By Alex Goodwin
In rivalry games, there are certain things that are to be expected, such as intensity, passion, rabid fans, and last second finishes. All of those intangibles and more were present Sunday night when the Prairie View A&M University Panthers defeated their arch rivals from Texas Southern in a 29-25 thriller in front of a national television audience. But this year, instead of the game being played at a neutral site, the 32nd annual Labor Day Classic was played at the brand-new $60 million Panther Stadium.
Panther alumni marveled at length about the vast improvement in facilities.
“Just looking at this beautiful stadium, I begin to think about how far we’ve come as a university and as an athletic department,” said Charles Porter, Prairie View’s public address announcer who played football for the Panthers during the 1980s. “This athletic facility, along with newer academic buildings, are definitely going to be extremely useful for the school as far as recruiting new students and showing them what Prairie View A&M University has to offer.”
Jonathan Stribling who was Porter’s classmate at Prairie View said, “Today is a historic day. I am honored to be able to see my alma mater move into a new era of excellence”.
As with any HBCU sporting event, the on field action is not the only attraction. It has been said that an HBCU tailgate is an experience like no other. And the TSU-Prairie View tailgate certainly lived up to the urban legend. Students, staff and alumni from both institutions were stationed in RV’s from early Saturday morning until game time; engaging in spirited debates, playing cards and dominoes, enjoying music, all while indulging in copious servings of delicious Texas style barbeque.
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However, the evening was not without some adversity. The contest between the teams was delayed multiple times due to lightning in the area. But as the game resumed around 8:30 p.m., the sold out crowd filed back in and continued to cheer with such fervor after every first down, big hit or touchdown that it rivaled anything one would expect at Kyle Field or Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
As the first half came to a close, as is customary for HBCU football games, fans remained in their seats, because halftime is no time to get more nachos or Coca-Cola. It was time for the battle of the bands. Both the “Ocean of Soul” representing Texas Southern and the award winning “Marching Storm” of Prairie View entertained the crowd with a medley of current hits and throwback jams that included a rendition of “Purple Rain” by the Marching Storm that had everyone from six year olds to senior citizens up on their feet dancing at Panther Stadium.
As the second half continued late into the evening, some fans vacated the stadium. But the majority of the capacity crowd remained until the final whistle sounded. PV fans stormed the field after a victory clinching sack by the Panther defense. All in all, the 32nd Labor Day Classic from new Panther Stadium was a day and a game for the ages that no one who was in attendance will soon forget.
Alex Goodwin is the sports editor for The Panther Newspaper at Prairie View A&M University.