The Rigdon family just keeps winning on six-man football fields across Texas, and some people will never like that—mostly because of its nomadic gridiron history and the outspoken personality of its patriarch.

Not that Jamie Rigdon, currently on the coaching staff at Benjamin High and the primary target of the criticism, cares.

“I have a wife and seven kids,” the fifty-year-old bear of a man told Texas Monthly recently. “I don’t have to please anybody except that woman.”

Rigdon’s boss at Benjamin, head coach Nathan Hayes, conceded that his defensive coordinator is “a different cat.”

When Benjamin tries to repeat as Division II state champions on Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, much of the attention will be focused on the Mustangs’ junior spread back, Grayson Rigdon. He’s the youngest of Jamie and Stacey Rigdon’s six sons, five of whom have played six-man football. (The seventh sibling, Sharilynn, is a sophomore on the Lady ’Stangs basketball team.)

Grayson will be playing for his third state title in three years; his career won-lost record is 44–0. There’s a good chance the five-foot-nine, 185-pounder with curly blond hair will later claim his third straight player-of-the-year award. As spread back, he’s both the primary runner and passer in six-man’s wide-open offense.

But his impressive three-year run began as a freshman not in Benjamin, about halfway between Lubbock and Dallas in Knox County, but 135 miles southeast, at Strawn High School, where his father held a similar coaching position. The Rigdons left when Jamie was named head coach at Benjamin in 2022, even though the coach he was replacing, Shannon Waters, had just gone 10–1 and won the program’s first district title since 1978.

Jamie said many Benjamin residents assumed—and maybe still think—that he’d pushed out his predecessor. “You have to be totally ignorant—and I want to make sure I stress ignorant—to dislike somebody that you’ve never met because a coach that you liked was fired,” Jamie said.

He then nodded across his office toward Grayson, whose attention was focused on a laptop, and added: “I’ll just say it: If he sucked, nobody would care.”

The locals were again confused months after Rigdon’s hiring, before the 2022 season began, when he stepped down as head coach to become defensive coordinator, with Hayes brought in. Rigdon said he learned soon after taking the head coach job that he needed to decrease his level of stress to improve his health. 

“He offered to step down,” said Hayes, who was eager to stay in six-man coaching after his previous school, Water Valley, was going to eleven-man. “It was a done deal.”

If the Mustangs win their battle of unbeatens against Oglesby this week in Arlington, the Rigdons will add two more individual championship medals to increase their total to ten, all in the last five years.

Having a star Rigdon leave a six-man program with time left in his high school career had happened before.

Matthew Rigdon was the six-man player of the year as a junior in 2019, when he led Richland Springs to the Division II championship. Griffin Rigdon, a sophomore at the time, was also in the starting backfield.

Jamie, originally from Georgia, moved to Texas from Oklahoma in 2009 as head coach of the six-man team at Samnorwood High. He had been hired as an assistant football coach at Richland Springs in 2018, when Thomas Tipton took over after longtime head coach Jerry Burkhart—who won eight state titles at the school to that point—moved on to try eleven-man coaching. Tipton was fired following a two-loss season, and Jamie was named head coach early in 2019 amid rumors that Burkhart, whose eleven-man season at Stanton High didn’t go well, wanted to return.

Jamie said he was assured that wouldn’t happen. Until it did.

“All of a sudden,” he said, “they call me and say, ‘Hey, you’re demoted.’ ‘For what?’ ‘Well, we don’t have to tell you.’ ”

Jamie had no intention of staying at Richland Springs beyond that 2019 season despite winning a championship. He became offensive coordinator at an eleven-man school, Class 2A Mount Enterprise in East Texas. But the coach who’d hired Rigdon left before the season began, the new head coach installed a different offense, and Jamie left before the season began for 2A Carlisle High in the nearby town of Price.

Grayson was an eighth-grader that year, excelling at eleven-man ball. Jamie said Carlisle coach Rocky Baker said of the youngest Rigdon football player: “He’s going to be special. I promise you.”

