility lightly.

"We're representing not only ourselves, but the community and really Texas High School football," Owens said. "We want to play well, put out a good effort. The same is true for Wichita Falls. Both teams want to do well, act right and show the rest of the nation what football is like in Texas."

The coach said the matchup is worth the spotlight. He said that Wichita Falls Rider is the best team he has coached against while he has been coaching at Sulphur Springs.

"It's nice to have ESPN and all that, but we are getting ready for our district play,' Owens said. "Wichita Falls Rider will show us things to help us be prepared for teams like Longview and Texas High."

"This game is not the Super Bowl for us. I expect us to play well and ultimately win the game," Owens said.

Owens said he is pleased how the community and school have backed the game.

"I am honored to be in this kind of ballgame and have this kind of pressure and excitement," Owens said. "This is a big time ball game, it gives you a test about who you are. We're getting a lot of publicity for our program and our town. This is a nationally broadcast game. Everybody in the country will see this game.I know I watch these games on ESPN. It's a neat thing for us. We want to show school spirit, what people see on TV is what they will think of Sulphur Springs.It's a feather is our cap to be on ESPN, but we have to go out and play the game."

Texas football on TV, I can already feel the pads a poppin'.

If I wasn't going to be there in person, I would be molded to my trusty ragged brown leather recliner.

But I can do that later, when the game is rebroadcast.

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