For all the Cowboys games I covered or attended, my fondest memories of Texas Stadium are from high school football.
Nothing beat a playoff triple-header, especially on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a few rounds into the postseason. Two such games stick out in my mind.
One featured perhaps the best quarterback matchup in Texas high school football history: Ennis' Graham Harrell vs. Highland Park's Matthew Stafford. Harrell was a senior who owned most of the significant state passing records. Stafford was a sophomore who had been the subject of much hype despite not being old enough to drive a car.
Harrell’s Ennis team, which was undefeated and unchallenged while averaging more than 50 points per game, had knocked Highland Park out of the playoffs the previous two seasons. Stafford made sure the Scots’ seniors experienced a win over Ennis, passing for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that made it clear the kid was special.
You knew while watching that game, a 38-28 Highland Park win, that both quarterbacks were destined for greatness. Harrell rewrote the Big 12 passing record book at Texas Tech, claiming the NCAA record for touchdown passes in a career. Detroit made Stafford the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
The other game that stands above the rest pitted a pair of undefeated defending state champions. (We’ll avoid a tangent on Texas’ screwy two-division playoff system.) That old stadium was pretty close to packed for Southlake Carroll-Euless Trinity, and the fans got their money’s worth and more.
Trinity led Carroll, which had lost once in the last five seasons, almost the entire game. But the Dragons got a short field to run a two-minute drill for the game-winning touchdown after Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver called for a fake punt. That’s how much respect Lineweaver had for quarterback Riley Dodge and the Dragons’ potent offense.
Those are the kinds of crazy gambles you didn't see on Sundays at Texas Stadium, at least not after Barry Switzer got the boot.