On Saturday August 27, the Star in Frisco will host a high school football quadruple-header. The action starts bright and early at 9am when Frisco Reedy will play its first-ever game against Frisco Independence. Then, at 12:30pm, Frisco Heritage and Frisco Lone Star square off in a rare District 13-5A matchup to start the season, a game which will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Both coaches are pretty excited about not only opening their respective 2016 campaigns at the Star, but also about doing so on national TV.
It’s incredible,” Heritage head coach Che Hendrix said. “It’s going to be a treat, it’s going to be a pleasure and definitely an honor. I know we’re excited as a program-kids, player and school, and that’s a special place. We got to take a tour of it and I’m just really in awe. It’s the nicest high school venue I’ve ever been to, I’d say nicest high school venue in the nation right now.”
Lone Star head coach Jeff Rayburn is equally grateful to be opening 2016 at the sparkling new facility, an honor not many coaches in America get to experience.
We’re really lucky to have the facilities we have,” Rayburn said. It’s real exciting to be the first to play in there, but really with this being a district ballgame Week One, our focus is just on the ballgame. There are so much other distractions and things going on with this being such a big deal for the community, but the ante has been raised for us and we want to make sure that we get off on the right foot.”
However, Rayburn admits the focus for him as well as for his Rangers is on the fact that this game marks the district opener for both teams, something which is atypical to start the season. Teams normally get three non-district games to knock the rust off before starting district play, which ultimately determines who makes the playoffs and who does not, but that isn’t the way the schedule is to start ’16.
Hendrix agrees that starting the season in district play is a big paradigm shift for him and for his Coyotes, but the Heritage head coach also realizes it’s not every day a state-of-the-art facility like The Star in Frisco opens, so he’ll take whatever trade-offs are associated with playing there on day one.
It definitely throws a monkey wrench into things because you want to find out who your best 22 players are and you want to be clicking on all cylinders when you hit district and playing your best football,” Hendrix said. “So, that obviously makes all this preparation in these three weeks leading up to the football game all the more critical. We want preparation for district play all ramped up, and that’s been a big part of our preparation. I just hope we’re ready.”
Both coaches are also incredibly grateful for this game being televised on ESPNU, but are quick to say they are treating this season opener like any other game, televised or not.
Anytime that our program and the programs in Frisco ISD can get exposure like that, it can only be a positive thing,” Rayburn said. “We’ve actually had the luxury in our run [to the state finals] last year of playing in some televised games, not nationally-televised, but some televised games. I’m really glad that we have that experience because going into this year and playing a game on ESPN, our kids know how to handle those distractions, and I think that’s going to be really beneficial for us.”
Hendrix concurs that getting the chance to appear on the ESPN family of networks is a unique opportunity to showcase his team and the quality of high school football currently being played in Frisco, and of course to showcase the new facility.
Well, I think it adds a lot to it. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for our program to play on ESPN. Hopefully, we earn the right to play on TV again later on down the road in big games, but what an awesome opportunity to play, to showcase our hard work, and the things that our kids have done,” Hendrix said.
Lone Star will hit the field on August 27th missing a number of key contributors from a team that finished as the state runner-up in Class 5A Division II. Naturally, Rayburn takes great pride in what his ’15 team accomplished, but he and his players must simultaneously be able to remember how they reached the state final last December. All while while keeping in mind that this is an entirely new season and what happened to end last season is over and done with.
We told our kids when we started the off this season that we should be extremely proud of all the accomplishments of the 2015 team. But, as I looked around, I didn’t see that class of seniors that did great, so we’re obviously going to be a different team,” Rayburn said. “We have to take that experience and learn from it, and hopefully be better for it.”
And, Rayburn is also aware of the fact that for all his 2015 team accomplished, they did fall just one game short of their ultimate goal-winning state.
We got a sign in our fieldhouse with our roster on it that says ‘State Finalists 2015’ and that’s exactly what that sign is there for… to remind them to be proud of that accomplishment. It’s also a reminder that the sign says state finalists and not state champions, so that’s kind of been a motivating factor for our kids as we’ve moved into the 2016 era,” Rayburn said. “It’s a new season, it’s a new team. We’ve got to fill some holes in some key areas, but we feel like we have the opportunity and the potential to be a really good football team.”
So, how does his counterpart over on the Heritage sideline feel about facing a 2015 state finalist to open the season and in a district game to boot? Well, it’s a challenge Hendrix and the Coyotes both welcome and will be prepared for.
No doubt it’s a good test,” Hendrix said. “To open up with Lone Star is definitely going to be a challenge with the guys they’ve got coming back, and I know they’ll be ready. They have some to replace too, so they’re going through the same thing that we are, trying to figure out who’s going to play where and who’s going to fit where. I think it’ll be an entertaining game, and it will be a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to it.”
Fast Facts About The Star in Frisco
Ford Center at The Star
- 510,000 square feet
- 12,000 seats
- 1,824 square-foot interior video board
- 2,270 square-foot exterior video board
- Four luxury suites
- One indoor and two outdoor practice fields
- 14,000 square-foot laminate blue glass wall
Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research at The Star
- 300,000 square-foot center
- Nine floors
- Cost: $100 million
The Omni Hotel at The Star
- 24,000 square-feet of meeting space
- 16 floors
- 300 rooms
- Accommodate up to 1,000 attendees for an event
- 13,000 square-foot ballroom
- Expected completion: Summer 2017
- 700,000 square feet
- Expected economic impact from 2013 through 2042: $23.4 Billion
- Potential new jobs at full development: 4,500