Southlake Carroll Football in for some lean years
At the beginning of last season, I wrote than Southlake Carroll would not win the 2007 State Championship. I didn’t feel the need to go back over it because it should have been obvious to everyone that the Dragons wouldn’t win it all this year.
I can say the Dragons proved me wrong…in a way. I had them losing in the first round, but they were able to make it all the way to round two. On the broadcast then announcers tried to blame Hurricane Ike and make excuses. To his credit, coach Hal Wasson would have none of that.
Next year, there very few varsity players will have ties to the championship years. The players and staff will have to forge their own identity and can’t rely on the Dragon mystique to win football games.
I’m going to run my Southlake Carroll will not win the state title post again for two reasons. Number one, because it’s one of my favorite posts that I’ve ever written. And number two, this post isn’t about Southlake, it’s about Texas High School Football and how important coaching is.
Take my native Paris for instance. In the 1980’s, the Paris Wildcats were one of the more dominant football teams in the state. The football team won multiple district titles and a State Championship in 1988.
After the 1990 season, coach Allen Wilson left Paris for Tyler’s John Tyler High, and the Wildcats have never been the same. The team had not won another district title until this year and has not one a playoff game in 20 years. Anyway, on with the Southlake post.
I am a longtime observer of Texas Schoolboy football. Some of my earliest memories as a fan are of running outside barefoot on Saturday mornings to retrieve the newspaper in order to check the statewide scores. I was 7 years old at the time.
Over the years, I’ve tracked a number of football dynasties. Any discussion of Texas High School dynasties without mentioning the great Southlake-Carroll.
The Dragons actually started their historic run started in 1988 when they won the 3A state title. The team has won 7 championships in all, two more 3A titles (1992, 1993) and 4 of 5 years since moving to Class 5A (2002, 2004, 2005,2006). During those 5 seasons, Carroll accrued 79 wins and only 1 loss.
The reason for all the success: coaches Todd Dodge and Bob Ledbetter. Ledbetter led the Dragons to statewide prominence with the first 3 titles. Dodge led Carroll to national prominence with the school’s most recent success. In between the two, Tom Rapp compiled a 29-17-1 as the Southlake coach without a state finals appearance.
So in a nutshell, it’s all about the coaching in high school football, and Carroll has had some great ones. Now many make the argument that one high school in such a large school district is a major reason for the team’s success. I accept that, but you still have to play the games. Plano experienced some of those growing pains when Plano West came on the scene.
Hal Wasson has a tough job, though his team from last year returns 8 offensive starters. Those 8 starters include Dodge’s son Riley at quarterback and Tre Newton at tailback. But none of that guarantees success in Texas.
The man standing on the sideline with the headset has to have confidence from everyone in the stadium. From the quarterback to the punter, the special teams coach to the trainer, the popcorn vendor to the pep squad sponsor.
Todd Dodge could have told the Southlake faithful they were playing the season with 10 players on the field and they would have bought it. Not only that, but he obviously saw things in a way that no one else (in high school OU would say) did. Wasson will probably call the same plays, but not in the exact same sequence and not in the exact same situation.
Here are some programs who dominated Texas Football but have not been able sustain it.
Since 1965 Permian has won 6 state title and been runners-up 5 more times. Coach Gene Mayfield led Mojo to 3 championship games, winning one in ‘65. Between 1973 & 1985, John Wilkins led Permian to 6 finals appearances. They won state titles in 1980 & 1984. Permian won district titles every year in the ’80’s with the exception of 1986 OP won two titles after Wilkins but the last three coaches have won 0 . Last year the Panthers made their first playoff appearance since 1998.
West Orange-Stark was synonymous with success in the 1980’s. The Mustangs won state 4A titles in 1986 and 1987 and lost in the state finals to Paris at Kyle Field in 1988. They also made a state finals appearance in 2000.
Overall, Stark made the state playoffs 14 times from 1985-2000. Coach Dan Hooks led WOS through the glory years, and has compiled 250-62-2 record in 27 seasons there.
In the 1990’s the words John Tyler meant that somebody was in for a game of smash mouth football. Coach Allen Wilson left Paris 2 seasons after winning state in Class 4A and took 4 cutback, 7 cutback, and scat to Tyler.
Wilson brought a new attitude to the Lions, and created Cujo, John Tyler’s playoff persona. John Tyler won a state title in 1994 and made a finals appearance in 2000.
Wilson left J.T. after 11 seasons in 2002 to become head coach at Dallas Carter. The Lions have not made it past the area round of the playoffs since his departure.
Coach Briles led the Yellow Jackets to all four of their state titles (1993, 1994, 1998, 1999) before heading to the University of Houston. Stephenville has continued to make the playoffs (except in ‘03) but has not seen the level of success that they did under Briles.
There have been similar scenarios at Plano, Paris, Daingerfield, and others, but the exception in my book is Celina (though some may argue LaMarque). Celina compiled 2A state titles in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 under legendary coach G.A. Moore. Moore left Celina for Pilot Point in ‘01, but the Bobcats kept rolling under assistant Butch Ford. They captured another state title in ‘05 and are now a 3A power.
Had one of Dodge’s assistants taken the job, I would probably give them the nod to win it all this year. But Todd loaded up the fellas and took them out to Denton to try to revolutionize the college game. Wasson’s staff has their work cut out whether it’s this year or next. Many a high school program has lost their glory, never to return after changing coaches.
If Carroll does re…I mean 4-peat, it would not surprise me, but I’m not counting on it. And I have made a promise to go to my first Southlake game this year. Do you have to wear a sports coat?