By Dency McClure
I made my first ever trip to Gold-Burg ISD. I immediately fell in love with the little school on the hill in the country. Across the road was a field full of round bales. The football field was at one end of the campus with lush green grass surrounded by open countryside as far as the eye can see. Behind the visitor stands was a barbed wire fence separating the open country from the little stadium. It’s definitely a peaceful country setting, except for the roar of a truck from time to time on the nearby highway. It was about 90 degrees and there was a good, cool breeze. Definitely not what one expects of an August afternoon.
The school is located in the town of Stoneburg. Ringgold and Stoneburg consolidated school districts making Gold-Burg. I thought it was neat how they used the ending of both towns to make the name for the new school district. It is always hard to give up a bit of your community identity to consolidate.
I arrived shortly before school let out and the junior high boys were on the field and finishing up their athletic period. I sat at the picnic table, at the end of the field, and watched. I was impressed by the number and their ability to throw and catch a football. I soon heard children behind me rushing to their buses. This was the signal for Coach Helms to release the junior high boys.
Coach Helms walked over, greeted me and then introduced me to his assistant Coach Vaughn. He told me it would be a few minutes until the high school boys would be out. He then told me he had seven players. I asked both coaches about the other town that made up the school district and was informed of Ringgold and where it is located as well as that Ringgold had maintained its own elementary until a few years ago.
The boys came out and greeted me as they hit the field. I heard them chuckling in the background as I was snapping pictures of the countryside. They found it funny I was there to take photos of them but instead taking pictures of the distance. It was kind of funny, but the views needed to be captured as well.
With only seven, it didn’t take me long to know I had captured pictures of all of them. They laughed and teased each other as they did their stretches like siblings and cousins would. The seven are already a family on and off the field.
The lone waterboy, an 8th grader, used his down time to practice kicking field goals. During one water break, Coach Helms walked over and spent a few moments with him showing him how to mark his steps and kick. As practice continued, he got better and better; carefully replicating what Helms had shown him. When the high school boys got to his end of the field, he would simply pick up his tee and move to the other end. I was extremely impressed with his persistence and self drive. He also kept the water ready for practice.
Coach Helms and Coach Vaughn spoke to me off and on over my time there. We talked about their district and upcoming scrimmage. Helms is looking forward to getting the boys some practice with six opposite them on the line. He chuckled and told me drills didn’t take long with only seven. He also told me they would look good at the beginning of games but that stamina would be their enemy. I bet stamina will build quickly as the season progresses and he helps them build it during practice. Cooler weather will probably also be their friend. I told them I was going to the Perrin for their scrimmage with Forestburg. Helms told me to be sure and let Forestburg know that Gold-Burg has about twenty players and that they are good and fast. We all chuckled about that. I told him I had his back and would talk them up to Forestburg.
I have shared the sidelines many times with Coach Helms during games over the years. I am always impressed by his calm, thoughtful demeanor and respect for his players. Today was my first time watching him in a practice setting. I was even more impressed today. I watched him calmly and intelligently walk the seven through play after play. Often asking the boys what they saw and what they expected and then telling them now this is what we are going to do. Every one of the seven was listening and answering and responding with knowledge. Today was not about physical conditioning, as it was the day before a scrimmage. It was a day about mental focus and the power that can bring.
I watched as he would bring the boys in and assign their positions and send them out again. Each round of plays a player would have a different position to fill. This continued as each boy played many different positions. When you only have seven, they must all become utility players mentally and physically. This is why I have dubbed them the Swiss Army Seven. Each and every one of them is learning to fill many positions and many roles for their survival as a team. They have to think smarter and perform smarter than a larger team player. They have to be able to play both sides of the ball every single down of the entire game. Giving it their all from whistle to whistle. There are no offense and defense players called out as the ball turns over. They are it! They won’t leave the field except for the occasional relief from their seventh man rotation. I can’t even begin to imagine the mental and physical exhaustion it would take to do that play after play and game after game. A true testament to the game. Lots of teams have done it over the years just to play the game.
