Monthly Archives: August 2012

Stony Point

The Stony Point Tigers are very young. They expect to start either 5 or 6 sophomores in 2012, and only have three returning starters on each side of the ball. When a team is young, the coaches must do a lot of teaching on the field and it effects the intensity of practice.  Today was the first day Stony Point wore pads and the inexperience was apparent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line has very good size, but looked tentative.  The coaches did a good job with their teaching and I would expect this team to get better every day.  They had some very good looking kids on the field, but it will take them awhile to play as a team.

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One interesting pattern I’ve begun to see is the amount of sophomores that play varsity in Texas. Even deep and strong teams routinely play sophomores on the varsity. In Nevada, a sophomore playing up either means the varsity is in a desperate spot or the kid is just too amazing not to bring up. The amount of Texas 10th graders playing varsity is another result of the athletic periods. By sophomore year, these kids have an entire year of football instruction and spring ball if they are in the big schools.

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Stony Point parents watching practice.

Linked is a recent article that claimed Texas as the best high school football state in the country. It is, but the story missed the point, what makes Texas the best is; a) every public school coach in the state is also a teacher. This is the only state in the country that has this requirement. b) In every school all athletes devote one period a day to working on their sports with all their coaches. This may happen in certain schools in other states, but Texas is the only one that does it this way across the board.

Stony Point may be raw right now. But with good year around coaching, they are nowhere near as raw as a similar team in a less supportive state. I’m guessing they will be a different team by the time I return during week 8 for the Round Rock Westwood game.

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New Allen Football Stadium

Good article in link about Allen High School’s new football stadium. I know that in most parts of the country this is seen as a corruption of what high school athletics ought to be about. The knee-jerk reaction equates a big, expensive stadium with misplaced priorities and the ugliness you hear about in major college football; where the business aspect overwhelm the benefit to the kids.

If you have this view please tell me, what’s wrong with a community supporting their program in a first class way? Remember, this was paid for by a bond issue. The money was not taken from the Math or English budget and the revenue this place will generate will pay for many other programs. I’ve been to Allen and all their facilities are outstanding. As far as I can tell, no one is getting shortchanged in this process. Allen has outstanding participation in all their extra-curricular activities including an International Baccalaureate program, a six-hundred member marching band, an award winning music program, rugby and even ice hockey. Having an amazing football stadium when you have the support to fill it is nothing Allen should have to defend.

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Cedar Hill

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Cedar Hill is going to be a lot of fun to watch. They have tremendously talented kids, a tough defense and nine returning starters in an offense that uses, “every formation you can possibly run from a gun or pistol set”, according to Coach McGuire. Building on what I wrote yesterday, Cedar Hill’s offensive philosophy is to create defensive confusion and mismatches by running as many formations as possible. I lost track of all the D-I prospects the Longhorns had on the field, but it’s very obvious they will be able to hurt defenses a lot of ways. As with all the teams I’ve watched so far, practice was very efficient, well organized and the kids had the outstanding technique that comes from years of quality coaching.

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Coach McGuire with the Longhorns after practice.

The Longhorns must have one of the toughest schedules of any team in the country. They open vs. preseason 4A #1 pick Denton Guyer, followed by 5A #6 Allen, then USA Today preseason #11 in the country Washington from Miami, Florida, all before opening district play vs. 5A #8 Desoto. Please write me if you know of anyone with a tougher start of this season.

I got a lot of little hints that this is going to be a very interesting place to visit later in the season, and I’m looking forward to spending a week with them in week 11 for the Midlothian game.

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Hanging in the coaches office bathroom. Thought it was a nice piece of teaching philosophy

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Aledo

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Aledo has won three straight 4A championships and everyone wants to know how the Bearcats will do without 2011 player of the year, Jonathon Gray. Great players always get the credit when things go well, but consistent success in football usually results from a consistent coaching philosophy. There are many valid philosophies that work, sometimes even contradictory ones, but the key is the buy-in from the players and staff. This commitment to the system, whatever the system is, leads to success. It may sound trite, but football teams can often be successful because they believe in what they’re doing and do it well. Aledo’s offensive line coach Lee Bishop summed up the philosophy of Coach Buchanan’s program:

1)      Find your best 12 athletes; put the best at quarterback and the next 11 on defense.

2)      On offense, always focus on having a physical running game.

I can’t tell you how well Aledo will cope with the loss of Jonathon Gray, but Aledo looked very impressive. They probably won’t scare anyone when they line up for the National Anthem. They’re not very big and their numbers are a little down from previous years, but Coach Buchanan told me he’s very happy with his teams’ strength and they looked very fast at every offensive position. Without pads, it’s hard to get a feel of the defense, but it is a veteran group. Every defensive starter started at least two varsity games in 2011. I understand the defensive unit was very good last year, so there is no reason it shouldn’t carry the Bearcats early while to offense gets game experience. Practice was well-run, organized and relatively physical for a team without pads.

