Friday night, Carthage High School did something that’s only happened twice in since Bulldog Stadium opened, they lost a home game. The Jacksonville Indians upset the Bulldogs 34-30, Friday night in a game that the young Carthage team had many chances to put away. The game ended in heartbreaking fashion for the home team. Leading 30-27, the Bulldogs secondary intercepted a pass with less than 2 minutes seemingly clinching the game. The sophomore cornerback had the opportunity to run out of bound or go to the ground; instead he made a move across the field, running the ball into Jacksonville territory before having the ball stripped from him. Jacksonville recovered and scored the winning touchdown a few plays later, for a 34-30 upset win.
After the game ended the Carthage coaches gathered to break down the film and go over the game until around 4:30 in the morning. At 9 AM, Saturday, several coaches and players came in to watch the film again. Yesterday, (Sunday) the entire staff of 16 coaches came in at 1:00 to breakdown the film for the upcoming Lindale game, come up with game plans, discuss personnel packages, script practice plays and set the practice plan for Monday. This took around 9 hours and they left a little after 10 PM. At 8 this morning (Labor Day) the coaches were back at their desks, breaking down more film and preparing for practice. The kids showed up at 9. After an hour of watching film of the Jacksonville game, the Bulldogs hit the field for practice around 10. At 12:30, the coaches and players ate a delivered pizza lunch and began to watch Lindale film and film of the practice they had just completed. The team left around two PM and the coaches went to work on tomorrows practice plan.
If you think this flurry of work is due to the tough loss Friday night, you would be wrong. You would also be wrong to think this just happens at Carthage or in Texas. While the staff sizes and professional status of the coaches makes the scope of this preparation somewhat unique to the Lone Star State, committed high school staffs all around the country log similar hours. Except by the coaches (and their wives) this part of the game is mostly overlooked.
The nature of the game, with its 45 second strategy sessions between plays(huddles), video scouting, unlimited substitutions and multiple formation and play combinations make the game uniquely open to these marathon planning sessions.
It’s become a national pastime to second guess coaches’ playcalling, it’s an easy and fun game to play and coaches DO make bad decisions just like anybody else. Just remember that those coaches know more about their team and the team they’re playing than the most involved fan could ever know.
This work is a big part of coaching, hard on the families, but also part of what makes winning a football game so rewarding. Achieving something you pay a big price for is always better than winning something that comes easy and if the Bulldogs get it done next Friday, they will have reason to celebrate.