Abilene High and Cooper players eagerly await Crosstown opener

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Bryce Neves was in college the first time he went to a Crosstown Showdown game between Abilene High and Cooper.

“I was thinking, ‘Dang, these guys are cool. I want to be one of them someday,'” Neves said. “All these people looking at them. I wanted to be like them.

Neves will play in the 62n/a annual game at 7 p.m. Friday at Shotwell Stadium. Cooper leads the series 36-24-1 and the Cougars have won the last three.

Ironically, Neves thought he would one day wear the Cooper uniform, since he was attending Clack Middle School at the time. Clack feeds Cooper.

Instead, the junior linebacker finds himself playing his first college season at Abilene High. So he’ll be playing against many of the friends he made in Clack – guys like Coogs starting quarterback Chris Warren, running back D’Andre Ralston and Jaylen Parker.

“It’s a little different playing against people you know and have been around all your life,” Neves said.

Still, playing in this first Crosstown game will be exciting for Neves.

“I just want to feel the energy of my teammates and the crowd and enjoy every moment,” Neves said.

Neve is one of 30 freshman varsity players on the AHS Eagles team, while Cooper has 33 varsity newcomers.

Abilene High fans toss confetti in the air as they cheer on the Eagles during the 2019 Crosstown Showdown football game against Cooper.

A small perspective on a big game

Nick Garcia also remembers watching the big game as a kid.

“I was a young cat,” Garcia said. “I was young Young, just watch everyone. I wanted to do it.

“Now I am here.”

It took receiver Cooper a while to finally play in the annual game. He’s a senior playing his freshman year in college. Better late than never, however.

“It’s going to be crazy,” Garcia said. “I know there are going to be a lot of people.”

Like Neves, he will also play against friends.

“It’s going to be a challenge to face friends,” Garcia said.

But it will be quite an experience.

“I love it,” Garcia said. “I love that.”

And that’s been a long time coming, having watched many games as a fan.

“Always the Crosstown Showdown – always,” Garcia said. “You have to go to those. There’s excitement in going to see these guys go head-to-head. Now I do. It’s more annoying”

Hayden Macke, a starting right offensive tackle for the Coogs, also has the chance to play in his first — and last — Crosstown Showdown.

Like Garcia, Macke is a senior playing his freshman year in college.

“It’s awesome,” Macke said. “It’s my first year playing college, and I just want to play hard, and hopefully we do well.”

Macke was 10 in college when he went to his first Crosstown game.

“I was pretty amazed at how it all worked out,” Macke said.

Cooper wide receiver Caleb Kasongo is knocked down by Abilene High's Kyle Monroe (30) and Jackson Wilson at the 2020 Crosstown Showdown.

Worth the wait

Chad Lara came close to playing his first game against Crosstown last year as a sophomore running back.

However, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener at Amarillo Tascosa and, just like that, his season was over in his freshman year with the university.

And it happened a week before the annual Crosstown game. Talk about bad timing.

“I was angry but rushed to hit the gym, strengthen my leg and go to therapy almost every day trying to prepare for next season,” Lara said. “My knee is much better this season. I’m happy to be able to join the team this year and play.

So Lara, perhaps more than anyone, is grateful for the chance to play in the big game.

“I feel blessed, you know,” Lara said. “I’m really excited to play there. It means a lot to me and my family. I worked hard and I’m just happy to be able to play. »

Abilene High defensive back Nathaniel Jones sweeps the ball away from Cooper wide receiver Mason Reynolds preventing a successful pass at the 2019 Crosstown Showdown. Abilene High won 20-13.

The view of the coaches

This first game of Crosstown is memorable. AHS coach Mike Fullen participated in his first as an assistant in 1997.

“I remember the stands were full,” Fullen said. “The berms at both ends were full. They were literally sitting on the berms of the field. It was full and it was extremely noisy.

It was quite an experience for the 1988 Sonora graduate. The biggest school he had coached at before AHS was Class 3A Comfort. He had played in front of large crowds at Angelo State when the Rams faced former Division II rival Abilene Christian, but he had never been part of anything as grand as the Crosstown game as a coach. .

“It was really exciting and awesome – and really fun,” Fullen said.

It was the atmosphere that caught the eye of Cooper coach Aaron Roan when he coached his first game against Crosstown as an assistant in 2006.

“I remember the noise and the energy, thinking there were a lot more people here than in the town where I grew up,” said Roan, who graduated from Aspermont in 1999.

The closest thing to the Crosstown game when Fullen was playing Class 2A Sonora was playing Brady or Eldorado.

For Roan, it was when Aspermont – an 11-player school at the time – played Munday.

“We were both fighting for playoff spots,” Roan said. “The stands were packed and people were lining the fences around the pitch. But it wasn’t thousands of people.

They were great games for small schools, but it couldn’t compare to the Crosstown game.

“It’s a neat game, and it’s like I’m saying to our players, ‘This is one you’ll remember. You’ll remember the atmosphere more than the game itself – just the number of people. It just shows the support of both schools. Everyone is pouring in. It just shows that football is important to the city of Abilene.

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