The Swiss Army Seven have a strong chance to do well this season. They are all quick, smart, athletic and already a family on and off the field. With Coach Helms at the helm they have a great chance of riding the waves of turbulent trials with their crew of seven strong. As long as they can face the cross winds, they have a good chance of sailing into the playoffs.
See you on the sidelines!
By Jason Henderson
The 2020 Jaguars may be low on numbers but not on enthusiasm. I had a great visit with Head Coach, Kyle Timmons, and Assistant Coach, David Jeffrey. Coach Timmons said as of play time for his first scrimmage, he will have six kids suited up with another couple, hopefully, coming back from early injury.
Coach Timmons said that he will be starting two Juniors, two Sophomores, and two Freshmen this season. The future is looking bright as all six of those players will return next year along with 8th graders who will suit up next year as well.
Coach Timmons is very excited about his season and mentioned some of his top players to watch for:
I have visited many six-man fields, but one of my top three is without a doubt, Jack Huey Field. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a must! They are well known for their concession stand, The Jaguar Gridiron Grill. It was featured on Texas Country Reporter!
A big thanks to Coach Timmons and Coach Jeffrey for the great visit and hospitality. We ask that the entire six-man community keep the coaches, players, and community In your thoughts and prayers as one of their own was injured during two-a-days and is currently in Houston at Children’s Hospital.
By Jason Henderson
I was unable to make it to the Cowboy Corral last week, so I reached out to a good friend and mentor, Craig Sperry, who gave me a lot of great insight on the Cowboys upcoming season. Craig is also the voice of the Happy Sports Network and another great show we all enjoy, The Press Pass with Kale Steed. The Cowboys led by Head Coach Stacy Perryman had a great season last year with an early loss to McLean in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cowboys are excited for the new year and return four starters on both offense and defense and will be anchored by Senior, Stetson Jameson, who takes over at spreadback and will anchor the defense from his outside linebacker position. I look for the Cowboys to be right at the top of their district this year and look forward to the games when they play McLean and White Deer as these three teams know each other very well after the last four years. I expect there to be some epic battles for the district title as the rivalry between those three teams are definitely in play.
If you’ve never been to the Cowboy Corral in Happy, it’s worth the trip as they have a great concession stand along with a rich tradition of very physical hard-nosed football. Good luck to the Cowboys and a huge thanks to Craig for the info and great pictures.
By Jason Henderson
When visiting McLean, as the players walked out of the locker room, they passed by a large sign on the fieldhouse wall that says, “2018 Division I State Champions.” Coach Brad Ranier was a big part of the historic three year run in McLean and as the new head coach, he has no plans of letting off the gas.
Coach Ranier, along with 16 players, stepped onto the field ready for action. McLean will be very young this year and will have their work cut out for them in a very tough district along with White Deer, Valley, Happy, and Claude. Coach Raider said he is excited and will need some very new faces to step up this year to continue to be a team to watch.
Coach Ranier has two starters returning from the State Runner-up team from last year and said his dynamic will change this year as they will look to spread the ball out. District 1 Division I will be fun to watch this year as it will be very competitive.
Thank you to Coach Ranier and Superintendent, Oscar Muniz, as always for the hospitality.
By Jason Henderson
I always love visiting Miami as it has arguably one of the most appealing settings for a school and football field in all of Six-man.
The school is not the only new edition to Miami as they welcome new head coach, Clint Linman, who had historic run at McLean over the last three years, including a State Championship and an impressive 41-5 record.
As I visited with Coach Linman, he was very excited about the upcoming year. Coach Linman told me he has a great group of kids and they really want to turn the program around. He said it’s going to be a process as they are very young and will depend on several freshmen to take starting roles. Another challenge facing the Warriors is depth. Suited up on the field that day was a total of nine kids, which is one of the reasons Miami dropped to Division II Six-man after the last re-alignment by UIL.
Coach Linman told the boys that they must first do the little things consistently and the rest will come with time and hard work.
Miami will be competing in a district against Follett, Lefors, Hedley, and Darrouzett. I can see them being a strong contender for a district championship. Thank you to Coach Linman and Miami ISD for the hospitality and support for Texas 1A Fan.
