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.