In Texas, high school football is a Friday night religion. How much do you know about your faith?
Up for Grabs Beloved football coach Gordon Wood is the Texas high school football coach with the most wins. Wood’s career, which spanned six decades, included more than 390 wins, nine state championships, and 15 district titles. Many have come close, but no one has beaten his record.
The Naming Game The Conquistador is the mascot of Del Valle High School in El Paso. Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas sports the fearful title, the Friars. Although the quarterbacks have yet to wear kilts, the football players at Highland Park High School in Highland Park are proud to be Scots. No, they’re not the punk rock band of the late eighties and they aren’t screaming for anarchy; but the kids at Van High School in Van are known as the Vandals.
Flash Dance In 1928 Gussie Nell Davis founded the first dancing pep squad, the Flaming Flashes, at Greenville High School in Greenville. The Flaming Flashes were the first twirl-and-dance group in the nation. Davis joined the faculty at Kilgore College in 1939 and formed the famed Kilgore Rangerettes, the first football precision dance-drill team of its kind in the nation.
A Lose-Lose Situation The first UIL state championship game was played in 1920. Houston Heights faced Cleburne; neither team scored. Ouch.
Self-centered In some Texas towns high school football really is the center of the world. The Ratliff Stadium in Odessa bears the proud nickname of the Epicenter of Texas High School Football. Built in 1982, the stadium can hold just over 19,300 screaming football fans on any given Friday night. Hope there are enough hot dogs.
Before They Were Stars Mediocre Texas football players, fear not! Many of today’s most notable non-athletes got their start on the green turf. In 1968 Governor Rick Perry was a quarterback for the Paint Creek Pirates of Paint Creek. From 1976 to 1978, Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) was a quarterback for the Huntsville High Hornets of Huntsville. Before they graced the silver screen, Tommy Lee Jones (St. Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas, 1965) and Patrick Swayze (Waltrip High School, Houston, 1971) spent their Friday nights beneath the lights of packed stadiums. Stone Cold Steve Austin may have learned some of his wrestling moves on the football field as a linebacker for the Edna High School Cowboys of Edna.
The Not-So-Distant Past The Prairie View Interscholastic League was the administrative body for public black high schools in Texas. It was known as the Negro League from 1936 to 1969. The league, which produced such pro-football greats as Bubba Smith (Baltimore Colts 1967—1972, Oakland Raiders 1973—1974, Houston Oilers 1975—1976), his brother Tody Smith (Dallas Cowboys 1971—1972, Houston Oilers 1973—1976, and Buffalo Bills 1976), and Duane Thomas (Dallas Cowboys 1970—1971 and Washington Redskins 1973—1974), was integrated with the UIL in 1967.
Must Be Something in the Water Highland Park High School has made it to the playoffs 43 times, more than any team in any other division, but the Whitesboro High School football team, which has been tossing the pigskin around since 1936, hasn’t ever made a playoff appearance. Oh, well, there’s always next year.
A Walk on the Sidelines If you want to check out the Texas High School basketball or football halls of fame, you’ll need to go to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco.