By BRYAN URBACH
“Hi, Mom!” — a phrase that will be spoken many times on Thursday night.
Palestine will play host to the Jacksonville Indians at 7 p.m., and the game should be a good one.
Being broadcast on TV via KTXA 21, players might get a little bit nervous in the beginning stages of the game. Palestine coach Lance Angel said his team is ready for the challenge, and is excited for the opportunity.
“For us, we just want our kids on the big stage,” Angel said. “We want to do it now, so when we get into the playoffs, we know what atmosphere to expect. We’re hoping to get a playoff-style atmosphere out of the game.
“I haven’t seen a difference in how our kids are preparing this week, which is the way it needs to be,” he added. “Yes, it is on TV, but it’s just another game.”
Palestine is coming off a wild adventure against Waco La Vega last week that pitted the Wildcats against a true test of will.
The Wildcats were down in the fourth quarter before being able to bounce back and score three unanswered touchdowns to propel themselves to a victory.
Angel said there were some definite learning experiences from the game in La Vega, and winning on the road was one of them.
“I loved to see our kids — on the road in their first game — be able to bounce back in the fourth quarter after being down,” Angel said. “We played sloppy in the first half and let the heat get to us. We did some uncharacteristic things for us, but all of that is fixable and will get fixed this week.”
Last year, Palestine set the tempo from the get-go.
The Wildcats pounced on the opportunity to renew their rivalry with Jacksonville early by forcing a safety on the Indians’ first offensive play of the game. The play sparked an eventual plus-four turnover margin for the Wildcats, including an interception returned for a touchdown.
The Wildcats led by as many as 30 points at one point during the game before pulling out a 37-20 non-district win in 2012.
But, that was last season. This season, Jacksonville is seeking revenge.
“Jacksonville is very talented,” Angel said. “There’s some tradition in this rivalry between these two schools. I think both teams are going to come in and play hard.
“I know everyone is going to be excited for this first big matchup,” he added. “I fully expect Jacksonville to come in and play the best game of their lives. We need to match that and play the best game of our lives.”
To play that “best game,” the Wildcats will have to play in front of probably one of the largest crowds they have ever seen.
Playing in a televised game can be significant for any team, particularly in regard to recognition of the team and its players, like Wildcat running back Ben Luckett.
Luckett shined bright in his latest performance, Angel said, but it’s the line men that Jacksonville should be worried about taking care of Thursday night.
“I think our offensive line has put together a nice piece of work this week,” Angel said. “I also think Gee Clark has been doing well. We’re very impressed with his progress so far.
“We have a lot of different players who can step up and make a difference, so I think each week there’s going to be different kids who will step up and make plays and be the playmakers that we need.”