After a quick 6 hour jaunt through the gently rolling backroads ofWest Texas, we made our final advance to the beckoning Friday night lights of Ratliff stadium in Odessa. Approaching the stadium from a distance, you can see the lights from over five miles away towering above the expansive flat of the Texas plains.We were there, of course, for the crosstown rivalry of Permian vs.Odessa high schools made famous in the bestselling book and movie “Friday Night Lights”.

On the surface, the game we were about to witness was no different than thousands of others being played all over the country.But for some reason, here, it just feels different.There is something about the influence of Friday night football in Texasthat embeds it into the very fabric of culture. Ratliff Stadium feels like ground zero.

The stadium itself lives up to its reputation.Every seat in the 20,000 capacity house was sold out, and we were glad to have purchased tickets in advance over the phone a week earlier.Between the opposing sides of black and red fans, two full bands, cheerleaders, bell ringing, spirit squads, press box, and jumbotron (with instant replay) the environment more closely resembled a collegiate atmosphere than any high school game I had ever been to.This was certainly a far cry from the meager hundreds of fans that my high school drew on the best of days.Still, the passion and emotion that high school players live and breathe with their teams was gratifyingly evident

Despite being mismatched from the start by the visibly larger and more athletic Odessa squad, the Panthers were further hamstrung by continually finding new and creative ways to shoot themselves in the foot during the game.By the end of the night the Permian QB had fumbled and thrown 4 interceptions, not to mention a flurry of other sloppy errors by the Permian squad.All told, the game should not have been as close as it was.The experience, however, was unforgettable.

Final Score: Odessa 26Permian 7

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