After six years at SMU’s Ford Stadium, the Tom Landry Classic is on the move.
Because of a scheduling conflict with the school, Waxahachie will play Highland Park at Texas Stadium in Irving.
It’s a move executive director Kris Cumnock said should make Waxahachie fans happy.
“We aren’t across the street from Highland Park this year,” he said. “By being in Texas Stadium, Waxahachie will have a chance to make it not feel like a home game for Highland Park.”
Waxahachie and Highland Park will be playing each other for the second straight year, but scheduling teams for the TLC goes beyond just making phone calls.
Officials with the Tom Landry Classic have to project years in advance when deciding which teams to invite to the annual event.
It isn’t an exact science, but Cumnock does have a formula when choosing the teams. It’s a formula that has been very effective, as only one team invited to play in the TLC has missed the playoffs since the event’s inception in 2000.
“We look at how the sub-varsity teams are doing, consistency in the program and we want a community that’s going to support the team,” Cumnock said. “I’ve always heard that Waxahachie supports its athletic teams and that played a lot into it.”
By moving the game to Texas Stadium, Cumnock believes it opens doors to more than just the communities involved.
“Regardless of where we have the games, communities from each of these schools are going to support their teams,” he said. “What Texas Stadium does is open it up to the rest of the Metroplex that don’t have an affiliation to any of the schools.”
The first game, scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. kick-off, is between Garland and Allen. Cumnock is intrigued by the matchup because of Allen’s prolific offense and Garland’s defense.
He expects the nightcap with Waxahachie and Highland Park to come down to the defenses.
“Highland Park and Waxahachie both have really good defenses this year,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to score a lot of points on Waxahachie this year. The first thing coaches I’ve talked to say is you have to figure out a way to block Gary Mason, or he’ll mess everything up from the beginning.”
Last year’s game ended with a 59-23 win for Highland Park, but the 36-point margin-of-victory was out of character for the TLC.
“About 70 percent of our games have been decided by less than two touchdowns,” Cumnock said. “It’s the first game of the year so you never know about penalties or turnovers, but I expect this year to be a lot closer.”
Waxahachie head coach David Ream is excited about the opportunity to play in Texas Stadium and expects there to be some nerves rattling before the game.
“I don’t think you can prepare them for Texas Stadium,” he said. “We’ve played in nice venues before, but Texas Stadium is unlike any high school stadium around. We’ll just go enjoy the atmosphere, the big crowd and hopefully, once the game is over, we would have enjoyed the game.”