Monthly Archives: September 2015

Amazon Reviews for Big and Bright!

cover of B & BI gotta admit it’s cool to see my book on Amazon and it just got better now that it’s actually been reviewed. Only two so far, but they were both very positive. I don’t know the first reviewer, but I love what he wrote. Very nice detail about the book.

The second reviewer is Texas Bob. As some of you know, Texas Bob wrote THE book documenting details about every HS football stadium in Texas. When I first announced my tour in 2012, he sent me a copy of his book and it sat on my passenger seat for those five months. You can link to his Texas Stadium data base on my Texas football links page or see his website here.

Thanks to both LSmith and Texas Bob for the fine reviews. It means a lot whenever a Texas HS football fan thinks I “get” what the culture of the sport is all about.

From Amazon—

More than 25 years ago, America was introduced to the culture of high school football in Texas in Friday Night Lights. While that book was very popular in the description of one football program, Big and Bright takes that concept and expands it even further. In this comprehensive book by Gray Levy, football programs from all over the state of Texas are described in great detail.

Levy uses his experience as an educator and a football coach to write about various programs in the state, both in geographic locations and in size. No matter which program he writes about, from Port Lavaca on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Albiline in the central portion of the state, Levy writes about the players, the coaches, the games and the community support for each of these football teams.

Through Levy’s writing, the reader will be caught up in the spirit of the town and understand why the communities will support these young men fervently. Also, the experiences of the coaches and the players are captured in each town. This was one of the better aspects of the book, especially when Levy writes about what the coaches would be doing not only on game night, but during the week and during school time as well.

Levy’s experience as a coach and educator make his writing very informative for the reader as well. He also shares his opinion on both the education system and coaching frequently in the book. He does explain why he has these opinions and backs them up with experience or facts as appropriate. One example of this that I enjoyed is when Levy states that he believes that “in general, Texas coaches are less authoritarian than coaches elsewhere.” He then goes on to write about examples illustrating why he believes this. Passages like this make the book very enjoyable to read.

The football passages are detailed, deep and very descriptive. Whether it is a description of the offensive formations, the game action for the week Levy visited the school, or the recap of the season for that program, these sections are rich in description. Football fans that love the game beyond the action on the field and want to know more about the strategy and the “X’s and O’s” will especially enjoy these parts.

This book should be added to the library of football fans of all levels, even if they don’t normally watch high school football. Readers who like books on social interaction and the human aspect of sports or gatherings will also want to read this as well. It was a book that I enjoyed very much and was a very good read.

I wish to thank Taylor Trade Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
This was not a quick or easy read as the story for each school’s football program that Levy wrote about was described in great detail so it required careful reading.

Do I recommend?
Fans of high school football will enjoy this book as all aspects of high school football programs are covered in each chapter. Readers who have an interest in the sociology of high school football in Texas and how it bonds entire communities will also enjoy this book.

By Texas Bob on September 20, 2015

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

When I first heard that a Reno, Nevada high school football coach was coming to Texas for the 2012 football season to find out what Texas High School football was all about, I was skeptical. A long list of writers, journalist and sports writers from out of state have come to Texas to “see” High School football with their own agenda and to show us the error of our ways and our miss placed emphasis on Football in our educational institutions. In the end, they just didn’t get it.

Coach Gray Levy came to Texas with an open mind. He didn’t come to see football in Texas, he came to live it. It did that by doing several things right. First he spent time in rural Texas and urban Texas. Second, he stayed close to each of the eleven teams for at least a week. Third, he became part of the team’s community. And lastly he included teams from six man football to the largest classifications.
Big and Bright by Gray Levy is a good read for football fans. It takes you in the locker rooms of Texas high school football all across Texas. If you don’t understand Texas High School football this book will help you get it.

The first time Coach Spike Dykes’ Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Texas, a reporter ask him,
“Coach, would you say this is one of the biggest wins in your coaching career?” Spike replied, “Oh, I don’t know. When I was at Coahoma, I thought it was a pretty big win when we beat Aspermont for the district title.”
Spike Dyke gets It.

After reading “Big and Bright” I believe Coach Gray Levy gets it.

