By JUSTIN RAINS
Around East Texas, the Palestine/Jacksonville rivalry is well known.
After this year’s meeting, it’s reach is going to be extended just a bit.
This year’s game between the Wildcats and Indians — set for Sept. 5 at Wildcat Stadium — will be broadcast live on TXA 21, a television station out of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
“I think that was part of the sale,” PHS athletic director Lance Angel said. “They don’t usually do teams in East Texas and I think that was the draw for them.”
The week before Palestine and Jacksonville face off, Allen will take on Highland Park.
The appeal of the matchup to a broader audience is easy enough to see.
For Palestine, at least three of the players suiting up that night will be Division I recruits, including Jarrell Owens, whose pledge to TCU will only help market the game in the Metroplex.
Jacksonville will be suiting up star junior quarterback Carter McCown, relative of not one but two NFL players.
McCown will be facing Palestine for the first time after missing the 2012 matchup — a Palestine victory.
Beyond the exposure of his program, Angel sees the game as a way to prepare his players for the big stage that they’ll hope to see again during a playoff run.
“You want to expose your kids to a big-game atmosphere,” he said. “If you ever want to make a run in the playoffs, make a run at a district title, you have to be exposed to high pressure, big-time games.”
When the event was settled, school was still in session, meaning that Angel and his staff got to announce the matchup to his players.
So, how did that go over in the locker room?
“It’s unusual and kids are kids, but it just didn’t get a big reaction from them,” Angel said. “I’m hoping that week that, for them, it’s just another game.”
The game will be the Palestine home-opener, after the Wildcats open the 2013 season Aug. 30 in Waco against La Vega.
Because of that —and because it will be a Thursday game with a 7 p.m. kick-off — Angel is hoping the Palestine and Anderson County communities come out in droves.
“We’re trying to get the stadium packed,” he said. “That’s a goal of ours. Playing on a Thursday night, maybe people that support other schools will get a chance to come out.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org