By Dency McClure
I rolled into Moran and made a beeline to the old Methodist church building. When I was in Junior High, my dad was pastor there. I have such fond memories of the monthly covered dish socials in the church basement. What a beautiful building. There was a woman that played the upright piano and a man that played a fiddle (violin). The music vibrated through that church basement and into my being. We always closed with “Til We Meet Again.” Well, many have since passed I’m sure, but today our souls met again as I passed by and the memories flooded back.
I refocused and headed up to the school. If you know the big water tower is on the football field, then it’s easy to find. Man what a field. It looks like a mansion as the sidelines are spacious and the areas behind the end zones are never ceasing. It is such a huge space. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a six-man field with that kind of space around it.
The field was a beautiful green. I know coach Hughes and his helpers have been working hard to make it a masterpiece. Their hard work is paying off.
The boys were working out on the large practice field behind one of the field goals. They even have it clearly marked off with yard lines. Such a great space. There was a horse that neighed every now and then whose home is right next to the practice field. Coach Hughes greeted me and welcomed me to their field.
I saw a familiar face, other than Coach Hughes, working with the boys. It was his son Braden. With the world as it is, he has decided to continue his college courses online instead of in person. He told me he has a job at the school and is helping his dad with football. Sounds like a great set up in the current world.
I spied a wooden cross staked under a tree near the corner of the main field. Similar to what you might see along the side of the highway. You can’t just see something like that next to a football field and not ask. Of course my imagination was running away with me before I got the answer. Coach Hughes told me the best he could remember being told was that the Ag program had a well loved shovel, might have been a hammer they may have crafted, which they used for many projects. They were using their beloved shovel one day and it broke. They had a little ceremony for it and buried it there under a big tree. Now that is a great story.
At one point, the boys ran the length of the field to the nice area on the other side of the other goal post. On this end they had all kinds of things set up for drills. After running through some drills they ran back across to work on the practice field some more.
I admired the water tower off and on during my visit. There were several large birds enjoying resting there. I bet they don’t have to deal with many small animals around the field if those birds stay around. Snake and varmint control never hurts in Six-man towns.
Having served on the city council in a town this size, I did began to wonder a bit as to who owned the property the tower sat on and what agreement had been made about it? Did the school own it or the city or just what? In small towns things like this are usually something that has been easily agreed upon for the best of all parties involved and just understood as time passes.
Coach Hughes had a well planned practice with lots of drills to get the boys ready. Some were fundamentals and some were more complex for preparing them for pushing through defense. They also ran lots of plays and scenarios. All in all, a great well-rounded practice. Coach Hughes was hands on and keeping an eye on things to make corrections as needed.
The boys worked well together and owned their roll in things. If they knew they were the reason for a play not going off as planned, they owned it and made adjustments to fix it.
I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, at the end of practice, when Coach Hughes told the boys what their meal options from Dairy Queen would be after their upcoming scrimmage. I have taught pre-k and secondary, and I am here to tell you, there isn’t much difference at times. They had questions and wanted to know details and if they could change the menu he had offered etc. All in a day's work with kids. I chuckled to myself as he stayed strong, held his ground, and quickly shut the conversion down. He handled that like a true champion.
At the end of practice Coach Hughes asked me how far I had to travel to get back to my camper. I told him about an hour. He responded with “that’s not bad.” I agreed that it wasn’t. In this part of Texas and further west, an hour to travel is nothing. Now, when you cover schools around the Waco area an hour is starting to get a bit too far. It all depends on where you’re at in Texas.
After practice all the boys came up to me one by one and thanked me for coming. That made my day and left me with a great feeling for the trip back to my base camp.
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
I made it to Throckmorton a few minutes early and decided to take a little trip down memory lane. I actually lived in Throckmorton when I was little. My dad was the Methodist preacher there and served the Throckmorton and Woodson churches. I attended Kindergarten and first grade here. Great memories! The church still looks fantastic and the parsonage too. It’s so heart warming to see things still loved and cared for. If you haven’t seen them the Methodist and Baptist churches in Throckmorton are glories to behold. Beautiful architecture and massive structures.
