Story & Photos By: Sharon Burby
For the first time in 16 years the Jacksboro Tigers are seeing their season continue into the 3rd round of playoffs.
For the 17 graduating seniors, the coaching staff, family, friends, and fans this has been an already memorable year. With the changes in coaching staff there was some uncertainty about this football season, but Coach Brannon Rodgers has stepped in and built a relationship with the boys as if he has known them for the last four years.
In 2001, with Coach Doyle Walker, the Tigers claimed the Conference 2A Division 1 Region 2 District Title. They defeated Callisburg 40-3 to claim the Bi-District title and Jim Ned 21-17 to claim the Regional title, but came up short at Quarterfinals against Van Alstyne 20-47. Since that time, under the leadership of 7 different coaches, the Tigers have won three District titles and one Co-District. They have played in 17 playoff games bringing home five Bi-district trophies, one Regional (2001), and one Area (2017). With UIL changes in 2005, adding the area game, this is the Tigers first Area Trophy in football.
Jacksboro has been in somewhat of a dry spell the last 45 years with the last 3rd round game before 2001 being in 1972. The Tigers saw 4th round play in 1961 and 1969 and made history in 1962 and 1971 bringing home State Titles. Brody Rockey (Class of 2002 & 2001 player) attributes the success to these boys as being well disciplined and coached, “If you can buy into what the coaches are selling, it makes it easy to win.” When I asked senior Hunter Hackley he’s thoughts on how things were going he said, “It’s all due to the hard work we’ve put in over the last few years. It’s a long time coming, especially for this senior class.” “I feel like if we play like we did against Harmony, we’ll have no problems.”
In doing my research for this article, I found some of the players and students from 2001 and 1971 as well as players and fans now and got to talk to them about their thoughts on this season and the next game. Jerry Mower (1971 team) said, “This is a good group of boys and coaches. It’s amazing to see the support from the community and how everybody is behind these guys.” “The attitude around town takes me back to when I played and was standing on the field. There is such an energy and these boys feel it from the fans.” Griffin Smith (2001 team), “I’m really excited for these boys and Jacksboro. It’s a big accomplishment.” Junior Ethan Sanchez, “They throw the ball a lot, but we can stop them.” Junior Brayden Pewitt, “We’re going to kick butt!”
Coach Blake Belcher (current coach and 2001 Offensive Coordinator) shared his thoughts about coaching this team as well as the 2001 team. “It’s exciting to be back at JHS getting to do this again. It has been amazing to see the bond that this group has as a TEAM, especially these seniors. It reminds me of the 2001 group, as they too were a mostly senior team, I can see a lot of similarities in the two. It has really been exciting to see so many of the boys from that team out supporting us now.” “It’s also exciting to see the ‘winning’ spirit we have through out the school. Not just with our football team, but all around. It’s been said that ‘Winning breeds Winning’ and I think we have that right now in Jacksboro.” Casey Swan (Class of 2002) said, “I’m proud of this team and our community for their support and the school spirit that is being shown. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these boys and the accomplishments they are going to make.”
Senior Payton Laake, “They have an explosive offensive and we can’t trade scores with them, but when we have the ball we gotta go score and stop ’em on defense. We’re more physical on both sides than they are, so it should be a good game.” Yancey Laake (Class of 1996 and Payton’s dad), “I am very proud of these boys and their hard work. I think we’re going to go out tonight and take care of business.”
Superintendent Dwain Milam, “I’m as excited as anyone else for these boys and coaches. I’ve felt more like a ‘fan’ the last few weeks than I have a school official. It’s defiantly a great time to be a Tiger as tonight we get to showcase our football boys, cheerleaders, band, and trainers and see all the hard work they’ve put in these last few months pay off.” “We have a lot to be thankful for here in Jacksboro not only with our football season, but our Ag department as well. We have three FFA teams leaving tonight after the game headed to Huntsville for State LDE’s.”
When I sat down with Coach Rodgers to get his thoughts he said, “I’m really excited for these boys and what they’ve done, but ‘This is good, but there’s more out there’.”
There will be a send off for the boys from the High School at 2:00 pm today before the Tigers travel to The Star in Frisco to take on New Diana High School. Kick off is scheduled for 7:00 pm, hope to see everyone there. Let’s purple out The Star and support these boys into the next round! Tiger Fight Never Dies!