Griffin played for Carlisle High but, according to his father, wanted to return to six-man for his senior season. Jamie accepted an offer to join the staff at Strawn. The Greyhounds, with Griffin and freshman Grayson joining the team, rolled to the state championship with Grayson named the state’s six-man player of the year. Along the way, they defeated Richland Springs 100–54 in the semifinals. The game ended with about four minutes left to play, thanks to the mercy rule in six-man football, which pulls the plug once a team leads by 45 or more points in the second half.

“Now, that was satisfying,” Jamie said.

But that was the Rigdons’ only season at the Palo Pinto County school.

The town of Benjamin contains an estimated 220 residents, up from the 196 cited on the road signs at each end of town. The high school enrollment is 45; there are 6 students in this year’s senior class.

With the Rigdons joining the Mustangs in 2022, Benjamin High shut out six opponents, two in the playoffs, to reach the championship game for the first time. They 45’ed Loraine in the final 68–20.

Grayson repeated as state player of the year at his second high school. After the game, Jamie was interviewed by the Wichita Falls Times Record News and said, “I am a controversial person. . . . I’m an asshole.”

Reminded of the quote when meeting with Texas Monthly, Jamie said: “Am I an asshole? Yes I am. But not to everybody. Not to the kids. Every one of the kids that walk in here right now—my class—they give me high five.”

Benjamin’s boys’ basketball season for 2022–23 was almost as good as the football team’s, earning the program’s first trip to the Class 1A final four. With a heavy Rigdon flavor: Grayson played guard. Oldest brother Wesley was the head coach, assisted by brother Matthew and Jamie.

There was more controversy after the season despite the team’s success. The school district investigated the basketball program for misuse of a school credit card. Wesley and Matthew left for coaching jobs in other districts, and the inquiry was completed and eventually dropped.

Now, here’s Benjamin football and here are the Rigdons, one game away from another championship. The Mustangs have 45’ed three of their four playoff opponents, most recently Klondike in the state semifinals. Grayson ended that game with a serpentine run that covered 67 of the field’s 80 yards and possibly resulted in missed tackles by all six defenders. He pretty much dragged a couple of them toward the goal line over the final 20 yards.

Grayson doesn’t share his father’s appetite for provocation. But in describing the run, he did sound like a boxer who’d toyed with his opponent long enough and was ready to end the fight. “I just didn’t want to go down,” he said. “I wanted to get home. Get home early. I was going to do whatever I needed to do to stay up, end it there.”

It was his sixth touchdown against Klondike. In six-man, one or two players on each team dominate the scoring. For the Mustangs, Grayson shares most of the running and passing duties with the younger of Hayes’s two sons on the team, freshman back Keegan Hayes. Tallon Hayes, a junior, plays quarterback—in six-man, that means he typically feeds the ball to Grayson or Keegan.

“He’s got a winner’s mentality,” Nathan Hayes said of Grayson. “I see the work ethic. He spends a lot of time on the weekends, in the summer, getting better. He knows what it takes to win.”

Grayson said there’s no advantage in having played in and won the previous two Division II championship games going into Wednesday’s final. “You still have to go out there and play,” he said. “Gotta battle for a ring.”

Jamie said he’s felt some anxiety over the chance to win a third consecutive six-man championship: “I’m going to lose twenty pounds this week.” As evidence, he pointed to a nearby trash can that contained most of his lunch—a can of SpaghettiOs.

To win it all, Grayson and the Mustangs will have to defeat Oglesby, a team with its own supremely talented six-man player in junior Kyler Fossett. But it’s possible that many of the Mustangs fans who will make the drive down to Arlington aren’t too concerned. They’re supremely confident in another win, another championship.

After all, weeks ago, with two games still remaining in the postseason’s preliminary rounds, Jamie said one supporter asked him, “What day is the championship game?”