There will be no Friday night lights in Portland, Texas, this week.
Administrators at Gregory-Portland High School, located near Corpus Christi along the east side of the state's southern tip, called off the game earlier this week fearing the potential for violence related to Mexican drug cartels. G-P's scheduled opponent, Mexico's Monterrey Tech, backed out of a game with Stony Point High School in Round Rock, Texas, on Sept. 9, claiming that an anonymous caller (possibly a member of a Mexican cartel, authorities said) demanded $30,000 for the team to cross the American border.
"Due to reports of potential violence in Mexico and in the interest of safety for all parties, Gregory-Portland ISD is cancelling its varsity football game with Monterrey Tech on Friday night, September 23rd," read a short press release issued Tuesday by the school.
G-P administrators decided to be proactive, not wanting to endanger Monterrey players and staff. Recurring media reports about the school's situation and the violence in Monterrey fueled by rival drug-trafficking gangs weighed heavily in the decision, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times. "We began to see that Monterrey Tech was flying to games instead of busing to games, as they did before," Paul Clore, superintendent of Gregory-Portland Independent School District, told the paper. "That began to suggest to us that maybe they knew more than we did about the threat level. So we just decided to err on the side of safety."
The district's decision has angered, rather than relieved, Monterrey Tech officials - who have multiple football games scheduled in Texas this season. "We called last week and said we were coming, and then they called us and said no," Alex Botella, a Mexican promoter who arranges Tech's Texas games, told the paper. "It was surprising it happened three days before the game. ... They called us last week making sure we were coming. We said, 'Yes, we bought 50 airline tickets.' It was kind of upsetting. I guess they were afraid something might happen to us. That was the reason they gave us, that he was more concerned about us than he was his own team. We're flying internationally to San Antonio. I don't really know why he was so concerned about us."
Tech was scheduled to fly to San Antonio and then travel to Portland by charter bus. The school also has games in Austin on Oct. 22 and San Antonio on Oct. 29.