I know it’s hard to believe, but high school football is upon us. Why? Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine hit the newsstand last week. The “Bible of Texas high school football” as it is known covers the two pro teams, college football teams in Texas and every high school in Texas.
I bought my first Texas Football Magazine in 1967 and have collected them over the years and have seen covers from Darrell Royal to Johnny Manzell. My senior year in high school we were ranked in the top five, but injuries and some close losses saw us fall to 6-4. Back in those old days, only the district champions went to the playoffs. There were many great one loss teams who never got to go to the playoffs. We also had no overtime games. In the old playoff system in the case of a tie game, penetrations were the determining factor. A penetration was getting inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. Many times, a team would frantically try to get to the 20 becasue it was as good as the goal line. If penetrations were tied, it went to first downs and after that, I believe it was total offensive yardage. You might not like overtime, but at least we get a winner and each team gets a chance to score.
The coverage includes the Allen Eagles in the Metroplex, where enrollment stands at 6,380 students, to the wide open spaces of Texas where six-man squads from Cranfills Gap, with 24 students enrolled in the high school, the Benjamin Mustangs at 25 enrolled and the Harrold Hornets with 27 students. The six man game is fascinating to watch. It’s like a combination of arena football, basketball and hockey. People in those small towns take their football just as serious, if not more so, than the bigger schools.
The Balmorhea Bears, with an enrollment of 48 in the high school, made it all the way from far West Texas to AT&T stadium for the Class A Division II finals in 2016 to take on perennial power Richland Springs, enrollment 38. The Richland Springs Coyotes won that game 96-50. In six-man contest there is a mercy rule. When a team gets ahead by 45 points or more the game is called after they have played at least a half. Yes, that means some of these teams travel long distances just for district games, only to have a game last for a half if the score gets out of hand early. Those two are ranked first and second in the state in D-II this year, the Coyotes one and the Bears at two.
Our neighbors to the east, the Union Hill Bulldogs (enrollment 88), are formerly a small school 11 man football power and has grown into a six-man powerhouse. Union Hill is a Class A Division I school. They are ranked second in the state this upcoming season. The Bulldogs are in a district with Leverett’s Chapel, Apple Springs, Leverett’s Chapel and High Island. Talk about a district game road trip, when the Bulldogs play at High Island, they travel to a school that sits on the Gulf Coast just minutes from the ocean, a three hour trip at least.
That brings us to District 7-3A Division I. Two teams are featured in Texas Football in the top 20. The Farmersville Farmers are at eight and Mineola is sitting at 12 in pre-season. Those two schools have enrollments of 454 and 444 just behind Commerce which has 463 students. Mt. Vernon has 449, Winnsboro 427 and then with just 320 students each, are Grand Saline and Quitman. This school year is a realignment year and there is no telling where Quitman and Grand Saline will end up next time around.
Playing larger schools is nothing new for Quitman or Grand Saline. The Bulldogs and Indians, both in years gone by, have been in districts with Lindale, Van and Brownsboro. New Quitman Athletic Director and Head Coach Bryan Oakes has brought a new energy and determination to a program which is in a prolonged losing streak of 33 losses in a row dating back to October of 2013 when they beat Eustace. Oakes positive approach to the whole athletic program is refreshing and exciting. There are more kids out for football than in the past and summer conditioning workouts have been well attended with the student-athletes very positive about the new season ahead of them. The Bulldogs face a tough schedule once again, opening with state-ranked Big Sandy, but the spirit of hope is in the air in Bulldog nation.
Mineola is now led by former assistant Luke Blackwell. The ‘Jackets are coming off a historic journey to a state championship won at Jerry World last December. Many talented players have moved on, but don’t feel sorry for the men in orange. There is still plenty of talent for them to make another deep playoff run and the ‘Jackets face a tough pre-season which will have them ready for district action.
New head coaches at Alba-Golden, Derek Smith, and Hawkins, Scott Evans, have also infused a lot of positive vibes into their respective programs and both hope to make serious runs for playoff spots in their respective districts.
No matter your mascot, be it a Wampus Cat (Itasca), a Gladiator (Italy), a Yellowhammer (Rotan), a Gorilla (Trent) a Battlin’ Billie (Fredericksburg) or a Goat (Groesbeck), get ready, kick-off will be here before you know it.