In 1993 when I became head football coach at Comanche High School, Ballinger was in our district. Their head coach at the time was a man I consider a very good friend; Glen Jones. For three years we battled head to head in some really close and hard fought football games. And while they were always close the Bearcats prevailed in all three of those games. But the games were not the only part of the story for that series.
Glen went on to become the head coach at Brady and a couple of years or so ago he and I sat down at basketball game and recalled the bad weather that played such a big role in those games.
In 1993 we were playing Ballinger in early November and as usual a playoff spot was on the line. I got up the Friday morning that we were to travel to Ballinger and walked out my door headed for school. Now I went to college at West Texas State University in Canyon and have walked out my door early in the morning headed for class and thought I would freeze to death before I got there. But I can honestly say that I never was colder than I was that morning we were to play the Bearcats.
As the day progressed it only got colder. During our athletic period I told the players that once they got into warm-up prior to the game that the adrenaline and excitement of the game would make them forget the cold and they would be comfortable. I didn’t know it at the time but I lied to those kids.
Of course by the time we took the field the sun had set and the night only made it colder. Plus that west Texas breeze was beginning to pick up. When we went back into the locker room after the pre-game warm every tooth in that room was chattering. Tyler Dudley looked up at me and in a very serious tone asked when he could expect the adrenaline to warm him up.
I’m not sure those kids ever warmed up but at least they played as if they had finally gotten somewhat comfortable. Ballinger won that game by a touchdown and that touchdown was scored due to a crucial fourth down that looked to be short by Ballinger. During the measurement Randy Buchanan and Carter Damron got their temperature up because the chain was wrapped around one of the poles making it shorter giving the Bearcats a first down. The men running the chain said the chain stayed like that because it had been broken but had been adjusted. When we had the ball the next time, I noticed that the chain was no longer wrapped around the pole. When I questioned the chain crew they informed me that they had repaired the chain.
The following year we were hosting the Bearcats in yet another game with playoff implications. They featured a big hard-running tailback named Diego Reyes and we had an offense of very talented linemen led by Marcus Barron. Their relentless ground game was paying off as the top ten ranked district foe ran up a 21-0 lead by halftime.
At intermission we could see that the rain, that was promised by all the weather outlets, was moving into Indian Stadium. As the second half began we started to shut down Reyes and the running game. Now we had begun to move the ball but a strong hard blowing straight wind came in from the north and mixed with a driving rain forced the officials to send both teams to the locker rooms.
The rain continued to fall and the wind continued to blow as we went back onto the field. The lightning had, at least, cleared out but the game was still being marred by almost unplayable conditions. Both teams then struggled to maintain any kind of momentum with the ball in their possession. About the start of the fourth quarter we had the ball near our on forty yard line when the officials sent us in once again.
This time Coach Jones and a couple of his coaches came down to our office and we met with the officials. We decided to wait it out again. Finally the wind slowed just a little but the rain never let up. By the time we got back on the field the wind had once again began to blow just a little harder.
We still had the football near our on forty and after two running plays failed to gain yardage Neil Dudley dropped back on a play action pass on third down and hit tight end John Ferrell with one of the most perfect passes I have ever seen. He caught it at the two yard line where he took it in for the score. John was well defended and I still don’t know how he could even see the ball much less catch it. I still don’t know how Neil gripped the ball and threw it much less putting it where only the receiver could catch it. That ended the scoring for that contest.
In 1995 we traveled back to Ballinger once again in a game that would determine a playoff spot. Once again the Bearcats were in the state’s top ten rankings. As we unloaded off the bus a stout west Texas wind hit us in the face. During pre-game we could tell that the wind, even though very strong, was still manageable. Ballinger had a very potent high scoring offense so when we won the toss we took the ball to keep it out of their hands. To their delight they got the wind.
On the opening play after an easy touchback set us up at the 20 yard line, Brian Bruton took a pitch from Neil Dudley, skirted right end, and went 80 yards as we had the lead. Ballinger came back on their opening possession and scored. We continued to trade scores and with about a minute left in the first quarter an eerie calm came over Bearcat Stadium. The wind had died.
Just as we changed ends of the field for the beginning of the new quarter and us facing the north, the wind changed direction and was now blowing in our faces. Once again Ballinger had the wind. It made little difference as both teams continued to put on an offensive show. With the score tied near half-time Ballinger was on our 35 yard line with only seconds remaining. They had a decent kicker but on a still night he could not reach the uprights from that distance. The problem for the Indians was that it was not a still night and he had that friendly wind at his back. They snapped the ball and that kicker got it up and the wind did the rest as it split the goal posts for a three point Bearcat lead.
Beginning the second half Ballinger had the choice and, believing they might need another field goal, took the wind and gave us the ball. Both teams continued to prove unstoppable for the opposing defense and in the end Ballinger once again won. It was a 36-30 victory and even though that one field goal was not the difference it had given the home team their first lead of the night and a shot of confidence.
I have never coached in any other game where one team had the wind, and a wind strong enough to be a factor, for three quarters of the game.
Back in early March I was the starter for Redskin Relays here in Comanche. The meet had begun in a chilly afternoon and had made it’s way into a cold evening. Add to that the fact that a strengthening downpour had begun along with an angry north wind and we had the perfect track meet storm. As the teams were lining up to run the 400 meter relay, the start clerk called out for Ballinger.
I just laughed at the thought of Ballinger and the weather. I only wish my good friend Glen Jones could have been there with me to enjoy the rest of that dreary evening.