Monthly Archives: October 2012

Week Ten: Harlingen Cardinals

Palm Trees in Texas!

The regular season is winding down and this week I’m in the Rio Grande Valley to see the Harlingen Cardinals and the 20th annual Bird Bowl, between the Cardinals and the Hawks of Harlingen South. Whenever I get to a new place, I try to figure out what’s unique about the situation, among the 11 teams I’m visiting. With Harlingen, I knew coming in that the Valley itself is unique within the state’s football picture. In other parts of Texas, the Valley and its football has several strong stereotypes; a largely Hispanic population with teams that rarely advance past the second round when they meet the more athletic teams from “UpTexas” & fanatical fan support. When Harlingen beat Warren High School from San Antonio in the 3rd round last year, they became the first Valley 5A school to advance to the state quarterfinal since 1999. The entire Valley took pride in it and 10,000 fans made the 100 mile trip up to Kingsville to support the Cardinals.

This season has been more challenging for the Cards, losing their first two games and heading into the Bird Bowl with a very uncharacteristic 5-3 record. Many in the Valley believe Friday is the day South will snap the 4 year losing streak to their cross-town rival. South is coming in with a 7-1 record. I’m not here to make predictions, but I really doubt this will be the blowout many seem to be expecting, Harlingen did not start well, but have been playing much better football the past few weeks and seem to be back on track, just as the games are starting to matter. What I do know is that you can often throw out the records leading up to a rivalry game; I’m looking forward to a good battle Friday night.

The other, unexpected and unique thing I’ve learned this week is that 14 of the 16 football coaches at Harlingen are alumni of the school. I wonder if any program in Texas or the entire country could claim such a homegrown staff. Loyalty like this is an amazing thing to see, coaches who, in great number, have decided they don’t just want to coach but carry on the tradition of their alma mater and coach at Harlingen High.

This is not just a strange fact about this program, but a direct reason for its success. Coaching stability is a huge factor in running a successful program and its lack many places in Texas, is a big hurdle programs have to fight. A staff ingrained with all this schools traditions and who see themselves as “Cardinals” as much as professional coaches has got to be a big advantage in promoting the culture of the place.

The only danger to such an insulated staff would be if they hadn’t seen enough of other programs and fall behind in a constantly changing game. As someone who has had the privilege of watching a lot of staffs work this year, I can say that this is not the case. Coach Gomez and his staff have made a point of keeping up with the game and the proof is in the record they’ve compiled over the years. Harlingen is the program they are due to tradition, but also because they work very hard and do a great job preparing their kids. Tradition is great, but good coaching and kids who execute what they’ve been taught is what wins games.

MTXE= Mental Toughness, Extra Effort

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Stony Point vs. Westwood

 

Getting out of a bad run might be the hardest thing to do in sports.  Everything seems to conspire against a team in a hole to the point where it seems impossible to climb out. Bad calls, bad luck and losses look like an avalanche and as much as the coaches try to show confidence, it’s easy for a team to start expecting bad things around every turn.  This week, Stony Point got two injured players back who had been out since early this season. Just as things were starting to look up, they lost their starting running back to an injury during practice; the back that might have been the difference between winning and losing Friday night. Teams who are doing well seem to win games that they probably shouldn’t, and teams on the opposite end find it harder to get over that hump with each tough loss. It has been that kind of year for the Stony Point Tigers.

Friday Night in Round Rock, the Stony Point Tigers fell to the Westwood Warriors in a game that seemed to exemplify the frustrating year the Tigers have had. Stony Point played their butts off, fought to the last play, but just couldn’t overcome some key letdowns and bad breaks that have plagued the Tigers all year.

All the scoring occurred in the 1st half. After taking a 3-0 lead in the 1st quarter, the Warriors responded with their only score of the night. With 3 minutes to go in the half a Stony Point screen pass was intercepted on their own 5 yard line. Westwood punched in it on a quarterback dive two plays later, making the score 7-3 Westwood. The Tiger offense could never get anything going, wasting a tremendous defensive effort. Stony Point held Westwood to just 15 yards rushing on 20 carries and less than 100 total yards, while gaining 231 on offense.

Although the Tigers averaged 4.6 yards a carry they had no margin for error. While theoretically, 4 ½ yards per carry is enough to grind the ball down the field, any miscue, flubbed play or penalty puts a team in a long yardage situation. That was the story with the Stony Point offense all night. The Tigers did a good job pounding the ball, but inevitably a holding penalty or a minus yardage play would put them in a 3rd and long without the passing game to convert. Several times the Tigers got into field goal range, only to be pushed back by a penalty or sack.

