Part of the charm of high school sports comes from the small communities who follow their local high school teams with the kind of rabid devotion usually reserved for NFL and MLB squads, if that. There's a level of authentic fan avidity (or fan commitment, to lose the marketing jargon) that you just don't find at "higher" levels of competition.
Case in point: The town of Mason, Texas, which will likely be more than half empty on Saturday at 12 p.m., the precise moment when the Mason High football team begins competing for the University Interscholastic League Class 1A Div. I state football title.
Of course, the trick behind that stat is that Mason happens to be a very, very small place. The town's official population is just 2,144, with 1,000 tickets to the biggest game in school history sold within the first few hours of their official arrival at the school on Monday.
Incredibly, according to the Dallas Morning News, that 1,000-ticket allotment accounted for the entire total originally earmarked for Mason fans. That's right, one of Texas' smaller towns sold out its portion of seats in Arlington's massive Cowboys Stadium in a matter of hours.
Now Mason fans are reaching out to all comers, looking for more seats for the game against Stamford (Texas) High, which is scheduled to kick off at noon. By the time the game actually gets underway, it's highly likely that more than half of Mason's total population will be seated in Cowboys Stadium.
No matter how many Mason residents are in attendance at the state title game, there has probably been some even smaller town that has had a higher proportion show up for a big game. At the very least, we should all hope that the town sheriff stays home, otherwise wandering house thieves in the Texas Hill Country may have a field day.
Still, Mason has more going for it's football program than most others. The team's official nickname is the Punchers (how cool is that?) and it plays at the Puncher Dome, which is less a dome than it is a hybrid between a rodeo ring and an open field with field goals at two ends.
In the end, that just adds to Mason's charm, making the Punchers and their hometown one of the stories of the ongoing football postseason, whether they win a state crown or not.