Big and Bright Chapter 3 Excerpt- Port Lavaca Calhoun Sandcrabs

cover of B & BWhitaker was up to the task. The program turned the corner in 2006. The clinching win over Beeville at Sandcrab Stadium delivering the first district title since 1961 was truly a watershed moment for this community.
“I compare it to 1980.” Boyd told me, referring to the gold medal US Olympic hockey team. “You had a country that didn’t feel good about themselves and you had a bunch of kids at Lake Placid that lifted a nation. I compare these kids and what they did for this county to what that hockey team did for this nation. Right (after we won) a norther blew in and people always say that it was the wind of change.”
Something fundamental changed in Port Lavaca. Since 2005, the Sandcrabs have been to the playoffs seven straight years, winning five district titles, and the number of kids playing football has doubled. Before 2006, the seats at the Stadium were often empty, and fans didn’t follow the Sandcrabs on the road. Since 2006, locals began arriving hours before games, just to get a seat. Now people get off work early to make the trip to away games. On the road, Port Lavaca fans often outnumber those of the home team.
The change hasn’t been limited to football. That first taste of success affected the town in many ways. As the rising tide lifts all boats, Calhoun’s other programs have become successful as well. The five years before Whitaker arrived, volleyball was the only sport to make the playoffs. Since 2005, boys basketball has been in the playoffs seven straight years, the girls made their first playoff trip in 12 years. Softball has five playoffs appearances, baseball has three. The boys’ track team has won three district titles and the girls finished second in district twice. Golf, cross county and powerlifting have also shown big gains.
The morale of Port Lavaca benefitted as well. Lina Moore, principal at Travis Middle School told me, “Everything about our community has totally changed across the board, girls, boys, everything. The football program was absolutely the beginning of the change. Kids used to skip practices and the parents made excuses, now the parents drag their kids there. Everybody is supportive of whatever needs to be done. It’s been very exciting to watch the change. It has to do with doing the best at whatever. That atmosphere and that feeling is just everywhere. I can only see that it benefits the community in every shape, form and fashion.”
…Moore says the atmosphere for these big games brings the town together like nothing else.
“It’s amazing what this has done for our community. It’s like a class reunion from every year, people from all over the state of Texas come.” Boyd tells me about the Uvalde game several years ago, “It was tremendous to look up and see between eight to 10,000 from a county that has less than 20,000.”
Finally, improved athletics have positively impacted education as well. “We’ve always had good academics. Has it gotten better? I have to say yes.” Moore tells me what football has done for her middle school. “My kids (Travis Middle School kids) when they’re in football, they behave better, their grades are better…it’s a huge help, I wish the season was longer, to be honest.”
The elementary school kids are included. They decorate the buses for the team for road games. Moore describes how the young kids respond when the ‘Crabs visit,
“It’s like a superstar just walked in. Those little ones love being a part of it.”
That kids can be successful without having tremendous talent is what drew me to high school football. As an undersized lineman during my high school years, I earned respect with work ethic and tenacity, something I couldn’t have done with athletic ability. To me, what makes high school football the greatest game in the world is how it rewards effort. The turnaround at Port Lavaca exemplifies this.
Hard work, guts, teamwork and smart organization can overcome better athletes in the high school game. In football, more than any other sport, the program that pays the higher price for success is likely to win. It’s basic mathematics; factor in man-hours of practice, team building activities, scouting, offseason lifting, lower level preparation, net coaching experience and booster club support and the program that puts more in hours usually wins…

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