Posts Tagged With: Stamford

Stamford vs Mart: 1A-DI State Championship

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Winning state championships is not supposed to be easy. To survive each step up the latter and be the last of 48 playoff and 84 1A-DI squads requires making it though some adversity, weathering a few storms and shifting momentum your way. Yesterday, the Stamford Bulldogs did all that in claiming their 1st state championship since 1959.

After making some uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half, the Bulldogs trailed Mart 21-13. During the intermission Stamford’s coaches were very matter of fact about what needed to be done. They let the kids know they were fine, if they eliminated the mistakes of the first half and played their ‘A’ game. During the 2nd half they would wear the Panthers down. This is, in fact what happened, but maybe in a more thrilling fashion than the Stamford squad envisioned.

With only 28 players dressed out the Panthers from Mart were persistent and refused to go away and quit. The Bulldogs tied the score at 21 on a 43 yard run by quarterback Hagen Hutchinson with just over 6 minutes to go in the 3rd. Mart responded with a drive of their own, scoring on a 9 yard run with 11 minutes to go in the game and tying the game at 28. The next seven minutes consisted of stalled drives and punts. Mart looked exhausted and seemed to be hanging on by a thread, but every time it looked like Stamford was set to take over, the Panthers made a play showing they were still there . Stamford’s defense made several key stops during this stretch which proved huge in a game that had become a battle for field position. The battle paid off when a Mart punt gave the ball to Stamford on Marts 49 yard line with 3:31 to go.

Several passes and QB runs set up a 3rd and 5 from the 9 with less than a minute to go. Stamford ran a QB sweep to the right and Hutchinson pressed through his own blockers, falling into the endzone with the go ahead score with 32 seconds to go.

The Panthers were not quite done, Mart moved the ball to the Stamford 35 on two passes, setting up one last chance with 8 seconds remaining. A pass over the middle was intercepted by Hutchinson playing safety who slid to the ground and the game was over.

The Stamford sidelines and stands erupted. Though nobody’s underdog, being a favorite put a target on this teams back all season. The Bulldogs never faltered or lost their cool and found a way to beat a very worthy Mart squad. After losing last year’s championship to Mason, the Bulldogs felt they had unfinished business and nothing is better than seeing all the thousands of hours of hard work get rewarded.  The Panthers played a great game, but lost to the better team.

Quarterback/safety Hagen Hutchinson was named both offensive and defensive player of the game. On offense, Hutchinson was directly involved with 4 touchdowns, running for two and passing for two more. He was 22-30 in the air, passing for 248 yards and rushing for 132 more. Defensively, Hutchinson made 16 tackles and ended the game with an interception. This ended an amazing week for Hutchinson who was named AP 1A Player of the Year on Monday. Football is such a team sport that I hate to single out one player, but Hagen’s performance has been remarkable. He has the rare combination of ability and the knack of knowing how to use it. Whether using his speed to get to the edge, using his strength to press forward, making a move or throwing the ball, Hutchinson has tremendous football IQ. He always seems to make the right decision.  Maybe it has to do with being the son of Coach Hutchinson, but whatever it is, he’s been a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, once again, I want to thank the people of Stamford Texas and the Stamford High School football program for allowing me access and welcoming me into your town. I thank you for the tremendous response to my last blog about this wonderful community. Before this trip I, like most suburbanites, had never spent any significant time in a small town. I hope my book, as well as documenting the story of the 2012 Stamford Bulldogs will change some perceptions about small town life. The small towns I covered;  Stamford, Carthage, Throckmorton and Idalou are all excellent places full of good people; towns where people like to live. That some of these places are shrinking is more about lack of opportunities than desire to move to bigger cities.  I know it can’t be as meaningful to me as those who’ve waited their whole lives to see a Stamford championship, but I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to be around for the culmination of this historic season.

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Stamford vs. Italy: State Semifinal

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Before I came to Texas I had heard how small town Texas football is different than the game played in bigger cities. It is. With schools as small as Stamford, there aren’t athletes and non-athletes, different cliques for student to focus on whatever they excel at. This isn’t a place for specialization. The students at Stamford take part in everything offered by the school, everyone has a role. In a sport as labor intensive as football, success is a community effort. The boys in small towns like Stamford don’t just play for a school, but the town itself, and the town is involved in a way you don’t see in bigger schools.  Focusing on just football, misses a lot of what makes the small town game unique. In Stamford and other small towns, a football game is more than just a game but the towns’ window to show the rest of Texas all that’s best about their city.

