Posts Tagged With: Abilene

Area Playoff: Abilene vs. Arlington Lamar

Of the four games I decided to watch this weekend, this was the one I thought might be a blowout. On paper, 11-0 Abilene, going in against a 6-5 Lamar looked like a mismatch. This is the amazing thing about 5A football in Texas, like the NFL, teams with poor records are still dangerous and can knock off a powerhouse if the favorite gets complacent. The Abilene Eagles did advance to the 3rd round with a 53-34 victory at the University of Texas-Arlington, but not before getting a scare from the Vikings.

Abilene took an early lead with 2 quick scores to go up 14-0, but Lamar came right back scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the 2nd quarter, to take the momentum and the lead, 20-14. Both were short lived, as the Eagles put together a drive late in the half, capping it with a 22 yard touchdown pass from Evin Abbe to Nate Kittley with 33 seconds left, to make the score 21-20 at the half.

Abilene increased their lead when Kittley took the 2nd half kickoff 99 yards for a TD and a 28-20 Eagle lead. Lamar wouldn’t go away, trading scores and staying on the heels Abilene through the 3rd quarter. Abilene finally pulled away in the 4th quarter when the Viking offense sputtered and the Eagles continued to put points on the board. The Abilene offensive line did an outstanding job and running back Marcell Porter ran for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Impressive crowd of maybe 4,000 from Abilene made the over 100 mile trip to see their team, easily tripling the attendance on the home side. Another good example of what I talked about last week when writing about the importance of support from the fans and how it leads to success.

I’m looking forward to watching Abilene again next week, who along with La Marque, Carthage and Stamford advanced today to the 3rd round. I’ll be hoping for my other teams, Cedar Hill and Throckmorton to win their games tomorrow and will let you know how those go.

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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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After spending the last week seeing all the smaller school programs I’ll be following, today I finally got a look at my first bigger school; the Abilene Eagles. I realized something I should have known already, just because a kid goes to a big school doesn’t mean he’s different than a kid at any other school. For a team that’s had so much success and is expected to contend this year, the boys at Abilene look just like the kids at any other school. To me, this is why high school football is the greatest sport in the world; great teams can be made up of average kids. Commitment, work ethic, good coaching and toughness can overcome talent. I can’t claim to be an expert of Abilene football after seeing one practice, but I’m guessing those four qualities have a lot to do with the programs recent success.

                What I did see today was another well organized program where a large number of kids have clearly bought in. The coordination between the lower level and the varsity in all these programs is apparent. At Abilene, the middle school coaches are assisting with the varsity until they start school in a few weeks, meaning 29 coaches were taking part in practice today. This extra manpower both helps during the preseason and shows the middle school coaches how to do things when they’re coaching their kids. Every level of Abilene feeder, from 7th grade up, starts practice with the same warm-up, everyday drills and 24 play passing sequence. This attention to detail has a lot to do with why, after a long drought, Coach Warren’s Eagles have qualified for the playoffs every year since 1999.


Coach Warren addressing the team before practice


                After they left the field I saw two good workouts, one by the varsity in the turf (?) room and the JV in the weightroom (they alternate by day) this gave me a hint of the toughness I expect to see when I return to Abilene for the week of the Abilene Cooper game.


Bad shot of team pictures of all seven of Abilene’s State Champions, most recent on 2010.




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