PORT ARTHUR —
News broke last weekend that the Vidor Pirates were taking a very nice road trip to start the 2014 high school football season. Vidor heads to beautiful Pensacola, Fla., to take on the Escambia Gators on Aug. 30. The following year the Gators come to Vidor.
Area coaches, meanwhile, had varying thoughts on taking a team to Florida.
Nederland Coach Larry Neumann said the beaches of Pensacola are some of the best shores in the world. The area is just not a place Nederland football fans should get ready to go watch the Bulldogs.
“I’d rather play closer to home,” Neumann said. “We have a budget set for all the travel and I know Vidor is doing some fundraisers to raise the money but that is not something I would be interested in. I think playing closer to home, in my mind, is better for the kids and our fans.”
Port Neches-Groves Coach Brandon Faircloth said the first thing he would try to make sure happened when talking to a Florida team would be to try and get them to visit The Reservation.
“I’d much rather them come here than us go over there,” Faircloth said. “I’d consider everything when it comes to scheduling games. We would have to evaluate the team, what is best for our fans and the money it would take to get it done. It really would be no different than when we played in the Alamodome. The hardest part is the next week. The travel can take a toll.”
Port Arthur Memorial Coach Kenny Harrison sees it both ways. He knows, just like Neumann and Faircloth, the struggles teams in this area can have when scheduling non-district games.
“The pro is kids get exposure to another set of fans and scouts and it would be nice to travel to a place like Florida,” Harrison added. “The con is you lose out on a sub-varsity game. It could really put a strain in finding a game for your freshman and JV teams.
“For me personally, I am not too sure about if I would schedule something like that. The first thing that sticks out to me are those sub-varsity games. That could really lead to a big mess for those guys.”
Vidor head coach Jeff Mathews was contacted to possibly play the game last November and everything looks to be a go as the Pirates await school board approval.
“When I got that call in November, it sounded appealing and here we are,” said Mathews. “I had several talks with their coach, Willie Spears, and it all worked out.”
Escambia’s most famous former player is Emmitt Smith. Smith set national rushing records at Escambia before becoming an All-American at The University of Florida. He was then drafted in the first round Dallas Cowboys for whom he won three Super Bowl rings, earned a spot in the Hall of Fame and became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Neumann, Faircloth and Harrison are getting ready for the UIL realignment set for Monday, Feb. 3. That is when new districts will be announced and teams around the state will be looking to fill in schedules. Thus far, it’s been a challenge.
Neumann said his Bulldogs have yet to confirm any games for the 2014 season. Faircloth and the Indians are scheduled to play West Orange-Stark and Goose Creek Memorial and will be looking for at least one more game after realignment. Harrison has Houston Lamar on the schedule for Week 3 and will likely also have Beaumont Ozen and Beaumont Central scheduled for the Titans, although those two teams are not confirmed.
Neumann did have one last idea to curb the problem facing Texas high school coaches.
“It would be great if Texas and Louisiana were on the same realignment schedule,” Neumann said. “We aren’t on the same schedule but there has been talk about this in the past. I would be in full approval of working towards getting us to that point to help relieve some of the pressure of finding games.”