Posts Tagged With: Calhoun

Calhoun vs. Somerset at Port Lavaca


Sandcrab offense goes over adjustments with Coach Whitaker game-day morning.

The Calhoun Sandcrabs were too much for an inexperienced Somerset team last night in Port Lavaca. The Sandcrabs led 35-6 at the half, en route to a 49-6 victory. For the second week in a row junior fullback Cory Williams had a huge game, rushing for 255 yards on 11 carries and 3 touchdowns. His 85 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter was impressive. The run highlighted all three skills a great back needs; agility, speed and strength. Making a move after hitting the hole, running over a tackler before pulling away from pursuit with speed that isn’t supposed to exist in South Texas, Williams showed why he’s on the radar of D-I schools.

Somerset is coached by Sonny Detmer, father of two NFL quarterbacks, Ty and Koy Detmer and grandfather of current Bulldog quarterback Koy Detmer Junior. I had the privilege of talking with Coach Detmer before the game and was struck by what a nice guy he is. I became more impressed with him after the game.

The Calhoun option offense quickly adjusted to exploit every defensive adjustment the Bulldogs made, rushing for a total of 550 yards. The defense was impressive as well sacking Quarterback Koy Detmer, 5 times and holding an explosive offense to 6 points. Final score: 49-6 Calhoun Sandcrabs.


More memorable than the game however was what happened afterwards. Instead of the typical handshake line you usually see following a high school game, the two teams gathered around Coaches Whitaker and Detmer  for a prayer and then shook hands in a more sincere way than the normal routine allows. I have no doubt the scene would have been the same had the score been reversed. These are two classy coaches whose programs are reflections of the men at the helm.

A major reason for this blog and the book I’m writing is to highlight what is good and right about high school football. A scene like this doesn’t get the attention of a touchdown or big hit, but it is the true purpose of the game. The boys at Calhoun and Somerset will become better men because of what they learn through the process and from their coaches.

Again, I want to thank everyone at Calhoun High School. They were great hosts, quality people and have built a program that Port Lavaca has rightly fallen in love with.


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Homecoming at Port Lavaca Calhoun

The lower you go in football levels the more the game becomes about who the best player on the field is. If you ever see a pee wee game, you see 21 players cancelling each other out while the 22nd takes over the game. Most often it isn’t until you reach the high school, varsity level where you see teamwork and execution enough to overcome the best individual athlete on the field. For this reason last night’s freshmen game between Calhoun and Somerset was unusual. Somerset jumped out to a 22-0 lead, due to Calhoun mistakes, but also behind several players that looked better than any of the Sandcrabs appeared to be. The Sandcrabs came back and won in the final minutes 39-36. What won the game for the Crabs was the execution of their system and the kids working together.

It was still a freshmen game, with a lot of unforced errors and sloppy play, but in the end execution overcame athleticism, and that’s a neat thing to see.

I’m packing up at the Holiday Inn Express. It’s going to be a fun and interesting day with the homecoming festivities and hopefully, a well-played game against Somerset and then a long drive to Stamford after the game ends. After a week with a team, you have a definite rooting interest in the team you’re covering.  So tonight, I’ll be checking the scores from Carthage and La Marque as well as pulling for the Sandcrabs. Hopefully they will do what their freshmen team did last night and out execute Stamford.

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A Correction and odds and ends

I made a mistake in my last post about the Calhoun offense. A coach told me that the offense uses two types of blocking, rule and zone. I wrote that the Sandcrabs use only two blocking schemes thinking it to be the case. The next day, Coach Whitaker let me know they actually use five rule schemes and one zone scheme for a total of six. I guess its a danger of drawing too many conclusions about a program after only one day. It’s especially embarrassing, because it’s an oversight I should never had made, having spent 22 years coaching the offensive line.

To better explain; Rule blocking gives every linemen a rule that lets them determine who to block on a particular play. For example, a right guard might have a progression of on, over, near backer as a rule, telling him his first priority to to block a down linemen in front of him, if there isn’t one, block someone in front of him and off the ball (usually a linebacker), if that isn’t there he will block the closest linebacker to the play. Zone blocking gives every linemen a zone to block where they are responsible to move anything that comes into it and usually involves adjacent linemen working together to get push on a down linemen.

Six schemes are actually quite a few and this undercuts the simplicity case I tried to make in the previous post. When it comes to the offensive line at Calhoun, there is nothing simple about what they do. I’ve always believed offensive linemen to be the smartest players on the field and studies back this up. The Sandcrab offense is so focused on running the ball that a huge part of their recent success is directly due to the offensive line and I’ve been very impressed with them on film and in the last three days of practice. How well CHS does this year will have a lot to do with how this inexperienced unit (4 1st year starters) plays. So far they have been very effective.

Below is a comment I recieved and the explanation of another reference from my last post. I mentioned HUDL several times, but haven’t explained what it is.

From Mark Howell:

Great post, coach. I’ve never heard of HUDL and, the more I think about it, I have no idea how high school coaches shoot a game. I know they watch a boatload of game film but never considered the source. So here’s a few questions: 1) How many cameras are typically used to cover a game? 2) Where are they deployed? and 3) How is game film exchanged between teams?

