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Now in different districts, longtime CFISD soccer rivals continue El Clásico

Photo by Angel Verdejo

During the University Interscholastic League (UIL) biennial Reclassification and Realignment last February, CFISD saw a split among its high schools, which were a self-contained league with eight and then 10 teams for a decade.

Now there are 12 split across two districts and with the division came the end of long-standing games in league play. But with some extra planning, some history hasn’t totally gone away and even enhanced itself.

That was the case for El Clásico, the annual meeting between the boys’ soccer teams at Cypress Falls and Langham Creek high schools. Despite not being in the same district, head coaches from both schools agreed to keep the rivalry going and even added a traveling trophy that will be housed at the winning campus until the next match.

Also fitting was naming the trophy after the architect of both programs – David Hughes. Now in his seventh year as the principal at Langham Creek, Hughes started the Lobos’ soccer program in 1984 when CFISD’s fourth high school opened. Eight years later, he helped open Cypress Falls and led the Golden Eagles for a decade before moving to administration.

“He’s the Godfather,” said Kevin Napier, who followed Hughes at Cypress Falls and has led the Golden Eagles to eight playoff appearances. “It’s cool that we can honor him.”

The Langham Creek High School boys’ soccer team stands with campus principal David Hughes (center holding trophy) after a win over rival Cypress Falls High School on Jan. 8. The two schools are now in separate UIL districts but their meeting, nicknamed El Clásico, was continued in non-district play. The traveling trophy, which will stay with the winner until the next game, was named after Hughes, who started both programs before moving into administration.

El Clásico is taken from the rivalry between Spanish soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, though other rivalries across the sport have also used the name, which means “The Classic” in Spanish.

The teams met Jan. 8 at Langham Creek, doing so for the 50th time in their histories but the first as a non-district friendly. The Lobos prevailed 2-1 in front of a large crowd, tying the Golden Eagles before notching the game-winner late in the second half.

Five of the six head coaches to lead the programs were in attendance. They’re all connected through the two schools and soccer. Napier did his student teaching at Spring High School for current Langham Creek head coach Erik Lane and also faced him years before while a student at Spring’s Westfield High School.

Dale Cowser, now a Cypress Ranch High School assistant principal, followed Hughes at Langham Creek and made his coaching debut against Lane. Scott Tucker, who preceded Lane and is now a Langham Creek assistant principal, worked in the same club program with Napier and Lane.

“We’ve had some great people here and great people at Cy Falls,” said Tucker, who led Langham Creek to eight playoff appearances and a 2007 regional tournament berth. “I think one of the best things and coolest things about it is the comradery you got when you became a part of this.”

As the Lobos’ winningest coach in program history (152 wins in 11 seasons), Tucker faced the Hughes-led Golden Eagles for years in district play. The two split the final two meetings, with Tucker besting Hughes in the finale and never forgetting to share that memory with students at Langham Creek.

After the 2019 edition, The Dave Hughes Cup was presented to Langham Creek, but the trophy’s namesake brought both teams together, showing his gratitude for being part of the rivalry.

“I’m very humbled and sort of lost for words,” said Hughes, who didn’t know he was the namesake until seeing the trophy for the first time. “I told both coaches how honored I was that my name was on the trophy.”

Hughes actually started three soccer programs, doing the same at Spring Woods prior to joining Langham Creek in 1984. There wasn’t much around the campus off FM 529 back then, and there wasn’t much of a playing surface.

In fact, Hughes still has a photo on his phone of the dirt field where the much nicer – and much greener – artificial turf now sits behind Langham Creek.

When Hughes left to open Cypress Falls, Cowser stepped in and a budding neighborhood rivalry was born.

“It’s a natural rival,” said Cowser, who led Langham Creek to its first playoff appearance in 1994 and another three years later. “You split the school but a lot of these players were on the same club teams. Now they’re split, playing against each other. It was sort of like playing your brother. It was really, really fun.”

Also born were traditions that still exist to this day.

Following games back then, coaches spent hours afterward talking to each other about the night’s contests among other duties (calling in scores to the Houston Chronicle, etc.). Instead of going home and doing everything over the phone, Hughes, Cowser and others met at a nearby Denny’s to get work done along with sharing stories.

“They would just trickle in,” Cowser said. “It started out with just three, then four and then five, but it kept growing. What’s neat about it now is it’s gone from that to another Denny’s to an IHOP and now these coaches today still get together on Friday nights after the games.”

Now with Napier and Lane, the UIL splitting the schools didn’t stop either from wanting to keep El Clásico going.

Langham Creek holds the edge in the series, picking up its 19th win to 16 for Cypress Falls. There have been 15 ties.

“You don’t see this all the time in our district as we get bigger, and so it’s fun to have a rivalry like this,” Napier said.

Added Lane: “It’s going to be an exciting thing going forward. Anytime you can do something like this to turn a game into more of an event, it’s worth it.”

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