What a beautiful facility they have at Aledo. Just being out there in that stadium made me feel big time, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the kids who practice and play there. I hope they appreciate what they have. 99% of high school players in this country never set foot in a place as outstanding.

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Abilene

 

After spending the last week seeing all the smaller school programs I’ll be following, today I finally got a look at my first bigger school; the Abilene Eagles. I realized something I should have known already, just because a kid goes to a big school doesn’t mean he’s different than a kid at any other school. For a team that’s had so much success and is expected to contend this year, the boys at Abilene look just like the kids at any other school. To me, this is why high school football is the greatest sport in the world; great teams can be made up of average kids. Commitment, work ethic, good coaching and toughness can overcome talent. I can’t claim to be an expert of Abilene football after seeing one practice, but I’m guessing those four qualities have a lot to do with the programs recent success.

                What I did see today was another well organized program where a large number of kids have clearly bought in. The coordination between the lower level and the varsity in all these programs is apparent. At Abilene, the middle school coaches are assisting with the varsity until they start school in a few weeks, meaning 29 coaches were taking part in practice today. This extra manpower both helps during the preseason and shows the middle school coaches how to do things when they’re coaching their kids. Every level of Abilene feeder, from 7th grade up, starts practice with the same warm-up, everyday drills and 24 play passing sequence. This attention to detail has a lot to do with why, after a long drought, Coach Warren’s Eagles have qualified for the playoffs every year since 1999.

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Coach Warren addressing the team before practice

 

                After they left the field I saw two good workouts, one by the varsity in the turf (?) room and the JV in the weightroom (they alternate by day) this gave me a hint of the toughness I expect to see when I return to Abilene for the week of the Abilene Cooper game.

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Bad shot of team pictures of all seven of Abilene’s State Champions, most recent on 2010.

 

 

 

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Idalou

When I first contacted Coach Don Long at Idalou about taking part in my project, he tried to warn me away. He told me, ‘Sure, but I think it will be pretty boring, my staff has been together for a long time and we pretty much have our routine down.’ I reassured him I was looking for situations such as his, a successful program with a stable staff. You may have noticed that all the teams I’m covering fit that description. This is no accident. In my book I want to make a case for the Texas model of high school football and the best way is to highlight quality programs where kids are benefiting and coaches are doing things the right way.  My other, more selfish, reason is that I can learn a lot from watching good coaching, and I figure to be a much better coach when I put the whistle back on. In any case, after watching Idalou today, I’m glad I chose them.

Idalou High School, just north of Lubbock, has 309 students and 105 of them were padded up this morning. The practice I saw was very well organized and efficient and the coaching was well focused and planned out. This is a young team with only two returning starters on each side of the ball and, as a result, a lot of teaching is going on. I was impressed with the progression they used. All three teams and position coaches on all levels were consistent in teaching their parts of several plays the Wildcat added on offense. After drilling with position coaches, they progressed to group implementation and finally to the entire team. The same process was used with all three levels. It sounds simple, but too often you don’t see this coordination on younger, less stable staffs where coaches aren’t always on the same page as to how something ought to be done.

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The other impressive area today was the lifting workout the varsity went through after leaving the field. Quick, businesslike with no standing around; it was similar to what I saw last Friday at Stamford. All three of my small schools (Idalou, Stamford and Throckmorton) put a lot of emphasis on weight training. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the success of all three programs.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to Abilene High, then to the Metroplex to see Aledo and Cedar Hill. After that I head south to Round Rock to watch Stony Point. Then, early next week I’ll go further south to Harlingen, and finally I’ll complete the loop of my preseason visits be heading to Port Lavaca Calhoun, before head back to La Marque for the week of the La Marque-Ball game.

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Stamford

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The last leg of my three team mini-marathon was Stamford whom I visited yesterday morning. As with Throckmorton the night before, this was the first padded practice they would have this season. Around 80 players were dressed and practicing of this school of 180 students. Again, like all the small schools I’m covering, they have a great percentage of kids out, over 50% of the boys padded up.

I compare it to most of the small schools back home and most struggle to keep one 8-man team on the field, while Stamford has two strong 11-man teams with solid numbers. It will be interesting to try to figure out what’s responsible for such great turnouts.

The Bulldogs are returning 8 starters on each side of the ball from a team that advanced to the state finals last year. They are expected to contend again this season. As I arrived the 8 varsity and JV coaches were putting the players through individual drills. One pattern I’m starting to see is just how much attention these outstanding programs pay to their younger kids. Becoming a good high school football player is a long process and the staff is ensuring the long term success of the program by making sure the next generation of Stamford Bulldogs do things the right way.

After a break, the jv and varsity went their separate ways and both had filmed intrasquad scrimmages.

