by NICKOLAUS SUGAI & KRIS CANTRELL
NICK: In the last century, we’ve been witnesses to some of the greatest rivalries in history. On one hand, you've got the great on-court duels like Bird/Magic and on the other, you've got deeper societal conflicts such as Edison/Tesla. My personal favorite and one I experienced first hand was Moms vs. Explicit Lyrics labels on CDs. In my particular instance, my maternal figure won and I never got that Offspring album. But for every epic battle in Tower Records, we’re often robbed of rivalries that never materialize, either to circumstance or to logistics -- like existing forty years apart. We’ll never really know if Tiger Woods is a better golfer than Jack, just like we’ll never know if Cy Young would still have an award named after him if he pitched in today’s MLB. We’ll never get to see Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight and we’re most likely never going to see a Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James NBA Finals.
But because we’re an industrialized nation and don’t have to spend our free time hunting and gathering, we can debate and argue and discuss who’d potentially/maybe/metaphorically win these rivalries if they were to actually happen in real life. Most of the time, it’s you and your friend incessantly poking holes at why Dom Toretto would beat Cole Trickle at open-wheel or why Team Pup and Suds could easily out skate Mitchell and Wiley or why Coach Boone’s T.C. Williams Titans would manhandle Coach Gaine’s Permian Panthers --
KRIS: Hold. The. Phone.
I was right there with you up until that last sentence. I’ve battled Mothers Against Kid Rock, made fun of Laker fans, and even sharpied “Soul Skater” across my roller blades. But as much as I love Coach Boone, “Sunshiiiine”, and Marvin Gaye I can’t imagine a world where the Titans ‘manhandle’ the Panthers. Everything’s bigger (and faster) in Texas. Especially high school football players.
I’m taking the second (and third, and fourth, and fifth...) best team in a state with the most talent, over the best team in a state that’s basically the NBA's Eastern Conference.
NICK: You can hoot and holler and shout the same rhetoric about Texas all you like, but you can’t hide between the Lone Star every time someone brings up football. West Texas may close down business on Friday nights, but in Virginia high school football is bigger than Christmas Day. Alexandria is willing to give up the Lord’s birthday and all Odessa is willing to give up is the night before the Sabbath’s eve. Sure, the Panthers have a lot of raw talent, but they’ve got no leader. All you need to do is refer to another Texas team, the Dallas Cowboys, to know that you can have all the tools you want, but a castle can only be built if the guy in charge knows how to read a blueprint. Panther’s Coach Gaines has been on the hot seat for the past two seasons. The Titans bring not one, but two high school football legends. Herman Boone, who won a couple titles in North Carolina and Bill Yoast, who #yoasts 15 winning seasons and a Virginia High School Football Hall of Fame nomination.
KRIS: I hear ya. High school football is a big deal in Virginia. It’s pretty important in Texas too.
If Coach Boone is leading a team in Texas, he isn’t barfing behind some wooden bleachers. He’s barfing behind a stadium. He’s barfing behind a stadium with more seats than most small colleges. Permian plays in one of those stadiums. You may have heard of it. It holds about 20,000 MOJO Maniacs and cost about $6 million to build. That’s probably why Coach Gaines (like Coach Boone) was on the hot seat. Expectations are just a little larger in Texas.
That hot seat doesn’t make Coach Gaines a bad coach, though. It just means that the stakes are higher. I’ll take some instability and a $125,000 paycheck over a secure gig flipping burgers.
NICK: You’re over cooking my grits right now. MOJO sounds like the kid who lived in the cul-de-sac and got Power Wheels for Christmas and then drove it up and down the block taunting the plebeian kids who hoarded their money to rail pixie sticks. Beside, money can buy artificial turf and high performance moisture wicking practice jerseys, but it doesn’t buy SOUL power. The Titans have high level tenors on both sides of the field who are ready and willing to break out into Motown at any given moment.
KRIS: SOUL Power? Soul Power doesn’t win you football games. I’ll tell you what wins you football games. 11 MOJO-powered Panthers in all-black Nikes (silent "e"). That’ll win you some football games. That, a little D1 talent, and an unrivaled pre-game soundtrack. That, my friend, is what wins you football games.
As for Motown, I’ve never seen a team sing their way to victory outside of Glee.
NICK: I will give you that. Panther unis are sick, but cool uniforms don't always equate to championships. You know what does win championships, however? Defense. Trust me, I love high scoring teams. Sometimes when I play Madden I let my opponent score because it means that I get the ball next, but like the most recent Super Bowl proved, it’s all about the 11 on the other side. The Titans have three D1 caliber linebackers. Team captain Gerry Bertier aka Superman holds down the inside like a starving man on a Christmas ham. Yoast’s 3-4 defense allows Julius Campbell aka Avon Barksdale to either put his hand down or stay in a two-point stance. That linebacker tandem alone means no one, not even your boy Boobie Miles is gaining yards on the strong side. Two-way player Petey Campbell locks down the right side which allows him to drop back in coverage and shut down the opponent’s best slot receivers.
KRIS: Ahhh. That defense.
If there’s one thing that can keep T.C. Williams in this game, it’s that defense. It’s absolutely filthy. Bertier and Campbell are basically a walking Nano Blitz. It’s really not fair.
The only way I could see a team moving the football on the Titans is with a mobile quarterback, elite running back, and athletic tight end. Luckily, Permian has all three of those. Quarterback Mike Windell nearly lead his team to a state championship after this highlight reel scramble against Carter. Boobie Miles has offers from just about every university in the country, and Brian Chavez is where Jimmy Graham meets Wes Welker meets Bill Belichick. Chavez is basically a player-coach. He has a near perfect SAT score, a full ride to Harvard, and an answer to every Final Jeopardy question. He can do it all.
NICK: It’s funny, the first half of high school I attended a big time high school football private prep program. The school routinely pumps out D1 athletes and had a monopoly on Hawaii state titles for years. I think part of my hesitation/deeper resentment toward a team like Permian is the without bounds emphasis put on their football team. I remember in the ninth grade, in history class, the entire defensive line would sleep in the aisles of class during lectures, no one said a word and this was the same teacher used to give me SATURDAY detention for eating during class. Without sounding like an angry kid who could never make a varsity sports team, my reservation with handing the Panthers the victory is the non-football “grit” that they may lack. Coach Boone’s policy has always been “I will never cut a player who comes out to play for me,” and even though it sounds more admirable than aspirational, I think it goes a long way in instilling different values in Titan players that Panther players may not acquire as just a name on a magnetic depth chart.
KRIS: I feel ya there. My high school was all about football too. I even had the head coach for math. He was a pretty stern dude across the board though. I heard rumors about preferential treatment and all that, but the only thing I really noticed was some of the big stars taking freshmen-year Geometry as seniors.
You’re right about the integrity and chemistry over at T.C. Williams. Not to sound Mel Kiper-y, but they have every intangible trait you’d want in a classic David vs. Goliath bout. The Titans sing and pray together, while the Panthers fight, drink, and cry together. If the game were played on the big stage, America would be wearing red and white. The Titans are basically a team full of Tebows. But nice guys usually finish last on the football field.
NICK: One, I took freshman geometry in my senior year. Two, you calling the Titans “a team of Tebows” seems like a overt back-handed compliment, unless of course you mean that Jeremy “Rev” Harris and Sunshine seem like a pair of guy who’d take the offensive line to the Philippines to circumcise young boys. Then, I’ll take it.
But, I think the only fair way to solve this is a coin flip. You know, if it’s good enough for the great football state of Texas to play an entire season of football and then just leave it up to gravity, then who am I to argue that method?