The band, the cheerleaders, the parents shaking their noisemakers, the townspeople manning the inflatable Bulldog tunnel, the middle school kids that make up “The Blue Crew” sprinting the field with their flags after each Stamford score and, of course, the football team are all a part of the overall package. Football is just part of the picture.  This town rightly takes pride not just in the play of the Bulldogs, but in the way the town puts its best foot forward when they hit the field. A man from Stamford proudly told me of buying enough flags for “The Blue Crew” to spell out STAMFORD while other 1A schools would go with SHS. Another dad spoke excitedly of his son getting the opportunity to play in the state championship two years in a row while he himself never got that chance when he played for the Bulldogs 30 years ago. It’s dads, moms and people with no connection to the team other than living in Stamford and being proud of it.

The city of Stamford, Stamford High School and the Bulldog football team are all connected and more of them were in Mineral Wells Friday night, than were back home in Stamford when the Bulldogs lined up Friday night.

The Bulldogs are playing their best football at the right time. After rolling through their first three playoff opponents, they were set to meet the surprising Italy Gladiators for a berth in the state championship. The Bulldogs completely controlled the game on both sides of the ball.

With so few players, 1A football success is often about indentifying and shutting down the opponents’ main threat. Stamford’s defensive gameplan centered on containing Gladiator running back Ryheem Walker and this was effective, holding him to 98 yards.  Italy only threatened to get into the endzone once, before finally getting on the board against the Bulldog second string late in the 4th quarter. On offense, quarterback Hagen Hutchinson ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more before being pulled early in the 3rd quarter. The dangerous thing about Hutchinson is his ability to move the ball three ways; passing, scrambling after setting up to pass and on designed runs. While not passing well early, he was effective on the ground until he found his passing groove.

With the 41-8 victory the Bulldogs advance  for the second straight year to the 1A-DI championship this Thursday in Cowboy Stadium, against the Mart Panthers. There’s always celebration after a semifinal win but I got the feeling this team isn’t satisfied with simply playing in State. They’ve been there before, and know what to expect. In last year’s game, an injury to Hutchinson kept them from playing their best football in a 62-40 loss to Mason. The excitement has to do with going into this game healthy, playing well and having  a shot at the first Bulldog championship since 1959.

I’ll be heading to Stamford for the next few days to watch this team and town prepare to take their show to the biggest stage in Texas, Cowboy Stadium in Arlington.

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3rd Round Stamford vs. Quanah

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Tonight in Wichita Falls the Stamford Bulldogs convincingly showed they may be the team to beat in 1A-Division I.  The 12-1 Bulldogs looked dominating at times in their victory over the Quanah Indians, 48-22. The impressive thing about this game is that, despite the score, it didn’t look like Stamford played close to their best football. Stamford started very poorly giving up a 70 yard touchdown run on the second play to fall behind 8-0. Their first offensive possession was no better, a three and out including two penalties and a dropped pass. The Indians led 8-6 at the end of the 1st.

The 2nd quarter was a different story; The defense stiffened and Stamford scored four touchdowns, mostly on the arm and legs of quarterback Hagen Hutchinson giving the Bulldogs a commanding lead at the half. The Indians drove the ball early in the 3rd, but an interception and 102 yard return by defensive back James Washington essentially ended the game.  The Bulldogs added several more scores to win 48-22 and advance to the quarterfinals next week.

That Stamford could play a somewhat sloppy game against a team that had won two playoff games and win by 4 touchdowns says a lot about the talent on this team. If Stamford plays 4 quarters like they played the 2nd, it’s hard to imagine the team that can play with them.

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Stamford vs. Colorado City

The days when teams beat up on each other all week during game week practices are mostly gone. It used to be common to hold live, full-contact scrimmages once a week.  Some programs are more physical than others, but it’s generally accepted that cutting your own players and tackling to the ground are too risky and draining to be done during the week. How teams practice means that despite watching a team all week, I’m often surprised by what I see Friday night. Last week in Port Lavaca I wasn’t prepared for the physicality of the Calhoun team and this week at Stamford, I again saw things that didn’t show up in practice.

Stamford was coming off a very convincing win vs. Merkel in week two. This is always a dangerous situation for a good team early in the season. Kids sometimes figure they can just show up and win based on the colors they wear and past success, forgetting the opponent has something to say about this. For a team that I thought was very sharp at practice during the week, the Bulldogs came out kind of flat during the first half last night vs. Colorado City. They made some mistakes I hadn’t seen during the week, running poor routes, misaligning and putting the ball on the ground when on offense.