It's funny how things can seem so different when you are small. I walked to school with my older brothers and it seemed so far. In reality, it was less than a block. I doubt the trail is still there but we used to take a well-beaten path through the middle of the block so we weren’t ever on the street. It weaved through people’s yards, and at that time, all the owners were fine with the school kids using it to make their way to and from school.
I made my way up the steep hill and found the boys on the practice field. It was actually under 100 degrees so it was a great weather day in my book. I parked by the travel buses and got to work. When there was a break in activity, Coach Hantz greeted me. I do my best to never be a distraction to coaches. I stay out of the way and take my photos and let them greet me when they have a moment. I’m not one to charge up and announce myself and need attention. I was taught by Coach Storey, of Newcastle, how to behave on a field, and I honor that.
Throckmorton has a wonderful practice area. Plenty of room for whatever they need. Standing on the practice field, at the top of the hill, you have a nice view of the stadium. I’ve always liked how it's a bit of a sunken field. It’s dug out of a hill a bit to make the flat playing field. The grass is green and the stands were glistening in the afternoon sun. It is ready for the first game of the season.
I was very thankful for the cold water bottle offered by the coaches. Coaches always want to know where I’m going next and where I’ve been. I think this is the most asked question I get. Sometimes they even ask how a team I’ve seen is looking. Don’t worry coaches I answer truthfully but in generalities. I don’t give away secrets! I want to be invited back.
The practice field has a very nice long sand pit. I only see these occasionally. There are definitely something almost all coaches want but for one reason or another don’t have. The boys ran through the pit on whistle commands a couple of different times while I was there. I always love to see the dirt fly and try to capture it in my photos.
One of my absolute favorite things to see is coaches taking an active part in practice. Running plays, being the quarterback, or working the line. I saw all of this today. The assistant coaches were in the thick of it getting a workout. Don’t worry, they have plenty of players that can do these things. This just helps control variables so they can work on certain aspects easily. Hantz was right there watching every move and giving hands-on advice as needed. I enjoyed watching him direct the show. He was watching every single thing in everything they did. He didn’t just see the kids on one end, he saw the whole picture every time. He then addressed any issues and gave praise where earned.
I was fascinated by Coach Hantz. He had his paper and his notes that he would pull from his pocket and study. He would then check the time on his phone and plan accordingly on what to move to next. At water break, he was proud to say they were on schedule to get everything he wanted done today. I know he has enjoyed coming home and coaching where he played. I feel for him a bit. Having been a player on their state team, I’m sure there is a pressure and a personal desire to take Throckmorton back.
I have to say, I always enjoyed seeing the purple santa hats the cheerleaders had for those state trips back then. I bet if they make it back someone could find some new ones. It was definitely a fun thing to see.
I had to head out to make it to Moran, the next practice on my list. On my way out, I saw the Hotel Lazy T. It’s a big, beautiful, older home that is now a hotel. It is located right next to the school and football field. I googled them when I got home, and it is definitely a fascinating place. They have a Hotel Lazy T facebook page if you’re interested. We may just need to come cover a game and stay there. We could easily walk to and from the game.
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
I made it to Oglesby today. I got there early and drove around town. What a fantastic city park. They even have a splash pad there. I can honestly say that’s the first 1A town I’ve seen with a splash pad in their park. There are also nice homes and churches. The downtown has a little going on as well. All in all a great 1A town.
The road to the school was clearly marked. The school speed zone lights were flashing and all around the school was busy with kids getting picked up. I saw the stadium lights and meandered around the side of the school until I saw boys dressed in red headed over to an open area. I had found the place. Now all I needed was to park in some shade. Just down from the yard full of chickens was a nice deep shade.
Yes, you read that right. I don’t think any 1A town is truly 1A if there aren’t some chickens about. These chickens had it made. Nice shade trees, excellent feeder set up and wait for it...a pool. Yes, a beautiful blue wading pool in the shady yard. I was starting to wish I was a chicken in that amazing yard after a little time in the 108 temperature on the practice field.