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Big and Bright-Jared Heard and Denton Geyer vs. Aledo Excerpt

cover of B & BI’m watching Cal-Texas on TV and recognize a familiar name from my travels in 2012. Jared Heard is now making an impact as the QB for the Texas Longhorns. I saw him play several times in 2012 and ’13. The first , with a sideline view during a playoff game against Aledo on the day after Thanksgiving.

…It’s cold and windy at the Northwest ISD Stadium in the Fort Worth suburb of Justin the day after Thanksgiving when the Bearcats take on Denton Guyer. Guyer is the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A. They’re led at quarterback by University of Texas verbal commit Jared Heard.
During the 2012 regular season I was on the sidelines and pregame locker room for 11 games. During the postseason I added 17 more. I was probably in more playoff locker rooms than any man in the state of Texas. It was a great opportunity, few ever get, to compare team preparation. By now, I could sense the mood in the room. Most often, coaches acted confident, talking about who and where they’d be playing in the following round, as if this game is a foregone conclusion. Wins didn’t always follow those shows of confidence, but usually teams expected to win. Twice during the season, however, I caught a different pregame vibe and both times the outcome was a loss.
It isn’t as though the coaches expect to lose. It’s more a message coming across that losing is a distinct possibility. When talking about the future, the answers aren’t ‘When we win…’ but ‘If we win’. Good coaches never lie to themselves about the situation they face. Optimism is great but coaches must be realistic as well. I don’t know if this attitude helped cause the loss or if the coaches simply scouted well enough to know trouble’s coming, but the feeling is unmistakable. Aledo’s staff knows this could be a long afternoon.
Guyer scores on their first drive, three and out for Aledo, another Wildcat score, another Bearcat three and out followed by a quick Guyer strike and the score is 21-0. The Bearcats have had just six offensive plays and are down by three touchdowns at the end of the first.
About halfway through the second Aledo gets on the board with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Willie Gibson to make the score 21-7 at the half.
The Bearcat offense looks tentative and sluggish. The Bearcat defensive front has trouble figuring out Wildcat quarterback Heard. Big and strong and running the zone read, Heard is the type of quarterback this scheme is built for. The quick Aledo front have hesitated on their rush, worried about losing contain and letting Heard scramble for big gains. This gives Heard time to find receivers.
Jonathan Gray is in the locker room at the half, his Texas Longhorns having played on Thanksgiving the day before. The Bearcats trail by only two scores and one big play can change the game. But there is a feeling in the locker room that today is not going to end well. The coaches make adjustments with typical professionalism, but I see the resignation from the players. As they leave the locker room I overhear one tell another, “Well, this is the last half of the season.”
With the wind behind them, Aledo has a window to climb back into the game early in the third quarter. A defensive stop from the Bearcats sets up a Wildcat punt from the end zone. Guyer covers a bad snap in the end zone for a safety. The free kick gives the Bearcats the ball in good field position trailing 21-9. A touchdown will pull the Bearcats within a score…

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:

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Big and Bright-Chapter 11 Excerpt: Cedar Hill Longhorns