On the plus side, the Bulldogs showed more raw football talent than practice had made me expect. Quarterback Hagen Hutchinson was picked as Texas Football Magazines 1A coverboy and preseason all-state quarterback for a reason. He makes good decisions and throws a great ball, but what was most impressive last night was how well he runs. He has the ability to create a great play out of nothing with his moves and speed. The Stamford receivers are better than I’d expected, they have good hands and run well. The Stamford offense relies on screen passes out of a single back set. A quarterback who can throw or run and receivers who get yards after the catch makes this team very hard to defend when they’re executing.

After leading only 13-6 at the half, the Bulldogs pulled away and put away the game in the 4th quarter beating the C-City Wolves 34-14. The Stamford coaches seemed a bit down about the performance. This is a team that has very high expectations and to reach them they’ll have to clean some things up. That said, Colorado City is a good 2A school and winning by 20 points while not playing your best football is not a bad place to be. I expect Stamford will continue to improve and I hope to see them again in December.

I want to thank all the coaches and everyone else that was so helpful during my week in Stamford. From what I saw, this is a great school and a town that supports and takes a lot of pride in ALL the schools activities. Locals wanted to talk to me about the nationally renowned ag. program as much as the football team.

I’m in Fort Worth tonight getting ready for my week with the Aledo Bearcats. Check in next week.

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Stamford Week Wrap Up

Stamford is the first of three schools I’m working with where the coaching staff is actually smaller than the staffs I worked with in Reno. Stamford has only seven coaches, however, as with the bigger schools in Texas, coaches at Stamford are all teachers and all work with the football players two athletic periods every day. This is the biggest difference between the Texas system and the one most of the country uses; mostly volunteer coaches with no regular athletic period where the team works year around on football skills. I can’t overstate the difference it makes to have a staff made up entirely of educators, coaching as part of their profession rather than as a hobby. Watching practice, it’s clear the model works as well with a small school as with the bigger ones.

One area that the small schools are more in line with the rest of the country than the larger Texas schools is just how many things the coaches here have to do. This week, I’ve seen the seven Stamford coaches lining the football field, doing laundry, and acting as trainers for their program as well as coaching all five of the Stamford football teams (7th & 8th grades, freshmen, jv & varsity) For all that they are still a lot better set up than most coaches from the other 49 states. Unlike most places their extra work for the football program is recognized, appreciated and built into their teaching schedule.

The Stamford kids are not especially big, fast and many don’t look all that athletic. This is what you get when virtually every male student in the school is on the football team. What they lack in ability they make up for with hustle, reps and execution. All week watching practice I have seen very solid fundamentals, good stances, few alignment mistakes, good routes, good passes, the ball hardly ever is on the ground and despite playing both ways, almost no confusion about assignments. In short, they do all the little things well and this adds up to a lot of wins. I’m guessing this isn’t a team that beats itself very often. From a coaching standpoint it’s truly amazing to see how much can be done with only seven good coaches in a system that allows them to do the job the right way.

It’s kind of exciting to see this town getting ready for the game tomorrow nights. Stamford Bulldog flags are hanging everywhere and everyone in town seems to be wearing blue and white Bulldog tee shirts. Everyone I’ve spoken with tells me about the pride this town takes in the team and the wonderful support all the Stamford teams get. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it all looks like tomorrow night.

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Stamford Multitasking



One of the many assumptions the rest of the country has about Texas high school football, is that football excellence is bought by shortchanging other opportunities on campus. From what I’ve seen, the opposite is the case.  An El Paso coach I met best summed up the attitude when he told me of his disappointment that more of his players weren’t playing spring sports. I said I was surprised they weren’t on the track team. He looked at me with confusion and said, “They all do track, I’m talking about team sports.”

Stamford is a school with only 180 students, out of less than 100 male students, 83 play football for the Bulldogs. Today I spoke to a Hagen Hutchinson who, in the spring, juggles 5 different activities. He shows up before school to get his weight workout in for football, then to school and a fourth period athletic period for track, then to Ag. Club and more classes. After school, he goes to baseball from 4 to 6. At 6, it’s on to the golf course to work with the golf team. All these programs are successful and Hagen is a 4.0 student. My understanding is that this is not all that unusual at Stamford. Stamford High School is a great example of a small school that takes pride in well rounded kids, but it’s not the only one. All the coaches of the programs I’m working with encourage and even demand their football players be involved with other activities.