A pivotal point of the game came late in the 3rd, when the Tigers recovered a punt that seemed to bounce off a Warrior player on the one yard line; however a penalty returned the ball to the Warriors. It is just the type of thing that seems to happen to struggling teams.

Stony Point is not a great team. They have a lot of tough kids who play very hard, but are usually facing bigger, faster teams in a very tough 5A district. They need to play almost flawless football to win. Given that many of their better athletes are sophomores with little varsity experience; this is a lot to ask.

While the Tigers are not a great team right now, I stand by my choice to cover the Stony Point Tigers as an example of a quality program for my book. As I wrote in my last post, winning depends on a lot of factors and, right now, they all seem to be turning against the Tigers. However, Coach Chessher took over this program when it was in a much worse spot than now and built it into a power. If he can continue to attract outstanding assistant coaches, better days will come.

This is a very good staff and a lot of fun to be around; Coach Chessher is a character, full of great stories you’ll have to wait for my book to read about. The kids work tremendously hard and although they aren’t winning enough right now, they will become better men from being a part of this team. Winning is important, making the effort to win is necessary, but the true reason for a high schools to offer football  is to build boys into men and by that measure the Stony Point staff is doing their job.

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Week Eight: Stony Point Tigers

This is a tough post for me to write. Up to this point I’ve been celebrating programs that have been successful and done things the right way, but it doesn’t always follow that doing things the right way will lead to success. The fact is that half of all the teams every week lose. There are just as many losses out there as wins. Many, perhaps most, of the teams on the losing end, worked hard and were well coached.

Looking at most of my posts it would be easy to get the simplistic idea that winning will happen if things are done like they’re being done at Aledo, Abilene, La Marque or Stamford.   If I’m giving this impression I apologize, I’m still feeling my way through this writing thing and I’m constantly learning new things and hopefully,  getting better at making my points. My intention here is not to celebrate “winning”.  I probably know better than most that  winning is not always possible no matter how hard you work, how much you want it, how good your athletes are or how smart a coach you are. Winning comes from a combination of factors, many which are out of anyone’s control. Wanting it, being a smart coach, a good athlete and working hard may only put a team in position to win. While I maintain that football IS the fairest of sports, in the end, football is a lot like life and, as my dad always liked to say, “Life isn’t fair.”

Two years ago the Stony Point Tigers in Round Rock were on a roll. They were the first school in Round Rock history to advance to the state semifinals and managed this feat three straight years, winning a tough district four years in a row from 2007 to 2010.

In the last two years thing have gotten tougher. Since the 5A semifinal in 2010, the Tigers have a record of 7-10. Instead of expecting a district title, the Tigers are hoping to make the playoffs in 2012.

Round Rock is a growing suburb north of Austin and like many other towns outside Texas boom areas of Austin, San Antonio, Houston and the DFW Metroplex, fast growth is creating tremendous upheaval to schools and athletic programs. Schools are opened with 500 students and a few years later, bursting at the seams. More new schools are built to relieve overcrowding; zoning lines are changed, making the enrollment seesaw again. From an athletic standpoint this volatility is having an enormous impact. Some schools gaining from a particular shift while others are hurt. This isn’t just a Texas thing, it’s happened to me at the two Reno schools I coached for.  But the population shift from west to east and rural to urban in Texas makes these changes very dramatic right now.

Stony Point was hurt by the opening of neighboring Cedar Ridge last year, the new school took many former Stony Point kids and the Tigers have struggled. Things may be looking up however. Changes are still occurring. Newer neighborhoods are being built and enrollment should climb the next few years. On the football front, while the team is 3-4, the Tigers lost by margins of 1,1,2 and 10 points, showing just how close they are to turning the corner.

As far as two days of watching practice can tell me, this is a program that is doing things the right way. The coaches are well organized, very energetic and teach very well. The kids seem to be coachable and tough. Everyone is working hard for a win this week against Round Rock Westwood. Whether these commitments to doing things right will pay off the next three weeks or next three years, I don’t know. But I’m sure the coaches here would agree that you don’t work your butt off simply to win, but because it’s the right way to do things and the only way to hold your head up after the results are on the scoreboard.  Wins are just, a sometimes flawed, measuring stick. In a fair world everyone who paid the price would be rewarded for it, but life isn’t fair.

