In Texas, High School Football Is King

ByABC News
November 25, 2003, 4:17 PM

Dec. 1 -- In small towns and big cities alike, high school football is something like a religion in Texas.

"If you grow up in Texas as a kid like I did, it's preached in your household around the table from the time you know what's going on," said high school coach Bob Shipley, who is becoming something of a local legend in Burnet, a small town in the central Texas hill country.

Shipley coached the Burnet Bulldogs to an undefeated season last year, then took the team to the state championship for their division, 3-A. (High school football in Texas is divided into divisions by the size of the schools and each division has its own state championship). The Bulldogs lost the championship to a team from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but this year they were undefeated again going into the long round of playoffs that end in the middle of December.

"It's ingrained in our kids," Shipley said. "When people read the obituary column of the local paper to see if a season ticket holder has passed away, you know you're talking about serious football."

Spirit of Texas Hill Country

The Texas Sports Hall of Fame has a division dedicated to high school football. This year it's honoring the man considered to be the sport's No. 1 fan, 71-year-old Bennie Cotton of Orangefield, a small town in southeast Texas. Cotton has driven throughout the state since 1960 to attend more than 2,000 high school games, according to estimates.

"You go to those small towns and everything revolves around the high school football team," Cotton told Bob West, the sports editor of a local newspaper, the Port Arthur News.

"To those people, football is NOT the Dallas Cowboys," Cotton continued. "Football is the school in the town where they live. They close down the towns for a high school football game."