My favorite time of the year

It’s finally here, my favorite time of the year.

Living in East Texas, we tend to “miss out” on the more sensual aspects of autumn. By the time the leaves start falling from the trees it’s dang near winter. It’s not unheard of to have 90-degree days in the middle of October. Last year I took my kids trick-of-treating in a t-shirt.

But there’s one thing we’ve got in East Texas that more than makes up for it, we’ve got high school football season.

The smell of the concession stands, the sounds of the game, and the bright shine of Friday night lights. Though the holiday season doesn’t really kickstart until November, football season is going strong by August.

Of course, I know that other places have high school football too, but not like it is here.

I’ve seen high school football games in the Midwest and up in the Ohio Valley area, out on the East Coast and down in South Florida. California‘s got a couple serious programs out there too. But it’s just not the same.

The talent level of our young athletes is second to none. The skill of our coaches make East Texas one of the most sought-after places to work in the state. From Celina and Daingerfield, through Tyler and Longview, and on down to Lufkin, I think the best high school football in Texas is played in our high schools‘ stadiums each Friday night.

Our varied communities make up rather rabid fanbases as well, in towns big and small.

Season tickets for the Henderson Lions sold out in a manner of days, and finding just a general admission ticket isn’t guaranteed. Even in my hometown of Overton, a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, if you don’t get there early you’re liable to be standing along the fence during the game.

Internet message boards like Smoaky.com are buzzing with smack talk between rivals as early as January, only weeks after the last of the high school state championship games has been played.

Traditions and rivalries abound, with more storylines to follow than an afternoon soap opera. Who’s the starting QB, Jones or Smith? Is that Jackson kid going to be the same after the knee injury? How’s the playoff picture going to shake out in our new district alignment?

Parents, students, and has-beens like me are always wondering about this year’s team. Gossiping about any new wrinkles the coach might be adding to the offense, talking up that rangy freshman who’s gained 20 pounds and four inches since his 8th grade year. Asking each other “How’re they looking?” as another August summer of two-a-days draws near.

By the time school starts, excitement is at a fever pitch. Pep rallies are deafening explosions of marching bands and cheerleaders. “Are they gonna win this game tonight? Welllllllllll, NO!”

The agonizing long wait through the slow season (see: basketball, baseball) is finally at an end, and it’s time again.

Long caravans of cars adorned with banners and shoe-polish on their windows will crisscross the highways and byways of East Texas. Small towns across our great state will shut down, as the players stand along the sideline for the pre-game prayer and national anthem.

Under the Friday night lights awaits another generation of shooting stars, to soar in a resplendent and all-too-brief journey across our East Texas skies.

It’s finally here, my favorite time of the year.

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