Sun sets over Dick Bivins Stadium during the Tascosa-Amarillo High game earlier this season. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Dusk settles over Dick Bivins Stadium during the Tascosa-Amarillo High game earlier this season. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
On Thursday and Friday, for what is believed to be the first time in Amarillo ISD history, Amarillo High and Tascosa will play a home playoff football game in Dick Bivins Stadium during the same week.
Class 5A Division I bidistrict
El Paso Chapin (2-8) at Amarillo High (8-2), 6 p.m. Thursday.
Class 6A Division II bidistrict
El Paso Pebble Hills (5-5) at Tascosa (7-3), 6 p.m. Friday.
Intense rivals and authors of the most scintillating and largest attended football game during the 2019 season in Dick Bivins Stadium, Amarillo High and Tascosa return to home, sweet, home two months later with a unique tag.
It’s believed to be when Amarillo High and Tascosa play on back-to-back nights Thursday and Friday in Dick Bivins, never before have these two Amarillo ISD schools played a home playoff game during the same week.
AHS (8-2) opens the rare week at 6 p.m. Thursday hosting El Paso Chapin (2-8) in a Class 5A Division I bidistrict playoff in Dick Bivins.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Tascosa (7-3) takes the Dick Bivins turf hosting El Paso Pebble Hills (5-5) in a Class 6A Division II bidistrict playoff.
Tascosa head Ken Plunk and Amarillo High head coach Chad Dunnam said playing at home instead of travelling to El Paso is a big deal, especially for their seniors.
“The seniors having a chance to play one more game in Dick Bivins is huge,” Plunk said. “You get that home game in front of your home crowd and all that it entails. Home games are just a lot more fun and this one was unplanned. It’s a chance for so many family members and fans that might not be able to make a long road trip to see this game.”
Dunnam echoes Plunk’s thoughts and said he has 31 seniors on his roster that couldn’t be happier for one last time to play in Dick Bivins.
“It’s pretty neat that this is the first time we have both played on the same week because playing at home is huge,” Dunnam said. “First, and foremost, it gives our seniors one last opportunity to play right there at Dick Bivins Stadium, their home stadium. Then it’s huge for our community getting a home game because they don’t have to travel. Our kids are just excited playing in the stadium they are comfortable with.”
No lie, coach.
AHS quarterback Will Maynard, left, evades pressure against Abilene Cooper last Friday. [John Moore Press Pass Sports]
AHS is 6-0 playing in Bivins this season. Two of those six wins are in the memories for a lifetime category beating Tascosa on Sept. 6 on a late touchdown pass 36-33 before 13,000 fans, then last week clinching the District 2-5A Division I crown handing previously unbeaten Abilene Cooper a 49-35 loss.
Tascosa is a more pedestrian 3-2 at home this year, but the last time out on the home turf the Rebs were impressive knocking off Frenship 36-23 and clinching the No. 1 seed in District 2-6A Division II and this home playoff game.
“I think this could be really cool for fans in Amarillo,” Plunk said. “I hope they decide to take advantage of it. The fans that go to every game understand how big these games are. The marginal fans that might just go to the Tascosa-Amarillo High game need to know when the playoffs arrive the excitement of football goes significantly up.”
One reason it’s taken so long for AHS (Amarillo’s original high school) and Tascosa (opened in 1958) to find the home playoff field together on the same week is a University Interscholastic League rule change in 2014.
The UIL decided to reward district champions and No. 1 seeds home games. In the past, teams would have to flip for home-and-home if so desired, but the majority of games were played on a neutral site.
“I was happy the UIL voted the home team hosting format in,” Dunnam said. “It just adds a little more icing to the cake for that district championship.”
Dunnam is in his second season at AHS and looking for his first playoff win as a head coach against Chapin. Plunk is coming off a historic season leading the Rebs to the state semifinals last year, the longest Tascosa playoff run in 50-plus years.
Dunnam, once an assistant at Tascosa under Plunk, each believe to be a good playoff team you have to start with players who still are engaged.
“The playoffs are a new opportunity for every team, home or away,” Dunnam said. “To be a good playoff team you have to have kids who still want to play. There are times, you would be surprised, kids get tired of going out and practicing. Kids that still want to show up and play is a huge deal come playoff time.”
Tascosa quarterback Joseph Plunk has ran for 1,8:30 rushing yards in 10 games. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Plunk said there is no magic formula in getting on a playoff role. But he did say the game changes from the regular season with the loser going home for good.
“I think there probably is a formula, but I don’t have the exact answer for that formula,” Plunk said. “What we do do is break our season up into three seasons. The predistrict is where the number one goal is to get better. The second season is district and it’s twofold where you want to get in the playoffs and get the highest seed possible. The third season is the playoffs. And all you do is try and dodge a bullet every week. Find a game plan and whatever it takes to dodge the bullet. There are no style points in playoff wins.”
That’s for sure.
However, style points or not, several playoffs wins across the state this week will occur on home fields. Dunnam and Plunk are hoping two of them arrive at Dick Bivins Stadium.
“Most everybody would agree playing at home is an advantage,” Plunk said. “We have become fairly adept at travel. But I feel like we play a little better at home. If nothing else, because of the routine.”
“We love Dick Bivins,” Dunnam said. “We love the home stadium. If you ask our kids it’s a special moment to walk down that ramp into Dick Bivins Stadium and see the big crowd. It’s a big deal.”