…Regimentation isn’t part of the Cedar Hill program… The kids work hard, but at their own pace. Some wear black, others red, still others are bare-chested as they do hang cleans and side lunges. TTHL is painted on the wall, “Turn Those Horns Loose,” a common mantra within the program (Hook ‘em Horns is trademarked by UT). TTHL is especially appropriate for a team that thrives when playing with abandon…
…“Let’s go, LETS GO!!…LETS GOOOOO!!!” McGuire yells as he steps on the artificial turf at Longhorn Stadium Monday afternoon. “We’re going to have a GREAT DAY!!!” As the music is turned up, he grabs various players in headlocks and bear hugs, looking like an excited kid on Christmas morning. The enthusiasm of a Longhorn practice is something to see. Music is always blaring, coaches are dancing as they run drills and players are encouraged to be loose and have fun between reps. Good-natured trash talking is common and the defense celebrates when making plays vs. scout team.
Practice often begins with McGuire playing DJ from the pressbox, joking and encouraging his players and coaches over the speakers during warm-ups.
“We need a great practice from you today, Quincy!… Jaleil Davis is in the house!…, I love you, Larry Hill!… It’s a Great Day to be a Longhorn!…” Longhorn safety Tadarrian Luster says, “The coaches are crazy and fun to be around. I look forward to coming to practice every day.”
McGuire came from Crowley to Cedar Hill in 1997 as an assistant under a coach with a more disciplinary style. The ‘Horns had talent but poor numbers and didn’t play with much emotion. McGuire decided to do things differently. Football can be a grind, full of routine and tedious repetition; the season is a long slog and practices aren’t always fun. Only 31 when he got the head job in 2003, McGuire was the youngest head coach in the Texas 5A. He immediately implemented his philosophy, part of which included trying to make the day-to-day fun.
This staff would treat kids as individuals, not robots. They’d find ways to make the necessary drudgery more enjoyable. Music would be played during practices and pre-game. McGuire would hire and encourage like-minded assistants who could function within this style. Family is a big part of the Longhorn program. Like a healthy family, there’s a place for the whole gamut of emotion and fun is high on the list. McGuire sometimes sends half-joking emails to staff members when he sees them getting too tight, in the vein of, “Coach so-and so, If you can’t come to practice with energy and a positive attitude today, I may have to send you inside.”
Besides making things fun, the philosophy creates a level of trust when McGuire reprimands his players. McGuire blow-ups are frequent and impressive enough that the coaching staff immortalizes each one with a ‘Mag’. A sheet of paper with a capital “M” is hung on the office wall with the date and a relevant phrase for each. “Who let in the twirlers (?)” and “I’ll call your mamma” are some of the more benign examples of the dozens of Mags lining the wall by the final week of the season.
Seeing a few players and coaches get “Magged,” I can attest it’s something to witness. If it were possible for smoke to come out of ears, it would happen here. McGuire looks like he’s going to come out of his skin. For all the anger, however, McGuire hugs and loves on his players much more than he chews on them. His fury dissipates as quickly as it rises and everyone seems to know the outbursts aren’t to be taken personally.
“The kids know I care about them and they know where the yelling is coming from,” McGuire says…

…The new coaching style paid off quickly. After McGuire arrived, numbers in the program steadily rose and the Longhorns began winning. In 2005, Cedar Hill made their first playoff appearance since 1994. In 2006, the Longhorns went 16-0, winning the Class 5A championship. Since 2005, the ‘Horns have made the playoffs every year, never failing to survive through the bi-district round.
With success come offers and McGuire has had chances to move both to other high schools in Texas and the college game as well. But raising a son and a daughter, he’s wanted a more stable environment. “This is where I feel like I should be.”
As loose as practice sessions are, they’re also beautifully organized, and the staff does outstanding work at fundamental skills. Three four-minute segments each Monday and Tuesday has the defense running through two separate circuits of basic skills. The players rotate through five stations. Scoop and score, stripping from behind, open field breakdown and a variety of tackling drills are all worked daily. Across midfield the offense is busy with their fundamental drills as well. Receiver Coach Kevin Benjamin spends two segments on stalk blocking (a block where the receiver mirrors the DB, staying between the ball-carrier and the DB), a skill too often overlooked in receivers, using drills I’d never seen before. When I complement Benjamin in the drills, he tells me he learned most of them at clinics at Texas A&M and Kansas. He brings me a DVD of the drills the following day…

…The loose atmosphere continues into the post practice talk as players frequently interrupt by blurting out comments, McGuire uses his whistle to settle the kids. It’s something you wouldn’t see many other places, where a coach’s talk means absolute silence, if not hands clasped behind backs and nothing but, “Yes, Sir’s” at appropriate times. That traditional show of discipline is not what McGuire is looking for this time of year. Longhorn discipline will show itself in more meaningful ways and situations during the weeks to come…

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:

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Big and Bright Chapter Ten Excerpt: Harlingen Cardinals