After the scrimmages the varsity went to the weight room and did a very quick and efficient workout run by Coach Hutchinson. I was very impressed by how well they worked and the strength this 1A squad had. I’m sure the weight room is another reason Stamford has had so much success.

I confess I didn’t stay around long enough or talk to enough people to gain a lot of insight into Stamford. I was still very tired from the previous, long day and left to find a room in Abilene as soon as they left the field. I’ll be back in mid-September for the week of the Colorado game.

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Throckmorton

For the past three years Throckmorton have conducted their first padded practice at midnight. This has turned into a community event with a BBQ, a pre-practice ceremony and fireworks. Around 100 locals were in the stands at midnight, Friday morning to see the 2012 Greyhounds padded up for the first time.  26 players were dressed out, very impressive for a school with only 58 students.

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This was my first ever experience with the 6-man game and I realized right away that my 11-man knowledge meant very little. Some rules are somewhat similar; 15 yards for a 1st down instead of 10. 3 must be on the line of scrimmage instead of 7.

The big differences; all six are eligible receivers and an exchange must be made before the ball may be run (QB cannot run ball) make all the difference in the world. Unlike 11-man, 6ers must all know all fundamental football skills. Every defender has to be able to cover downfield as well as tackle and all offensive players have to be able to catch. Even passing is less specialized than in 11-man as all three backs are regularly called on to throw the ball.

From a coaching standpoint this means individual periods include all the same skills. Where a 11-man O line coach would never teach his center to catch passes, a six man coach must. The 6-man player must be well rounded, like a basketball player must be able to shoot, dribble, pass and play defense, all 6ers must block, tackle, catch, run routes, defend downfield and take on blockers.

The collisions are much more wide open. Every play looks like a special teams play in 11-man ball. With so much field and so few players most everything is done out in the open.

I’ll admit I’m at a little bit of a loss to critique the play, having never seen this game, but Throckmorton looked well coached and prepared to me. They have a good amount of kids I would think would be the optimum size to play this game; big enough to make an impact but small enough to be mobile. The kids were very willing to be coached and the coaches were obviously very knowledgeable about the game. Coach Reed set a good balance of being tough while also being positive and the players responded well.

Everybody was very friendly and it’s apparent that the people of Throckmorton take great pride in their team, their school and their town. I’ll be back in early September for the week of the homecoming game against Bryson.

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Carthage

Before this week, I probably knew less about Carthage than any of the eleven teams I’m covering. There isn’t a lot written about them and I didn’t quite expect what I saw. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the facilities were. The second thing was just how many kids, support staff and coaches were involved and how well coordinated everything was during the first practice. I had to keep reminding myself that this school is relatively small with only 741 students. The atmosphere was much more big time than 741 led me to believe.

                At 7:30, around 120 players took the field quickly warmed up and got into their individual groups. Shortly thereafter another 60 freshmen met on the lower field for their practice, by my math, a little more than 50% of the male enrollment of the school was participating.

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The coaches tell me this will be the largest high school video board in the United States. It will be up and running on my return during Lindale week.

 

The first sign of a well organized practice is how rarely anyone needs to be told where to go and how quickly everyone transitions from activity to activity; by that measure Carthage was as good as it gets. The bell rang at 5 minute intervals, with coaches and position players breaking up and forming into different groupings as their schedules indicated.

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I was very impressed with how much teaching was being done by the assistant coaches, to both the veterans and the less experienced players. With 120 kids, there were some greatly talented kids, but also some very average ones. The coaches didn’t differentiate; making sure everyone got a lot of instruction. This is an advantage of a well funded program.  There were enough coaches to work with everybody. Smaller staffs have to pick and choose where to focus attention and too often the less able players get shortchanged.

The other thing that stood out was just how physical Carthage was. Although only wearing helmets, the Bulldogs often brought offensive and defensive groups together and went at it. Several coaches told me this is a big part of their philosophy. They will out-physical everyone and build that concept into their practice.

I’m not in a position to know what their competition looks like, but the Carthage squad looked outstanding, a lot of speed, the QB and RB stood out as very good and the defense flew around. Like their 3A counterparts at La Marque it’s going to be a lot of fun to see this team in pads in a few weeks.

 

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A Shout Out To Texas Bob

 

I’m sure all the Texans on this site are familiar with the Texas Bob Stadium Database. It’s been a great help to me to be able to pull up stadium information on my phone when I’m rambling around the state. On my first stop, in El Paso, I happened upon the really nice old stadium at Austin High School. Looking on the website for details about this place I saw that it was one of the few places that didn’t have a picture, so I took one and emailed it to Bob. A few days later I got a nice email from Bob, thanking me for the shot and informing me that he’d be sending me a copy of his book. Thanks again Bob and I owe you a book when I get this one written.

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