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Idalou vs. Denver City

 

 

Friday night, after the Idalou game, I left West Texas for the first time in three weeks. One of the interesting things I learned on this journey is just how diverse Texas is. Different parts of this state have completely different looks, feels and even sounds. East Texas is nothing like North Texas or the Rio Grande Valley, Central Texas or the Coastal Bend. The way of life, the climate, terrain and the culture of all these places are very different from one another. The common thread of all these places is a very strong Texas pride, (Texas school kids not only recite the Pledge of Allegiance but the Texas Pledge every morning) and, of course, love of football.

West Texas is probably closest to the stereotypical Texas most people envision. Men wear boots and cowboy hats to football games, people are all “fixing” to do something and the wide-open plains are dotted with oil derricks and cattle. I’ve moved on to Round Rock for the week, but I really enjoyed my time in West Texas and look forward to getting back during the playoffs. I met a lot of great people in Idalou, Throckmorton, Abilene and Stamford and all four of these football programs are a lot of fun to watch.

The Idalou Wildcats faced a tough district challenge by the Denver City Mustangs. Both teams came in with 4-2 records and the Mustangs have some very good athletes. While Denver City started out strong grabbing the early lead, they simply weren’t strong enough in the trenches to stop the physical ground game of the Wildcats. Idalou rushed 44 times for 366 yards and stretched their district record to 2-0, and a 35-20 win in a game that really wasn’t that close. Quarterback, Seth Reagan ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns and passed for two;  Travys Bravo, Tylo Kirkpatrick and Koal Houchin all had big gains on the ground as well. The offensive line was the big difference in this game. Idalou linemen blew the Mustangs off the ball all night while Denver City’s passing attack was inconsistent.

I get the idea that this was a typical performance for the Wildcats, it fit their formula very well. This is a team built on the very West Texas philosophy of winning with a strong running game and defense. The Wildcats do not have flashy athletes.  Idalou doesn’t win pretty, what they do is grind teams down with outstanding fundamentals and superior strength. Their weight program is outstanding; the way the kids literally run from station to station between sets is amazing. I don’t know if I’ve seen more done with 20 minutes of lifting, three times a week, anywhere else. I’ve seen some very good weight rooms on this tour.

As I wrote in the previous post, Idalou is a great example of how the old ways still work. Coach Long and his staff have stuck to strategies that have been proven over generations. They’ve adapted their scheme for the modern game, employing some spread offense and zone running, but they haven’t forgotten the fundamentals that have made them a consistent winner.

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Week Seven: Idalou Wildcats

Watching the Idalou Wildcats this week has been a lot like climbing in a time machine. From the style of the Saturday morning scout to their offensive and defensive philosophy, much of what this staff does is deeply rooted in the football of a different era.

While most staffs scout film on laptops in their own corners, Idalou coaches all watch the film, start to finish as a staff. While many programs are increasingly relying on the spread offense, Idalou runs a smashmouth, two back offense that relies on getting push on the line of scrimmage. While most defenses have gone to attacking schemes, with linemen getting through gaps, while the linebackers fit into the other gaps, Idalou uses a key reading scheme where defensive personnel read the linemen opposite them.

This isn’t to say that the Idalou staff is behind the times, they aren’t, they know what they’re doing and it works. The Wildcats are currently 4-2, the two loses coming against quality 3A schools; they’ve made the postseason the last 13 years straight and won a state championship in 2010 using this prescription.

The Idalou staff has mostly been together since 1990, and while they have adapted their schemes to fit the teams they see, they haven’t thrown out their knowledge of football to fit someone else’s idea of the ‘right’ way to win. Idalou is another example of how, in football, there is no right way to do anything. There are almost endless ways to play football effectively. Many approaches work as long as the philosophy is well thought out, well taught and the kids buy in.

With only 8 coaches covering 5 teams (7th, 8th,9th jv and varsity), practice organization is impressive. Players at Idalou have great technique and there isn’t a lot of wasted time on the field. From a coaching standpoint it’s a lot of fun to watch a team that still does things the way they were done when I started coaching. It reminds me that the roots of the game are still important; blocking, tackling, sound defensive technique and ball control will always work.

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Throckmorton vs. Bryson

I saw my first six-man football game, or at least three quarters of one. One of the many unique things about this game is the mercy rule. When one team goes up by 45 points the game ends. With so much open field and so few players to cover it, the six-man game is very much about individual matchups. The superior team with 6 quality players will most often overwhelm a team with weak spots, so very lopsided scores are the rule and many games don’t go the distance.