cover of B & BWhen Texas was admitted into the union in 1845, the United States Congress offered the new state a unique option. If the legislature ever chose to, the state was given permission to separate into five separate states, thereby increasing its representation in congress. Texas Pride being what it is, the likelihood of this happening is remote, but the option exists.
In many ways, Texas might as well already be multiple states. Texas State University geography professor Donald Huebner pointed out that Texas is one of a few states that describes its regions in terms usually reserved for separate states. There is no North California, West Tennessee or South Nevada; instead the suffix –ern is usually included. In this state however, North Texas, West Texas, East Texas and South Texas are the correct usages. The terminology recognizes these regions as very distinct places.
In essence, Texas is a borderland where four separate cultures meet. The American Southwest enters from the west, the Midwest from the north and the South from the east and Mexican culture from the south.
To confuse things even more, the Gulf Coast crescent from Beaumont through Houston and around to Galveston is part of the Tidewater South, stretching east to New Orleans and Gulf Coast Mississippi and Alabama, while the rest of East Texas is effectively part of the ‘Old South.’
The Metroplex is its own little world. Dallas is almost like a northeastern city stuck in the middle of Texas, while Fort Worth, just 50 miles away, belongs to West Texas. Central Texas is an entirely different mess, with the crashing together of cultures from the four compass points on top of the academic-liberal enclave of Austin and the German and Czech influences of the Hill Country.
Texans from other parts of the state hardly recognize South Texas as part of the United States, much less Texas. Every Texan loves San Antonio, but the triangle of land to the south of Alamo City is described as North Mexico as often as South Texas. At the bottom of this triangle is the Rio Grande Valley, often referred to within the state simply as “The Valley.” One cannot go further south and still be in the United States. West and south of the Valley is the Rio Grande River, and Mexico; east is South Padre Island and the Gulf of Mexico. To the north, 250 miles of sparsely populated farmland and desert separates the Valley from San Antonio.
The Rio Grande Valley is isolated from the rest of Texas in many ways. Part of this isolation has to do with race and nationality. The Valley is nearly 90 percent Hispanic; Anglos are a distinct minority, a fact the rest of the state is well aware of and cause of the commonly held view that the south isn’t quite Texas at all. The cities of Brownsville and McAllen on the American side and Matamoros and Reynosa on the Mexican side form, in effect, an international commerce zone.
The “North Mexico” slur has a sliver of truth to it. The border crossings at the river have been likened to “Toll booths across an irrigation ditch” as traffic across the river is routine and quick for Americans heading south to buy medication and Mexicans going north to shop, work and visit family. Mexican nationals can cross into the Valley with only a flash of a card to do business north of the river. To the people who live in the Valley, Mexico and her affairs have as much impact on day-to-day life as what’s going on in the rest of the Lone Star State…
…The Valley’s an outlier from a football perspective, as well. The coaching community in South Texas is largely self-contained. Rio Grande Valley coaches rarely leave for jobs elsewhere, and coaches from other parts of the state don’t often make South Texas part of their circuit when climbing the ladder. On the rare occasions when coaches from “up Texas” make it to the Valley, there’s a perception they come with an attitude that they know better than the locals how things should be done.
When a Valley coach tells me about working with a coach from “up north” (Central Texas in this case), he says,
“He thought he was going to come down here and show us all how things ought to be done.” This outsider lasted just two years, “He thought he was in Mexico…not South Texas,” the Valley coach says resentfully.
None of this is to say South Texas or the Valley doesn’t fit into Texas Football Culture. They absolutely do. The fanaticism here rivals and often surpasses other regions in the state. Loyalties are strong through generations and the competition is fierce…

…One week isn’t enough for me to understand the love and hate of Harlingen High School in the Valley, but it’s long enough to know that any rivalry involving the Cardinals involves deep feelings. In their 100th year of football, the Cardinals have been a major Valley power for generations, regularly winning district championships and embarrassing opponents. Harlingen has had only four losing seasons since 1970; they’ve made the playoffs 12 straight seasons and have won 10 or more games the past four years. This much success can lead to jealousy, arrogance and resentment, words I heard repeatedly from locals inside and outside the program.
Most Harlingen coaches are alumni of the school. Successful programs often take the structure of a family and use it as a rallying point. Most often this family is a seasonal thing, changing each year as coaches’ move, kids graduate and new members join. At Harlingen, the family connections are real and deep.
Harlingen’s ‘family’ is an exclusive club–one either is a Cardinal or isn’t. Local sportswriter Eladio Jaimez says the Cardinal football program is the New York Yankees of the Valley. Like the Yankees, the Cardinals have a large and passionate following and like the Yankees the Cardinals are hated by everyone else. There is no middle ground. If you live in the Valley, you either are a Cardinal or you can’t stand them…

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:

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Upcoming Euro Football Book Excerpt

Razorbacks vs. Geissen #9Been home from Germany over a month now. I’ve made some decent progress on the book. Going through the notes reminds me of all the great times I had over there.  What a wonderful experience it was living and working with all my friends overseas. Here is a little of the first draft.