No doubt the internet has made all the video tech more accessible. I’m sure they’re not shooting grainy Super8 and splicing with an exacto like they did back in the day.


HUDL is the relatively new scouting software that the last few years has basically monopolized the market by buying up its competition. Its internet based, so coaches can access their film from any place they have an internet connection. Coaches use it to organize game and practice film (intercut the three angles), trade film with other coaches, breakdown all the details of a play (down/distance,,formation, play,,,etc) and finally to look at tendencies they might use in gameplans.
Most teams in Texas use three cameras; 2 sideline (wide & tight) and an endzone shot.
Teams used to trade film, then VHS tapes, then DVD’s by meeting parking lots on Saturday morning. Now everybody uploads it to HUDL, then allow the other team to download it. Much better method for teams who are far away from each other. Where I’m from we would trade only wide shot film,, in Texas the standard seems to be trading wide and tight shots, nobody trades endzone shots, that angle gives so much info. about linesplits, defensive alignments and blocking schemes, things that coaches don’t really like to give so easily.

Great week so far in Port Lavaca. I’ve learned a lot about the history, the turnaround and what the rise of the Sandcrabs has meant to the school and community of Port Lavaca. All three weeks of the regular season I’ve reached a tipping point where I know I had enough of the story to write a competent chapter for my book. I reached that point yesterday after a great interview with local contractor Randy Boyd. I want to thank Mr. Boyd, Mark Howell, Stephan Phillips, Lina Moore and the coaches and administrators at Calhoun for giving me some of their time.

Tomorrow: 2 freshmen games and Friday the big homecoming game against Somerset. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Week Two: Calhoun High School

After one practice and a scout meeting at Calhoun High in Port Lavaca, I have a few impressions.

At first, I was a little thrown off by the scouting process and atmosphere but the more you look at the system the more sense it makes. As I wrote in my first post about the Sandcrabs, the way things are done in Lavaca are kind of unique. The multiple option offense they run, all the two-way players and even their nickname are not what you typically see in successful big-school Texas programs. Add to this the fact that they have very few D I prospects and someone who didn’t know better might assume this to be a struggling program rather than one that has built a great tradition as a perennial 4A power.

While the Sandcrabs use the same scouting program as almost everyone else (HUDL), they probably rely on the computer less than any other team I’m covering. The reason for this is in keeping with the philosophical underpinnings of the program. The rarity of the option offense they run means Coach Whitaker and the offensive staff are often in the dark when it comes to using film to determine how they will be defended.  They make educated guesses based on what they see, but they won’t really know how Somerset will try to stop them until they line up Friday night.

But, it doesn’t matter anyway, the offensive package is complete and has built in ways to attack any front. Whatever the defense tries to take away will open a different option for the Sandcrabs, it’s simply up to the offensive staff to recognize what’s there and exploit it.

Of course, the coaches can only make the right calls, the players need to execute correctly or the entire chess game falls apart. Seeing them on the practice field, on the sidelines or during pregame, the Sandcrabs don’t look all that impressive. In fact, most of them don’t look like good football players until they’re playing football.

This is the second part of the unstated philosophy. This is a system that allows marginal athletes to play outstanding football thorough coordinated action, outstanding technique and hard work. The line has just two blocking schemes and the backfield works the same option drills every day, from 7th grade up, until they can do it blindfolded.

The final piece of the puzzle is the speed training, weight training and conditioning that turns average high school boys into an outstanding football team. It’s a simple system, but deceptively well organized and elegant in its implementation. They believe in doing a few things very well and that when combined with multiple formations and a few wrinkles, they can solve any defense they see.

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La Marque and Port Lavaca Calhoun Scrimmages

I had the opportunity to see scrimmages yesterday of two of the first three teams I’m following; La Marque and Port Lavaca Calhoun. I am always glad to see, as different as Texas HS football is from the football in Nevada, some things are the same. Scrimmages are sloppy.

Too many kids are in their first varsity action. Practice is supposed to prepare you for what you’re going to see in the game, but a coach can’t simulate the speed and intensity of lining up against a stranger wearing a different uniform. The only way to get varsity experience is to get varsity experience and often that means making sloppy mistakes. That said, I think the coaches at both La Marque and Calhoun were generally pleased with what they saw.


Calhoun- The Sandcrabs scrimmaged against two Houston area schools in Tully Stadium in Houston. After doing poorly in their first offensive and defensive series’, they quickly got better, dominating the play more and more as the night wore on. One offense, the quarterback showed deceptive speed and impressive physicality on his option runs, one of the slotbacks also showed great speed. The two returning defensive tackles started slow, but seemed to get better the longer they played. (I’m sorry, I don’t know names yet and PLC didn’t even wear numbers, I’ll report better when I’m there in week three)



La Marque- La Marque went up I-35 to scrimmage against former district opponent Friendwood. Like PLC, the Cougars came out a little slow, dropping too many balls, missing some blocks and getting off the ball a little slower than they would like. The La Marque offense seemed to catch their rhythm better as in their second go around and during the game quarter simulation. The La Marque defense basically overwhelmed Friendwood, pitching a shutout, picking off numerous passes and sacking the quarterback many times. The coaches were happy overall, especially with the defensive play, but aware they need to fix some things.  As good as the defense looked, I’m guessing they would have preferred a little more run game than they saw at Friendwood. Las Marque will play their first three games against much more run focused teams than Friendwood who ran mostly spread sets with four or five split receivers.

