(Orange, Texas)

January 20, 2014

Vidor's Pirates will open grid season in Pensacola, Florida

Van Wade
The Orange Leader

VIDOR — Get the tanning oil ready Vidor High School football fans.

If you want to see your Vidor Pirates play in their season opener Aug. 30, you will be heading to beautiful Pensacola, Florida to take on the Escambia Gators.

Vidor head coach Jeff Mathews was contacted to possibly play the game in November and everything looks to be a go as the Pirates are just waiting on school board approval, which should go without a hitch.

“When I got that call in November, it sounded appealing and here we are,” said Mathews. “I had several talks with their coach Willie Spears and it all worked out.”

It certainly is a good way to jumpstart the upcoming season for the Pirates, who were young last season and finished 4-6, battling hard against more experience foes in District 20-4A.

“I think it will be a great thing for our kids, staff and fans,” said Mathews. “Escambia has a tremendous tradition, that’s for sure. They will definitely be a test for our kids. They are extremely athletic and they have some excellent athletes that have went on to be outstanding collegiate and NFL players.”

Escambia’s most famous player is certainly Emmitt Smith. Smith set national rushing records at Escambia before becoming an All-American at The University of Florida and then on to the Dallas Cowboys where he won three Super Bowl rings and is in the Hall of Fame and the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting to step on and play at Emmitt Smith Field,” said Mathews. “Emmitt is legendary there. They’ve had other greats play there too like Trent Richardson, who is a running back in the NFL now.”

The Pirate program has enough money in its coffers to make the trip and will have several more fundraisers from now through summer to raise some more.

“We’ve been fortunate enough with a few fundraisers already, with a lot of help from our booster club and we’ll have several more down the road that should help a bunch,” said Mathews. “Everyone is so enthused about making it all happen and the kids are thrilled about it all.”

Traveling is nothing new for a Pirate program that has played Texarkana High in some openers in the past.

“The travel part won’t be so bad,” said Mathews. “The trip is a little more than six hours and when you look at it, it’s only about an hour or so shorter going from here to Dallas.”

The Pirates will leave early Friday Aug. 29 and stay one night and will take on the Gators at 4 p.m. Aug. 30 and will head home.

“It would be great to go up there and stay two or three days but we know that’s not in the cards,” said Mathews. “Still, it gives the kids a great 48 hours to know one another even better and become an even tighter-knit team. All-in-all, it’s all going to be a win-win for us.”

The Gators will return the favor to start the 2015 campaign by coming to Southeast Texas to face the Pirates.

“It’s really going to be a fun experience for both schools,” said Mathews. “A lot of people talk about how good football is in both Texas and Florida and I think football is played best in our two states.

The Gators finished 7-4 last season and advanced to the postseason.

This will be the second year in a row that the Gators face an out of state team.

They opened their 2013 campaign with a 43-19 win over Legacy High School from Broomfield, Colorado.

“We try to play a team from out of state every year,” said Spears on the Escambia football website. “Games like this help us develop well-rounded players. We’re excited about representing the state of Florida in this year’s season opener.”

With the Texas UIL realignment day right around the corner on Feb. 3, Coach Mathews still has some scheduling to figure out, especially for non-district.

“Right now, the only game we have scheduled for sure are the Escambia Gators,” said Mathews. “That means Coach Mathews will be busy on realignment day for sure. First, you have to figure out how many teams will be in the district. Right now, all I know is LC-M will be out of the district and we still don’t know whether we’ll be a seven-team league now, or add a team or drop it down to six teams. I know one thing, if we drop to a six-team league, five non-district games will be hard to find. But I know we at least have one set in stone.”