…Now at 46, the toll football left on his body is permanent. Mille has a limp and wears a knee brace during activity. Today, his skiing will end early when the pain becomes too bothersome. Mille’s body’s paid a price for his years in pads, but he maintains the game gave back more than it took.
After a bad knee injury in 1997, most thought Mille would never play again. While in the hospital, he looked at his life and decided to make changes. Returning home, he vowed that he would play again and committed to getting back on the field. Mille was also in an unhappy marriage and determined it was time to make a break and got a divorce.
’97 was a bad year for the Razorbacks as well. The youth program was depleted and they lost every game. After the season the team suspended play.
Left without a team, several Razorbacks joined the Konstanz 89ers in 1998. After a grueling rehab, Mille returned to play O-line for the 89ers.
In 1999, the Razorbacks were re-established and the former Razorbacks returned home. It was a great year, the team won the 5th division championship and Mille, now at linebacker, played well.
“It changed my life.” Mille says about his ordeal. Football showed him he could achieve anything if he works for it. He made tough decisions and through determination and discipline, is happier than when he began.
What he says is familiar. I know from personal experience that football builds boys into men and teaches life skills not taught in a class room. It did for me. Though the circumstances were different, I look back on several places where football changed my life for the better. I first learned about commitment and toughness as a high school player, achieving my goal of becoming a starting guard despite my 5-4 stature. During my divorce, coaching probably kept me from going crazy, giving me a purpose.
Building character is the main argument for athletics in the American school system, (A very strange concept to most Europeans.) Except for major colleges and the NFL, football in the US is almost always about character training. Players may enjoy playing, but the effort and commitment serve different purposes.
Here, football and athletics are not supposed to build character. In Europe, sports are simply about exercise and fun. People play football, soccer, team handball or ride bikes or skateboards for fresh air and to enjoy a beer or cigarette afterwards with friends. Coaches don’t preach life lessons after every practice as many do in the US. Educational Euros aren’t allocated here to instill discipline, that job is left to parents. In Europe, schools teach academics and job skills, not character.
That Mille credits football with teaching him to be a better person comes as a surprise. It tells me that even when character building isn’t a direct goal, it inherently exists in football. It’s never preached here but teamwork, discipline, toughness and commitment are so ingrained in football that it rubs off on players whether playing for semi-pro teams in Europe or an American high school.
As someone who loves the game for its intellectual challenges and beauty, as well as for the lessons it teaches, Milles’ testimony is exciting. I came to Europe hoping to recognize the game in a way I could understand and here it is. Maybe, football does translate outside North America in ways I hadn’t expected.

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Big and Bright Chapter Nine Excerpt: Stony Point Tigers

cover of B & BAfter a tough few years I’m excited to see the Tigers look to be back on track, dominating their first two games. Go Tigers!!!