I was greeted by Coach Dixon. I have known Jeb for a while now. I met him when he was coaching in Jonesboro. He is one of those people that makes you smile when you visit with him. He always has something funny to tell you. I noticed there is a bit less of Jeb. I gave him a new shirt that I hope fits him better than his old Six-man ones. He told me it may not fit just yet but he would take it.
Today he was wearing one of those clear face shields. He told me he knew he looked ridiculous, but that he needed the kids to see his face. I totally get that. I’ve had the teacher face. I can’t imagine teaching or coaching without the kids seeing that face when you need to play it.
I met the assistant coaches and practice began. There wasn’t much of a breeze and the 108 temp was physically crushing. You could tell the boys had acclimated to the heat. They did a couple of passing drills, ran some plays, worked on tackling etc. Not sure why but every time I see the tackle donut roll out, I can’t help but chuckle. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can literally google “tackle donut” and see one. Coaches roll them and players tackle them as they roll. Lots of coaches use them. It’s fun to see the kids jump and lift them etc. I could quickly tell these boys had perfected the donut. I was extremely impressed. I think I got some great photos of their talent.
During a quick water break, Coach Dixon pointed out an area next to the football field where new weight room facilities are going to be built. He told me how excited everyone is and how the future is looking bright. I noticed the number of players this year was way more than the numbers I saw last year. They have a great returning assistant coach and a new one that just finished his college football career at ASU. The boys were working together and doing well with their drills and plays. It definitely looks like the future has good potential.
I realized that the heat was doing a number on me and I’d better get out of it. I said my goodbyes and told Coach Dixon I better get off his field before he had to deal with a passed out woman. He chuckled and told me he didn’t blame me one bit for getting out of it. I was extremely glad I had parked in the shade. I said my goodbyes to the happy chickens and got back in the air conditioning.
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
My morning started off like a royal disaster. I left on time, meaning I had a 15 minute cushion so I should arrive early. The GPS powers begged to differ. I realized pretty quick that I was on the wrong road, so I pulled over to take a look. Wouldn’t you know it, no service. So, I headed back the way I felt was right. Just as my GPS was coming back and I was glancing at it, I see the very nice officer that pulled me over the other day coming over the hill. I glanced at my speed and figured I was probably in for more than a warning. He turned and I disappeared over the hill. I won’t get into how I disappeared because it wasn’t dramatic like the Dukes of Hazzard. I then found the right road and was off.
By this time my time cushion was gone and I was feeling rushed and frustrated. I absolutely despise being late, even if only a few minutes. Once I was on the right path, I started thinking that I hoped nothing else went wrong before I got there. Yep, right at that very moment a bird dove directly into my windshield like a Kamikaze pilot. Luckily, all it took was a swipe of the wipers and a spray of washer fluid. By this time, I was laughing at it all.
I got to the field, and as I was gathering up my equipment I was greeted by Coach Earl in a hefty golf cart. He had seen me drive up and was there to give me a ride to the field. From that point on, my morning was like a luxury vacation. We got to the field, and I immediately noticed the thick lush dark green golf course grass. A ride and now this grass! I was informed the boys only get to practice on the real field on Fridays as a treat. I could see why.
I learned that it has taken at least three years of extremely hard work to earn that beautiful field of grass. They have a special mower, and I was told when it’s freshly mowed it looks like a fairway. It was so lush and thick, I left footprints as I walked. At one point in practice, a bit of the grass was disturbed. Coaches Espinosa and Earl jumped down on the ground and yelled out about the hurt field pounding a chunk back into the ground. It was quite the comedy routine and everyone was laughing including them.
There was one drill they did called “Get the Dummy.” Best drill I’ve seen all year. Everyone was working hard, laughing, and enjoying the cool morning together. At one point, the dummy got hit so hard, it lost its air. Coach Espinosa yelled out to hold up a minute because the dummy had died and needed time to inflate. This, of course, had us all in stitches.
During a water break, I had a brief visit with Coach Ball who was enjoying the day and the kids. I was offered a coke or water at one point during my stay. Like I said before, luxury vacation. The weather was cool, there was an excellent breeze that had the flag pole chains clinking. There was good music for a bit but apparently, the power gave out. In my high school days, the songs would get slower as the batteries ran down. Prince would slowly become more like Willie Nelson. Today, however, was the day the music died.