Friday night at Throckmorton, the Bryson Cowboys came with a plan to control the clock and grind the ball down the field. This worked early with two long drives limiting the explosive Throckmorton offense to three plays and the Cowboys took a 16-14 lead. But the plan had two flaws;

1)       Bryson had several good linemen types who would have been at home playing guard in the 11-man game, but they didn’t have the athleticism to change gears once the Greyhounds shut the power run game down

2)      Bryson could do nothing to slow down the Greyhound offense.

Throckmorton scored 9 touchdowns on the first 15 plays in the 1st half. Through the air and on the ground they dominated every facet of the game. The downfield blocking was scary. In Texas, unlike the rest of the country, blocking low in open field is legal. This technique has a strong impact on game-play across the state, but none of the 11-man teams I’ve seen use it as effectively as Throckmorton.  Greyhound players threw themselves into the legs of Bryson defenders, often rolling up two or three Cowboys on a single play. The quickness and precision of the T’Rock offense was amazing to see and showed why the Greyhounds are an elite team.

Bryson managed to score once in the second half delaying the inevitable, but two quick Throckmorton scores ended the game, 74-29, early in the 4th quarter.

From my limited perspective, there are two factors leading to the success at Throckmorton.  While this is a very different animal than the 11-man game, what makes a team do well is really the same.

Throckmorton has players who are very well suited to this game. The optimum 6-man player is an outside linebacker/tight end type, big enough to deliver a shot, but agile, quick and with great endurance. The ten varsity Greyhounds fit this mold very well. Receiver/DE Gary Farquhar is being recruited by Texas Tech and had an outstanding game, but the other players all seemed to outmatch their counterparts as well.

The second factor is the program itself. A quality coaching staff with a comprehensive and deliberate philosophy, kids who buy into this philosophy and a community that expects success and supports the program sums up Throckmorton and every other stop I’ve made. True, the game is very different, but football is still football and the bottom line needs are the same.

Coach Reed and his staff run a great program, from the X’s and O’s to the value lessons they teach through football, there is a purpose to all they do. The kids have clearly bought in. They respect the coaches’ knowledge and play the game the way they’ve been taught. And finally, the town of Throckmorton comes out and supports this team. As I’ve heard several places I’ve been, “If you’re a thief, Friday night would be a good time to rob the place, everyone’s at the game.” Throckmorton has under 1000 residents and the home stands were full. There couldn’t have been many Throckmortonians anywhere else Friday.

It was a different week, but a very interesting one. I got to see a bull auction (a Red Angus sold for $70,000), take part on a gameday raffle for a shotgun (guess I didn’t win, still waiting for a call) and see a version of football you don’t see many places. I want to thank the coaches the kids on the team and everyone else I talked to for being so open and welcoming. I enjoyed my week there and look forward to following the Greyhounds the rest of the way.

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Week six: Throckmorton Greyhounds

 

When explaining my trip, I often run down the list of schools I’m covering. When I let them know I’m going to be in Throckmorton, home of the defending 6-man champion Greyhounds, a common reaction is, “Someday, I’d love to see a six-man game.”  The point is, it seems there are a lot of people interested in the 6-man game that have never had the opportunity to see it. I, myself fall into that category, we don’t have the 6-man where I’m from, so Friday night will be my first game ever.

Six-man football is an offshoot of the 11 man-game that is mostly centered in the plains region of North America, from Canada to Texas.  In Texas, this version of the sport is played in schools that don’t have the enrollment to field 11-man teams.

The rules of 6-man football are different. 15 yards for a 1st down, there must be a backfield exchange before the ball can be run, (No QB keeps or scrambles) and all 6 offensive players are eligible receivers. Two points for a kick after a TD and one for a run or pass into the end zone.

 

While the players need the same basic football skills as 11 man football, (blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching), the tactics and strategies for playing offense and defense are completely different. That all offensive players are eligible means there is much less specialization than in traditional football. All offensive players, whether center, quarterback, running back or receiver, must know how to block and catch the ball. All defensive players must know how to tackle and cover downfield. Most will play on both sides of the ball and most of the action is in the open field. This puts a premium on well rounded, mobile kids,, the best players are middle sized kids with great motors who can run well. The game is surprisingly physical,, all the action happening in open field.  The strategy is a lot like a violent, padded form of basketball. Defensive strategies have much in common with a zone court defense and the offensive action is so fluid, often two exchanges and all the eligible receivers in so much open field. The scores are also very basketball like, sometimes reaching triple digits.