…Craig Chessher is an “Old Texas Ball Coach” I’m told. It’s said as a compliment, but also to describe a throwback from an earlier era.
Some practices are better left in the past. Old-school coaches often didn’t allow water breaks, believing dehydration built toughness. Creative illegal recruiting methods such as paying high school players, and boosters buying families homes to attract blue chip players were common during much of the 20th century. Coaches ignoring kids’ injuries and other old-school abuses are mostly long and well gone.
“Old Texas Ball Coach” puts one in notable company, though. From Gordon Wood and Chuck Moser to Bum Phillips, the roster of legendary high school coaches from Texas is impressive
Texas high school football has been played and documented for more than 100 years. The traditions that made the sport great aren’t modern inventions. Many are rooted deep in the past.
Just as there are many ways to move the ball there are many different approaches to coaching. Some head coaches are hands on, putting themselves into every aspect of the game, planning, coaching a position and running drills during practice. Others focus on one side of the ball. Some are disciplinarians and others are CEOs. During my time here, I’ve seen many approaches. With Chessher I would see a method and style with a long tradition in Texas.
Round Rock is in the fastest growing part of the state. The town has blown up over the past 20 years as part of Austin’s metro boom. The I-35 strip between DFW and San Antonio is increasingly the center of Texas’ population. This comes as no surprise to anyone on the freeways around suburban Austin.
There are good reasons for the traffic and growth, though. The area surrounding Austin is a desirable place to live. Austin itself is an exciting town, with the university, good job opportunities and great nightlife. It’s also the gateway to the Hill Country, the most beautiful part of Texas, with nice little towns, rolling hills and inviting rivers.
In north Round Rock, amid suburban subdivisions, Stony Point High School isn’t especially remarkable. The campus is nice but nondescript. The athletic facilities are functional, but not extravagant. Round Rock ISD has five high schools. At one time it was a one-school district, but is growing rapidly. It’s generally accepted that the fewer schools an ISD has to support, the stronger that support is.
The Stony Point Tigers rolled between 2007 and 2010, making the playoffs four straight years and advancing to the final four in class 5A three consecutive times. However, with so much growth in Round Rock, demographics, zoning and enrollments are volatile. It’s a common pattern in booming parts of Texas. Schools open as 3A programs and are quickly bumped to 5A as new housing explodes. Zoning lines move and the cycle repeats.
Whether the adjustments help or hurt a particular school is unpredictable. When Stony Point opened in 2000 it threw a monkey wrench into a three-high school ISD. Nine years later, Cedar Ridge High opened and Stony Point had the wrench thrown back. Cedar Ridge is just a few miles away and boundaries for Stony Point were redrawn.
Stony Point ‘s enrollment dropped from 3,550 to 2,277 in one year, losing many of their more affluent families to the newer school. The enrollment drop hit football hard. After advancing to the state semifinals in 2010, the Tigers were 4-6 in 2011. This season has been frustrating. The Tigers are 3-4, but lost games by 1, 1, 2 and 10 points. They could easily be 6-1 instead of fighting for a playoff spot. They’ve spent this season on the cusp of success; one play here or there is all that stands between the Tigers and a winning record…

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:

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Big and Bright; Chapter Eight Excerpt; Idalou Wildcats

cover of B & BThe dividing line of big and small school Texas football, is between 3A and 2A. 3A’s and above are only differentiated by the number of quality programs in their level. In 2A and smaller however, the game is different. Fewer coaches do more, player’s play both sides of the ball and huge percentages of students participate. Idalou High has about 300 students, and like Throckmorton and Stamford, the elementary school and middle schools are very close. Also as with other small schools, each high school coach has responsibilities with younger kids. Idalou has five football teams, (seventh, eighth, freshmen, JV and Varsity) and the eight high school coaches have responsibilities with every lower team.
When I show up late Monday morning, middle school and freshmen athletic periods are in session. Idalou has good freshmen turnout. Thirty two freshmen play football and work alongside the middle school kids during athletics. The JV has 34 players and the varsity 37, adding up to a grand total of 104 high school players. Not bad for a school with only 300 students. High school principal Janet Thornton tells me 90 percent of the students are involved with at least one extra-curricular activity.
After freshmen athletic period, the varsity and JV are up. Long, acting as offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator Mark Turner met with the varsity inside, going over the scouting reports while the JV performs the same lifting workout the varsity did Saturday. The rest of the staff helps Lofton supervise the workout.
The scouting reports are simple; the Wildcat approach to both offense and defense is straightforward, line up correctly and win with better skills and strength. There is only one defensive automatic, a coverage based on the back-set of the Mustangs.
After the meeting, the varsity players head out for an offensive field chalk followed by special teams and offensive individuals. The varsity wears green practice jerseys and helmets; the JV has white helmets and jerseys. When the entire program is outside the freshmen can be recognized by their white helmets and green tops. Athletic period ends at 12:45, and everyone returns to the school building for afternoon classes.
The varsity wears shells afterschool while both JV and freshmen are in full pads. The program has great numbers, but the school has a small coaching staff. Very few, if any, 2A programs have the personnel to platoon. The coaches and players all have both defensive and offensive responsibilities.
After a quick stretch, everyone breaks into seven defensive position groups, five by varsity position and separate JV and freshmen groups. The groupings change at 4:05, the varsity defense combines and works against two offenses running D-City plays, a varsity scout unit and the first JV offense.
Across the field, the second JV “O” runs live plays against the freshmen defense. The contact in practice is inversely correlated to experience. Varsity contact is rare, but the JV backups and freshmen hit quite a bit, learning how to use their pads.
After defense, the three teams switch to offense, first individuals then team, and two varsity huddles run plays back to back. Long stands between the two huddles so he can oversee both units.
The Wildcats’ offensive scheme is part of the old-school vibe of this program. No spread offense here. Idalou relies heavily on the power running that’s carried them to 13 consecutive playoff appearances and a state championship in 2010. The “I” with two tight ends is their base formation. The philosophy is time-tested; create push up front and pound the ball with the running game to set up the occasional pass.
Twenty years ago, almost all coaches subscribed to a version of the “run to set up the pass” philosophy; today it’s become somewhat rare in Texas. Not that old ways don’t work anymore. With the right personnel and coaching, ‘smashmouth’ football is as effective as it was in the 50s, but requires a smart and strong offensive line able to create movement even against defenses specifically aligned to stop the run. With their commitment to the weight room and a big group of kids, Idalou makes it work…

