RECENTLY, there was an email that got my attention because a place where I invested a lot of time, effort and feelings — Jasper — was in second place.
It listed some of Texas best high school football programs that, while consistent winners, have never won a state championship. And, let’s face it, every high school that fields a football team craves to win a state title.
There are five classes for state high school football and two divisions in each class (based on enrollment), making 10 state crowns possible, Class A through 5A. Greg Tepper, who wrote the story, is associate editor of Texas Football, the crown jewel of Dave Campbell’s greatly successful sports publishing empire. The summer edition of the magazine each year details the aspirations, talent and background of every high school for the upcoming fall football season of this most revered sport in Texas.
TEPPER’S STORY dealt with high schools that are consistent winners, measured by state playoff appearances, but have never won a state championship.
Jasper’s 41 appearances without the brass ring garnered second place. The only Texas high school that has suffered more frustration than Jasper is Hondo with 47 forays into the playoffs with no state football crown.
Filling out the top 10 with Hondo and Jasper are Gregory-Portland, Alice, Freer, Rogers, Brenham, Harlingen, Childress and Holliday.
Another measure included in the analysis was all-time wins without a state title, which Hondo also leads with 654. Jasper, with 569 victories, tied for seventh with Brenham in those rankings.
Other top 10 schools are Harlingen, Ballinger, Sherman, Childress, Taylor, Cleburne and McGregor.
FOR THE final 16 years of my newspaper career, I was treated to excellent football in Jasper where I published the Jasper Newsboy.
John Foster Dulles High in Fort Bend County, another school I was privileged to cover, made it to the state finals in 1964 only to be edged 7-6 by Rockwall, after leading 6-0 for much of the game. Dulles lost four early regular season games, including one district game, before finding all the right combinations to win district, cruise through the playoffs and vault into the state finals where they gave a fierce battle to Rockwall before succumbing.
One player from that team played major college football. Ralph Senior, a defensive back, played at the University of Texas. Several others made it with smaller colleges. Obviously, Dulles was an extremely talented high school squad.
Those Dulles accomplishments came when the school district area was still beyond the choking grasp of Houston spillover, growth and urbanization of the once rural, agricultural area. Ralph grew up in a ranching family and I’m sure the chores he had helped his physical conditioning.
Jasper made it to the Class 3A finals in 2004 before being nudged 49-47 by Gilmer. Jasper had the ball and was rapidly driving down the field when the clock caught them and the game ascended into the “what if” category for Bulldog fans, a bittersweet memory. It also put a personal scare into me as my blood pressure went through the roof and caused me to have to sit in the press box for a time after the game and let it go back down to something “feeling” normal before I dared get up and make my way out of the stands to my car.
ONE OF the leaders on that Jasper team was linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, of late with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League after an All-American career at the University of Missouri. On top of his talent and fame, Sean is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Of course, opposing running backs, quarterbacks and receivers probably don’t think Sean is such a nice guy because he can use his 250 pounds to figuratively take their head off.
Watching Texas high school football is a particular pleasure for me, and something I don’t get to do very often any more. But, I still read about it in the newspapers with great relish.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.