Throckmorton High School has an enrollment of 63 students. Of the male school population, 4 do NOT play for the Greyhounds.  This is a school that values and expects its students to be involved with school activities. The school has a total of 63 students and 61 are involved in at least one extracurricular activity. The busy students miss a lot of class time due to the travel and their events but this doesn’t seem to affect their academics. Last year, of 18 graduated last year, 16 are in college.

It’s hard for me to critique what I see in practice having never seen this game before, but I’ve learned a little during the last two days. When compared to most 11-man practices, the practices at Throckmorton seem kind of casual, but I’ve quickly discovered that, like any good practice, what happens on the 80 yard field is done with a purpose. 11-man teams individualize by breaking down into position groups and having those units work on their skills separately. In 6-man, the skills are the same for all players, so the coaches decide what needs work and practice together.

It’s a busy week in Throckmorton between the homecoming activities and a big bull sale being held at a ranch just outside of town. Friday night will be the first district game between the Greyhounds and the Bryson Cowboys.

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Abilene High vs. Abilene Cooper

Sometimes everything comes together to produce a game that demonstrates the best of what a sporting event can be. Last night was one of those moments at Shotwell Stadium. Whether in the stands, on the sidelines or on the field, few who were there will ever forget this game. Most people outside of Abilene won’t know or care what happened, but for 15,0000 Cougar and Eagle supporters, coaches and players, the world got very small, and for those three hours, nothing else mattered.

This is the type of game these players and many in attendance will be talking about the rest of their lives, recounting the last two minutes and even those on the Cooper side will, in future years, take a lot of pride thinking back on the effort they gave and be glad to have taken part in this great battle.

From early on you could sense that this wasn’t going to be a repeat up last year’s 62-6 blowout. Cooper came out strong and grabbed the early momentum going up 7-0 on a 12 yard run on their first drive. Cooper made one of very few mistakes a few minutes later, when a bad snap over the head of the Cougar punter was recovered by Gabriel Jordan in the end zone to knot the score at 7.

From there it was a seesaw battle, both teams taking the momentum and both clawing their way back in when things seemed to be going against them. After Abilene took a 24-27 lead in the 4th quarter, Cooper responded with a 10 play drive that included several 3rd down conversions to make the score 27-24 Cooper with 2:17 to go.

The Eagles took over from their own 28, drove the ball to the 7 yard line with 11 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Rolling to his right, with his primary receivers covered, quarterback Evin Ebbe forced a ball that seemed to carom off both hands of a Cooper DB before finding running back Marcell Porter in the front of the end zone and three second on the clock. Final Score 31-27 Abilene High.

Games like this make football the powerful, beautiful thing it is at its best; two well matched teams with passionate fan bases, fighting with everything they have for their teammates and schools while the entire community seems to hang on every play. You couldn’t be at this game without getting drawn into the emotion of it. The game walked the line between intensity and control that great games do. The action was desperate without tuning into ugliness.

Cooper kids, clearly crushed by a game that slipped away, showed all the class you’d hope to see after such a great battle, fighting through their disappointment to congratulate the Eagles and recognize Abilene’s alma mater. The Eagles showed the character of a disciplined, well-coached program that is used to winning, by putting together a methodical drive in the face of all that emotion, intensity and pressure. It’s often said in games like this that you hate to see either team lose, and in this case, it’s true. Both teams played a great game and both fought heroically when it would have been easy to give up.  Abilene should be proud to have two big school programs of this caliber; Abilene ISD has managed to create a system where both schools have thrived while so many other places build up one program by sacrificing the other. Without that commitment from the community to both these schools, this night would have looked very different.

I had a great time with the Abilene High Eagles this week. This program represents exactly what a large school program should, winning by doing things the right way. These are great kids and great coaches who know what they’re doing and do them for the right reasons. It just doesn’t get any better than seeing a squad like this match up against another quality group. Nights like last night at Shotwell are what this sport is all about.

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Abilene High vs. Cooper Preview

There are certain things you can tell about a team by watching them practice every day and other things that you don’t see until game day.