This morning I went to the scout meetings preparing for the G-Ball game Thursday night. I’ll write more later in the week.

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Comment about Port Lavaca

Mark Howell

Finally getting back to you with some notes on Sandcrab Nation. Your post earlier today was very good analysis of their approach to the football. Here’s some broader background info.

– Calhoun ISD may be the only 4A team in the state where the school district boundaries and the county are one and the same. Plus the school is named after the county rather than the city of Port Lavaca. (PLC is the school name used by other folks. With the county its just CHS- Calhoun High School. It was weird when I first started seeing us referred to as PLC on bulletin boards.}

– Sandcrab Stadium is also a throwback. Built in 1956 its has the solid feel of most construction from that era. Newer stadiums have turf, fancy scoreboards, and better PA systems but they all look like scaffolding. They don’t build solid concrete stadiums like ours any more. A time traveler from 1975 would feel at home in a Sandcrab game from 2011. The big difference would be that the current team expects to win games.

– Your blog notes downplayed the historic futility of the Calhoun football. The Crabs had a playoff drought lasting 44 years that finally ended in 2006. There were several multiyear stretches where they did not win a single district game. CHS would schedule nondistrict games against smaller 3A schools just to be able to compete.

– Calhoun County population more than tripled between 1945 and 1980 (6K to 20K) as four major industrial plants came on line. Since that time though there’s been little growth and the high school numbers have dropped. Class sizes peaked at CHS 30 years ago. Many, perhaps most, of these grads ended up in SA/Austin area. They don’t often make it back to the hometown during the regular season but man do they come out of the woodwork for the playoffs. A good friend of mine has lived in Austin her whole adult life summed it up. “Austin is where I live but Port Lavaca is where I’m from.” Therein lies the key to Sandcrab Nation.

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Port Lavaca Calhoun



Yesterday I finally made it to the Sandcrab Nation and watched Port Lavaca Calhoun practice. A few posts ago I wrote about how different coaching philosophies can all be successful and Coach Whitaker’s program proves that point. Port Lavaca does some things I haven’t seen at any of the schools I visited, but the system is obviously an outstanding fit for this school and community. The Sandcrabs were down before Coach Whitaker took over in 2005. In his first year,  Calhoun finished with a 2-8 record, but since that time they have a record of 58-17 and have made the 4A playoffs 6 straight years.

Two factors make the PLV program unique among the 11 I’ve watched so far;

1)      While most of the state has embraced  the passing game in a big way, the Sandcrabs rely on a complex option offense where a quarterback rarely throws the ball. In 2011, the quarterback threw for 315 yards while rushing for over 1600. Part of their offensive philosophy is to spread the touches equally between the 4 backs they use on every play. Last season they became the first team in Texas to have 4 1000 yard rushers in a single season. The variety of options and formations they run is very impressive. Their goal is to create situations with formation where a defense can only stop 2 of 3 options the QB has and for the QB to recognize what’s available and exploit it. When they do pass its very effective because the defense is so focused on stopping the run.

I had always been a little scared of relying on an option attack because it puts so much of a premium on having a certain type of quarterback and then makes him the target of opposing defenses. I’ve seen good option teams fall apart when the QB got hurt. Coach Whitaker’s system addresses this possible weakness with the second point.


2)      They are along among the big schools I’m watching in that all their players work both sides of the ball. The entire coaching staff works one side and the players rotate through both offensive and defensive individual drills. In a perfect situation, only a few players will see action on both sides of the field, but the sandcrabs are prepared if someone goes down.  4 players are prepared to step in at quarterback, 4 at fullback and 6 at the two slot positions. They all get reps every day and play in a system where substitution at every position is routine.

3)      Not unique, but very important is the emphasis the Sandcrabs put on the weightroom. The first thing Coach Whitaker did when he got the job was lobby for a new weightroom and the facility they built is beautiful. The kids at Port Lavaca and not big and while their skill kids do have some speed, they will not win by their natural athleticism. To be successful they need the weightroom. Sub 200 lb. players who squat 400-600 and bench 250-350 seem to be the norm. These are outstanding numbers.


Port Lavaca Calhoun is very young, with only one returning offensive starter and 6 on defense. But they’ve built a great tradition and the qualities that got them to the playoffs 6 years in a row (Good coaching, a great work ethic, outstanding community support and a solid system) are still present. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the town is like when I return for homecoming week. I’ve been told by many that the support in Port Lavaca is amazing.


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Port Lavaca Calhoun

Just got home from practice at Calhoun, very interesting and a lot of fun, but I got into my hotel at 9:00 PM and I’m just too tired to write about it now. I’ll do a complete update of the Sandcrabs tomorrow evening.

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