Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
Susan Casares, the mother of McCollum wide receiver Jon Casares, who made the winning catch in the Cowboys' 28-21 victory against Harlandale on Friday night, enjoys tailgating before the game.
Monday, Nov 8 at 1:53 PM
The annual football game between South Side rivals Harlandale and McCollum traditionally has been one of the most anticipated of the high school season.
It attracts large crowd and stirs the pride of two communities bound by their proximity to one another and the history they share.
Known as the Frontier Bowl because of the schools’ mascots, the Cowboys and Indians, the game is as much a social event as it is an athletic contest.
Last Friday night’s game, won by McCollum 28-21 on a 34-yard pass from Charles Rios to wide receiver Jon Casares with four seconds left, was no exception.
Fans started setting up for tailgate parties shortly after noon, and a festive atmosphere enveloped Harlandale Memorial Stadium before, during and after the game.
You really haven’t experienced San Antonio high school football until you’ve seen the color and pageantry of the Frontier Bowl.
“It’s a South Side tradition,” said former McCollum coach Denny Smith, who also served as an athletic director in the Harlandale Independent School District. “There were already about 200 people lined up to buy tickets Monday morning when we started selling them.”
A standing-room-only crowd of about 8,000, including Mayor Julian Castro and his wife Erica, who participated in the coin toss, gathered to watch the 47th Frontier Bowl.
“The Frontier Bowl gets passed on from generation to generation,” said John Mihertadian, a 1987 McCollum graduate. “There’s always a lot of interest in this game, no matter what’s at stake.”
McCollum’s scintillating victory on the final Friday night of the regular season will be remembered as one of the most exciting in the colorful history of the Frontier Bowl.
After Harlandale botched a 42-yard field-goal attempt with 29 seconds left, overtime appeared imminent before Rios drove the Cowboys down the field.
Friends, family bond at game
No doubt, a good number of elementary-age boys who watched the game will remember it for years and someday play for either Harlandale or McCollum, or take their kids to a Frontier Bowl.
“That’s how the interest in the game continues,” HISD athletic director Rudy De Los Santos said. “These kids go to the games with their parents and they look forward to someday being fortunate enough to play in front of a big crowd.”
McCollum’s victory knocked Harlandale out of the last playoff spot in District 28-4A, and kept the Cowboys’ postseason hopes alive for at least another day.
Medina Valley beat winless Brennan on Saturday night to finish in a fourth-place tie with McCollum and Harlandale, but the Panthers claimed the playoff berth on positive points.
One of the greatest things about the Frontier Bowl is that it brings friends and families together. Young and old sit bond as they tailgate, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
“Even if both teams were 0-9 before they played each other, there would still be a big crowd out here,” said Ruben Casares, the father of the wide receiver who made the game-winning catch. “We come out every year because it’s a rivalry.”
Casares couldn’t resist a dig at a certain NFL team that has struggled mightily this season.
“Who needs the Dallas Cowboys when you’ve got the McCollum Cowboys and the Frontier Bowl?” he said, drawing laughter.
A ‘must-see game’
Debra Rivas, a 1986 Harlandale graduate, assured me that the passion for the Frontier Bowl runs just as deeply among Indians fans.
“It’s a must-see game,” Rivas said. “It’s a game you look forward to each season. From the night pep rally to everything else, the Harlandale people get excited about this game. It’s a South Side tradition and the tradition continues every year.”
Letty Zamorano, a 1986 McCollum graduate, sat on the Harlandale side with her mother and two sisters.
“We used to bleed green and gold,” Zamorano said, referring to McCollum’s school colors. “But now our kids go to Harlandale and we’re Harlandale fans. It’s great to come out here every year.”
Paul Magallanez carried a homemade sign that read “Harlandale Class of 1990.”
“This is something I look forward to every year because it brings friends together,” he said.
One of the more interesting fans I met was Frank Trevino Jr., a 1974 Harlandale graduate who tailgated on both sides Friday. One of 14 children in his family, Trevino had five older siblings who graduated from McCollum.
“I’ve been to a lot of Frontier Bowls,” he said. “It’s always been fun. It’s a party. The only thing missing is the beer. I have friends and family on both sides, but I root for Harlandale.”
As intense as the Frontier Bowl can be, players and fans on both sides do a good job of keeping the game in perspective.
“I tell everybody that it’s a unique game,” De Los Santos.
Yes, it is.