For example: It’s almost impossible to get a feel for a team’s defense during the week. Defense is about quick reaction to various possible cues, intensity and all eleven players reading the play and attacking the ball from correct angles. The only way to display these traits is by full-contact, live scrimmage vs. varsity speed and execution and almost nobody does this anymore. Instead most will break down their defense into position units and work keys and contact technique in a controlled way.

Coaches know which players will fly around the field, they don’t have to teach varsity players how to bang, so there’s nothing gained by beating on their own offensive players in practice. It makes more sense to save the aggression for the game.

Practice does give you a better indication to how an offense will play. Offense is about timing and execution and these are more easily practiced without using a live defense to work against. Even so, there are some things practice doesn’t easily show; how well does a quarterback throw the ball against a live rush? How well will they adjust to unexpected fronts and blitzes?

With that said: Some last impressions of the Abilene High Eagles before the ‘Cross-town Showdown’,, the ‘Battle at Shotwell’ or whatever people want to call the rivalry between the two 5A schools in Abilene.

  • Practice at Abilene is very efficient, relatively short and very quickly paced. Athletic period is often used for special teams, teaching adjustments and walking through new material. All areas that make for a lot of standing around. As a result, when the Eagles take the field afterschool, there are very few delays.
  • Quarterback Evin Abbe has amazing accuracy. I did not see him throw a bad pass all week, he hits receivers on their break with just the right touch.
  • Defensive players look quick and have great technique, the defensive staff also does a great job using film to self assess things to work on and to teach opponent tendencies.
  • While this is clearly a rivalry week, I haven’t seen any ugliness. A local reporter used as a positive example the rivalry between La Marque and Galveston Ball. I was at La Marque that week and the atmosphere here is similar. Excitement, but not hate. This isn’t the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, but relatives eager to show off their ability to each other. If there is bad blood I haven’t seen it yet. The vibe I get in one of respect from the Abilene High side.
  • I’ve heard the tickets are pretty well gone, a full house of 15,000 is expected at Shotwell tomorrow night. What an exciting setting for these student-athletes, as one told me yesterday, “Little kids always dream of playing for the Cowboys, this is as good as it gets for us.” I’ve never been, but I bet 15,000 at a rivalry game at Shotwell is as good an atmosphere as Cowboy Stadium most Sundays. I hope these kids know how lucky they are to play in a game like this.

It’s been a fun week, great to have some cool weather again, and it should be a very exciting night.

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Week Five: Abilene Eagles

Several hundred Eagle fans wait for tickets to the Cooper game

A tough thing about this roadtrip is that just as I get a little used to the flow, the people and the stories of a place, I get in my car and go to the next stop. It usually takes me a few days to understand what I’m looking at and come up with the right way to approach it. During the last four days in Abilene I’ve talked to a lot of people, the coaches have been great and I’ve been given three books about different aspects of Abilene High School football. For all that I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of this program and what it means to the community. This is arguably the most historically important football program in Texas, having won state championships in three separate eras. On top of this, Abilene High has a fascinating history with their crosstown rival who they’ll be playing Friday night. This goes far beyond the game on the field. (I still need to do too much research to get into this in the blog,,, but it will be a big part of my book, so make sure to buy it!)

To the immediate concern; The Abilene High School Eagles & the big game vs. Abilene Cooper. Abilene’s off to an outstanding start, beating San Angelo Central last Friday 35-6 and running their record to 5-0 and a top ten ranking in all three polls. Despite this, many people would be surprised with what they don’t see at Abilene. No indoor practice facility, or even a turf field to practice on. The weight room is dark and cramped, the campus is old  and the kids look very average.

What Abilene does have is good numbers, an experienced coaching staff who’ve been together a long time, a great work ethic, outstanding community support and tradition. The tradition has been there forever, the rest of this is much more recent.  When Coach Warren took over the program in 1996, the Eagles had endured a 40 year playoff drought, the streak was broken in 1999 and the Eagles haven’t missed the postseason since. From watching practice it’s clear that this group knows what its doing, everything is efficient and well thought out. There are reasons for every little detail of how they do things, from the sequence of their stretching routine to their intermittent use of the segment timer.

One of the great things about high school football is seeing a group of diverse kids from different backgrounds come together, work hard and do amazing things.  Most of the Eagles don’t have a lot of innate talent; most are very good football players because they’ve been taught to be and made themselves that way.

People here are expecting a full house of 15,000 at Shotwell Stadium Friday night. Abilene is a community that supports its programs and takes a lot of pride in their teams. It’s a shame there aren’t more places you can say that about.

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