Texas is without a doubt the greatest state for high school athletics in the U.S.. Being around Texas high school sports has afforded me not only some of the greatest opportunities in my life, but also allowed me to watch a few of the greatest games and greatest athletes live in person. Being born in Wisconsin and raised in Maryland, who both have produced their fair share of pro talent, I was around sports through all of my grade school years and I never once got the same feeling as when I was at a game here in Texas.
Firstly, Texas high school football. If you have not caught a game in person yet, I highly recommend it. Do some research on the best teams in your area and go catch a game, it will easily be worth your time. In my season of coverage of high school football in the coastal bend, I was hardly ever disappointed by a game and I was never once not excited to go to a game. Every player that I saw step on the field was there to give it everything they had and no team ever felt like they were out of the game. Being on the sideline for most games, each team had a different energy that they brought. However they each had one thing in common - they were a brotherhood. I have never seen more unselfish players play the game of football in my life.
If my word doesn't hold much weight to you and you aren't convinced then let me tell you of the best game I got to go to, #1 Refugio vs #2 Shiner in the 2021 playoffs. These two 2A schools had a combined enrollment of 427.5 managed to pull in a crowd of nearly 12,000 to Victoria Memorial Stadium. While Shiner rolled to a 55 - 14 win the game was electric and it was clear these 2 teams had had a long storied rivalry. One particular man was in attendance and shared the same sideline as me, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian. He was there to watch one of his potential recruits, Dalton Brooks, and well he did not disappoint the Longhorn HC. Dalton and his brother Doug Brooks combined for 555 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. It was the most dominant performance I have ever seen. If potentially having the chance to see a future college star and pro football player does not persuade you to want to catch a game this fall, I don't know what will.
Baseball is a close 2nd. Coming into the recent high school baseball season I wasn't much of a fan of the sport, but wow did it change that completely. The coastal bend was home to numerous extremely talented baseball programs, including 2 that brought home state titles in the Sinton and London Pirates. The bond each of the teams showed was amazing and there wasn't a team I saw that wasn't able to fill the stands for even a regular season game. For the playoffs, it didn't matter the teams or where it was played, i cant recall a time when the stands were not nearly full or completely packed. The energy from the players and fans was more electric than many football games I watched which was amazing. In my time covering baseball I have seen so many young and talented prospects who are going on to continue their baseball careers at storied baseball programs and I don't doubt they will continue to play amazing there too. Players such as Keevyn Goss and Jack Bell for the Ray Texans, Xavier Perez for Veterans Memorial, nearly all of the Sinton Starting lineup, Justin Lamkin for Calallen are just a few amazing talents I got to see this season.
Similar to football, there was one game that sticks in my mind as the most memorable and that was the Class 4A Region 4 Championship game between #1 Sinton and #3 Calallen. The game had the feel of a State Championship game as the 2 teams were the highest ranked teams left in the playoffs for their class. The game drew 7,892 fans which was more than a couple MLB teams who were playing on the same day, and it was an absolute thriller from beginning to end with Sinton taking the victory 3-1. The talent on each side was astounding, from pitcher throwing low 90s and leaving batters in the dust to batters getting the best of the pitchers and hitting bombs.
The 2021-2022 high school sports season was truly one of the most memory filled parts of my life and it's gotten me hooked. I know no matter where I go in life i'll never be too far away from these programs that have given me the best moments of my life. Once again I encourage anyone to go to a high school playoff game for any sport, even a regular season game and I promise you won't be disappointed. Who knows, you may end up seeing the best game of your life or the next big star just beginning his road to the big leagues.