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:

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Chapter Seven Excerpt: Throckmorton Greyhounds

cover of B & B…There is some truth to the claim that six-man is difficult to find, at least for suburbanites outside West Texas. The six-man game is played almost exclusively in very small towns, not Abilene small or even Stamford small, but towns with only one stoplight– like Throckmorton, a crossroad of two-lane highways connecting four slightly larger small towns, a blinking red light strung up where the highways intersect.
Throckmorton sits in a valley where State Highway 183 and State Highway 380 meet. The low hills surrounding it are covered with thickets of mesquite and prickly pear. North on 380 takes you to Seymour, south to Albany. West on Highway 183 leads to Haskell and east to Newcastle. On one corner is the courthouse with a sign on the lawn proclaiming Throckmorton as the home of Dallas Cowboy great Bob Lilly. The town has two restaurants, two convenience stores, a small grocery and a bar open on weekends, and luckily for me, a motel. The Double T Lodge is small, but it’s clean and the owners are friendly. Throckmorton High School is a few blocks northwest of the intersection. The elementary and middle schools are steps away; all three schools share the gym and teachers too, including head football coach Reed…

…Throckmorton has only 63 students and seven teachers, so the young football coach is not only a HC/AD but also teaches a full load of classes. As well as running football, Reed is a basketball assistant, head track coach and teaches Physical Education to students from kindergarten through the high school.
Reed’s house is just across the street from the school; his wife Michelle also teaches and coaches basketball here. The arrangement gives Reed the opportunity to teach his son and daughter, both of whom attend the elementary school. Babysitters are never needed and the coaches don’t choose between family and work, as those in bigger schools do…
How exactly is six-man football different?
• 15 yards for a first down instead of ten.
• Conversions are switched; one point for getting the ball into the end zone from scrimmage, two for kicking it through the uprights.
• All six offensive players are eligible to catch passes. Because this means the whole defense must be in coverage, an exchange is required before the ball carrier can run (No QB runs or scrambles.) In some six-man offenses, the tailback is effectively the quarterback, having the nominal quarterback pitch him the ball, letting the tailback either throw or run.
• The playing field is only 80 yards long and more narrow than a 11-man field with just 13 yards from the hashmark to the sideline.
Gameplay is different. With so much field for the defense to cover, six eligible receivers and so few defenders, scoring is very quick. Davis tells me that the goal of his defense is to force the offense to run seven plays to score, counting on the offense to make a mistake somewhere along the way.
A well-executed offense will score no matter the quality of the defense. As the best basketball defense gives up baskets from time to time, six-man football defenses give up touchdowns. Scores can reach triple digits and it’s rare for a winning team to score under 50 points. The basketball comparison is apt. Six-man football defense, more than anything, resembles a violent form of basketball zone defense.
So much open field results in several consequences. Each defensive player is exposed and can be isolated, often creating mismatches where weak defenders are exploited. Small schools usually have at least one weak defender, giving the superior team a tremendous advantage. Games between solid teams and those with weaknesses often quickly become lopsided, so the game has a mercy rule. Since the Greyhounds began playing six-man in 2004, as many games have ended early as have gone four quarters.
The type of player who does well at this game is often different as well. Good six-man players must be proficient at all football skills. On offense, everyone must block, catch and carry the ball. On defense, everyone must be able to tackle, shed blockers and drop into coverage. With rosters sometimes in the single digits, most six-man players play both offense and defense, many never leave the field. Big linemen aren’t effective here; this version of football favors mid-size players with the endurance and speed to work in the open field. Big players in Throckmorton have an incentive to slim down if they want to play…

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