FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

in Commentary

With roots reaching back to 1916, high school football runs deep in Heart of Texas as history shines on every Friday night

In the wake of the kickoff to the 2022 Texas High School football season, it serves us all well to pause and consider in wonder that high schools across the Heart of Texas have been stepping onto the gridiron to play the game for over 100 years.

Granted, pigskin clashes of yesteryear remained a far cry from the action under the Friday night lights we have all become accustomed to during our lifetimes. But without a doubt, those first games played in 1916 laid the groundwork for the traditions that followed.

In 1916 during World War I, Meridian College opened its doors for the first time on Sept. 20 and fielded a football team that very first fall, taking on the likes of the Baylor University freshmen and Southern Methodist University.

While colleges around Texas began playing football as early as 1893, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that high school teams began to spring up. But staggering travel complications and little or no equipment forced most of the fledging high school teams to play nearby schools two or three times in a single season, or take on local make-shift teams and small college teams.

Such proved to be the case in Bosque County. With Meridian College looking for opponents and trying to stay close to home, they put together a secondary team called the Meridian College Scrubs to take on any of the local high schools brave enough to field a team.

In 1916, Meridian High School and Walnut Springs High School did just that.

In the only documented game Meridian High School played in 1916, the Meridian College Scrubs handed the high school boys a 12-6 loss on Nov. 3, 1916. To reduce the punishment the high school boys might take at the hands of the college men, the two teams played eight-minute quarters, and the Scrubs were “cautioned not to hit the little fellows hard.”

Regardless, the Meridian High School players were commended for their tackling, noting that “several of their men show promise to be great football players someday.”

From humble beginnings come great things.

From the prolific players and intense fans to the multi-million dollar stadiums that rival many college stadiums today, Texans love high school football.

It may be on a smaller scale here locally in rural Central Texas, but the same remains true in Bosque County after more than 100 years under the Friday night lights as towns across the state anticipate yet another high school football season this week.

But here’s a thought, just how many Texas high school fans file into how many stadiums each season?

According to Texasbob.com, Texas holds a remarkable 1,305 active football stadiums. Together, those stadiums can seat a staggering 4,130,440 fans. Think about that for a minute. That’s more than the population of 25 states.

While many teams continue to play in their original stadiums, some teams have hit the jackpot and play in stadiums that include state-of-the-art weight rooms, locker rooms, field turf and video scoreboards Others play in more modest newer facilities.

Nine stadiums in Texas hold more than 16,500 fans with schools seeking options every year for bigger and better stadiums.

While bigger districts have more financial resources when it comes to building new stadiums, small schools throughout the state have made the switch from grass to artificial turf, which costs upwards of $1 million. Some schools have offset those costs with outside agreements for naming rights.

While only Clifton and Valley Mills have gone that route with their stadiums in Bosque County, it’s definitely something worth considering for the rest of schools in the area, no matter how small.

With 105 years of Bosque County high school football behind us, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead. After all, there’s plenty to be excited about as we celebrate continuing the game past the century mark.

As the Friday night lights glow across the state in 2022, a new generation of fans will walk into the stands as their team takes the field. Every player will hear the roar of the crowd, look into the stands and remember that moment, because high school football will be back.

But before they do, every high school football player, coach and fan alike should be sure to take the time to walk out onto the gridiron and smell the grass, taking in what it all means to our communities. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Photos courtesy of  BOSQUE COLLECTION

©2022 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.