At one point, the coaches pulled out some jerseys for the boys to wear so they could split up. Coach Espinosa told the boys to be careful with them because they were vintage from some past year. One of the boys questioned him about it and then he told them they were really old jerseys from the junior high. One of the lineman was having a hard time getting his on. One player stepped in to help out. It ended up taking a couple of coaches and some strategic moves. This bunch of kids and coaches really do enjoy spending time together. They all were laughing, and the lineman was, too. Eventually the jersey was on, and it didn’t even look too small.
Not only did the boys have a fantastic time with their coaches, they were working hard and looking good. Tackling was on point and coaches were jumping in quickly to correct some little things. Definitely got some defense in Aquilla. Sometimes you hear the negatives about football and I know it can be dangerous, but I can tell you extreme amounts of practice time go into teaching safety and self protection. Learning to tackle safely takes time and good guidance from coaches and all three of these coaches were on it.
I didn’t stay to see the offense show its full talent, but I’m betting it was as good as the defense. It should be a good year for Aquilla.
When I said my goodbyes I was escorted away on the hefty golf cart. My luxury mini vacation had ended. I drove away from Aquilla with a smile and still chuckling a bit.
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
I made it out to Evant today. They are the school with the cannon that fires during games. Only school I know with one. Now you are all wondering about it aren’t you? I’ll just let those of you who haven’t been to an Evant game make plans to go to one to see their cannon. It will be worth the trip especially if you talk to the operators and find out how it all works.
As I was waiting on the field the boys were meandering out of the locker room. Usually I get the odd looks and hear whispers about who I am. I always like to hear who they think I am. You just never know what they think. Today however was a bit different. One after another of the boys spoke to me with a simple hello or how are you? It was extremely nice to be greeted warmly.
They have plenty of kids playing this year. Maybe not enough for a full JV as well but definitely enough for a good team. There were just a few not in pads yet. It has been interesting going to so many practices and seeing some schools with lots of kids not in pads and some with everyone in pads.
Once the coaches hit the field we exchanged greetings and practice began. The boys led off with their stretches. Then some good old passing drills. Which by the way they had a great catch rate. I’ll just say I’d be a bit worried if I was in their district with only a running game. Then on to running some plays. Plays are good practice for me too. It helps me get ready for shooting real games again.
Coach Johnson headed up to the press box and started an amazing playlist. A little Queen, a little country, a little bit of every style there is I think. It was perfect. I caught myself moving to a few. I especially felt the country songs fitting as the field is on the edge of town and at least two roosters kept crowing the entire practice. I bet the kids and coaches don’t even hear them anymore.
It was fun to watch assistant Coach Helms on the field. I have shared the sidelines with his father, also a six-man coach, many times. I was shocked how much their body language on the field is the same. I’m betting if you put some of my photos of the two of them coaching side by side for comparison it would be a match.
I’ve been doing this long enough now to be watching men I used to shoot as players be coaches and referees. That happens faster than you think. Just a few years can make that change. It gives me a good feeling when they know who I am and are excited to see me.
Around 5:00 a man pulled up and came to watch from the shade of the concession stand. If he isn’t a dad I bet he is a big fan. He never disturbed or said anything but he was watching intently. I glanced at him a few times but I don’t think he ever noticed me until I walked by him to leave. As I headed to the car, I spoke to him.
When I went to put my camera up I saw the stack of shirts I have. I only have one size left and after sizing up the coaches I knew they wouldn’t fit any of them. But, I realized the man watching was most likely the perfect size. I grabbed one and walked back and gave it to him. He thanked me and as I walked away I could tell he had unfolded it and saw Six-Man Crazy and the 40 yard line because I heard a very pleased, “Well I be danged!” That made my whole day, and I think it made his.
I headed out and made sure to stop at The Elk Stop. The staff is always friendly and everything is nice and clean. I could have waited until Hamilton to stop and gas up but I’d rather give my dollars to a 1A business. By the way they still take cash! That’s an added bonus right now.
See you on the sidelines!
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