The Southlake Carroll Dragons and Allen Eagles kick off the 2012 football season this Friday with one of the most anticipated high school games in the state and maybe nation. Aside from two powerhouse football programs facing off, the game will also be the first game played in Allen's new Eagle Stadium. The stadium has attracted national media buzz and much Internet chatter concerning the emphasis on football in Texas.
The stadium, which cost $59.6 million, seats 18,000 with the home side completely season ticket holders or school auxiliary organizations. The game will be a packed house as both Allen ISD and Carroll ISD sold out of general admission tickets early in the week. Standing room only is the ticket of choice for Southlake fans as the Dragons were allotted only 4500 tickets. An estimated 22,000-25,000 people will be in attendance.
The defending State Champion Dragons travel to Eagle Stadium in what Southlake Head Coach Hal Wasson phrased it, "a great spectator's game."
The Dragons return quarterback Kenny Hill and running back AJ Essard but will be playing a new group of receivers. Defensively the dragons only return two starters, safety Tanner Jacobson and cornerback Ray Crockett.
The Eagles, lead by Head Coach Tom Westerberg, will be looking to receiver turned quarterback Oliver Pierce to lead the offense this year. He returns to the quarterback position after two years as a varsity receiver. They should be strong defensively returning tackles Stone Drulman and Byron Bonds, linebackers Nick Cobb and Anthony Walker, and safety Chad Adams.
Both programs boast successful football traditions and look to continue that that championship trend this year. The Dragons start the season as the top team in the TheOldcaoch.com's preseason 5A rankings while the Eagles start at #15.
TheOldCoach.com's Kari Counter talked with both coaches about this week's game.
Q: This is the game everyone is focusing on this week, especially with
the unveiling of the new stadium. How do you handle all the hype
surrounding the game? Do you think it's a distraction for the players
A:Hal Wasson: We're focused on the game. Fortunately our players are accustomed
to big venues and big games. We're excited to go up against a great
team like Allen and get the year started.
Tom Westerberg: The kids are excited. We've scrimmaged in it and practiced in it already. Our kids are used to big games. They've played in some big venues, like Cowboys Stadium, so they're used to it. The difference is this is ours. There's no driving to it.
Q: A big story line for Allen this year is Oliver Pierce moving from receiver to quarterback? What can we expect from him?
A: Tom Westerberg: He was a quarterback all his life growing up in Allen and we moved him to receiver and told him he'd get a oppurutnity to play quarterback again as a senior. So that's what has happened and he's taken on the leadership role. He's Oliver Pierce so we'll roll with what he can do for us. Oliver is one of the best competitors I've been around. He does not fear anyone or anything and makes the players around him believe.
Hal Wasson: Pierce is an outstanding competitor. It's his 3rd year on
varsity and he has great leadership. He's definitely got our
attention. They've got a great line in front of him and he has a great
running back too so we know we got our work cut out for us.
Q: Both squads lost key seniors from last year and are having to rebuild certain areas of the team. What can we expect from the new guys?
A: Hal Wasson: One thing for us is for years here we've been a normally
senior team. So we've got big shoes to fill, but we're excited for the
guys who waited their turn to play. They've invested a lot of time and
commitment the last three years.
Tom Westerberg: We're similar to them. We loose a lot of seniors every year. We're treating it like any other game. It's the first game of the year and we prepare like we would for any other team.
Q: You lost some big play athletes on offense too, especially at receiver, how
are the new kids looking?
A: Hal Wasson: We did lose all six receivers from last year. The new guys are all moving up from JV but I like to say you don't know
what you know till you know. The 1st game will let us know. They'll be
some good things and some bad things we have to get better at real
Q: The Old Coach Friday Night Football Preseason Rankings has the Dragons ranked at the top spot starting the season. Any added pressure there?
A: Hal Wasson:
It's always an honor to be ranked number one because we all know there are many outstanding teams in our great state. It's also recognition of the accomplishment made by last year's Dragon team and all those great teams that have come before us. As awesome as it was to win the state championship last season, that's old news. We know we have a great season opener against Allen we are honored to be playing in their new stadium to start the year.
Q: Q: Coach Westerberg, it's a big night for the community of Allen and expectations are high, what atmosphere surrounds the team for this game?
Tom Westerberg: The community supports and takes care of the kids in Allen. The pressure in Allen is always high. Expectations are always high and so whether the stadium was here, whether or not this is just a little more publicity I guess. It's the first game in the new stadium, everybody will be pumped up and if you can't get excited about this one, you might as well stay home.
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