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Week Three: Stamford Bulldogs

After two practices at Stamford, some general impressions of the program:

The practice organization at Stamford is impressive; with the freshmen and JV to alternating between working on their stuff and running scout for the varsity. Transitions are very quick. Coach Hutchinson’s staff has been together for years and they basically use the same practice formula every week. The only change is the scout information they plug in each week. With only seven coaches this coordination is very good, and you rarely see anybody standing around. Coach Hutchinson reminds the team regularly that the pace they keep during their practices also acts as the conditioning and the kids move quickly.

I really like the no-huddle system Stamford uses. The system gives the bulldogs several advantages over huddling teams.

1)      More efficient; More reps in shorter time.

2)      No time wasted getting in and out of huddle. (Coaches like that they don’t have to deal with huddle protocol.)

3)      Playcalling must be streamlined to allow calls to be made on the line.

4)      Defense often can’t substitute.

5)      Allows offense to dictate the pace.

Stamford has been running the spread offense for the past four years. Implementing a new offense is the most significant change a program can make short of replacing a coach. It’s not simply about drawing up new plays and running them. Blocking schemes, position drills, terminology, adjustments vs. different defenses, ways to best use personnel and a million other little tweaks all must be learned, over years, usually through trial and error. Everything needs to fit into a coherent framework, with plays and adjustments for every possible defensive strategy built in or the scheme will eventually collapse as defenses learn how to stop an offense.  I’ve wondered how so many teams, so quickly have been able to adopt the spread as it has come into prominence the past ten years. Yesterday I learned at least part of the answer.

Tony Franklin, current offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech markets a package of everything a coach would need to install the spread. Clinics, teaching progressions and a whole binder full of DVD’s is included, letting a coach learn this offense in a relatively short time. Stamford took to this system when they looked down their pipeline and saw the kids coming up would be a good fit for this scheme. It seems they made a good choice as the Bulldogs advanced to the State Championship in 2011 and are expected to make another run at the title this year.

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The last leg of my three team mini-marathon was Stamford whom I visited yesterday morning. As with Throckmorton the night before, this was the first padded practice they would have this season. Around 80 players were dressed and practicing of this school of 180 students. Again, like all the small schools I’m covering, they have a great percentage of kids out, over 50% of the boys padded up.

I compare it to most of the small schools back home and most struggle to keep one 8-man team on the field, while Stamford has two strong 11-man teams with solid numbers. It will be interesting to try to figure out what’s responsible for such great turnouts.

The Bulldogs are returning 8 starters on each side of the ball from a team that advanced to the state finals last year. They are expected to contend again this season. As I arrived the 8 varsity and JV coaches were putting the players through individual drills. One pattern I’m starting to see is just how much attention these outstanding programs pay to their younger kids. Becoming a good high school football player is a long process and the staff is ensuring the long term success of the program by making sure the next generation of Stamford Bulldogs do things the right way.

After a break, the jv and varsity went their separate ways and both had filmed intrasquad scrimmages.

After the scrimmages the varsity went to the weight room and did a very quick and efficient workout run by Coach Hutchinson. I was very impressed by how well they worked and the strength this 1A squad had. I’m sure the weight room is another reason Stamford has had so much success.

I confess I didn’t stay around long enough or talk to enough people to gain a lot of insight into Stamford. I was still very tired from the previous, long day and left to find a room in Abilene as soon as they left the field. I’ll be back in mid-September for the week of the Colorado game.

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Three towns, five practices, 26 Hours and around 400 Miles


Outside Throckmorton last evening, Longhorn cattle in front of an oil rig. Can you get much more Texas than that?


I woke up yesterday morning at 6:15 to attend the two practices at Carthage. At one PM I hadn’t yet decided where to head. I made a call to Coach Reed at Throckmorton and he told me they were going to practice at 6, have a BBQ and then get back on the field at midnight, for the first padded practice of the season. I looked at the GPS and realized I could just about cover the 300 plus miles by six and hit the road. I got to Throckmorton around 6:30, watched the end of the first practice and visited with Coach Reed then went to bunkhouse on one of his players’ ranches, he had arranged for me to sleep at. Back in town by 10 for the BBQ, before the midnight practice; watched the practice and back to the bunkhouse to sleep sometime before two AM. Got up at 6:15 and drove 50 miles to Stamford to see their first padded practice at 7:30. Then 50 miles or so to Abilene, to a hotel and a much needed nap. I got up this afternoon and am just starting to process the notes video and pictures I gathered during my lost three stops. Think I’ll stay put tomorrow. Look for forthcoming updates on what I saw in Stamford, Throckmorton and Carthage.


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