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Refugio fans heat up over chance at state championship game

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 8, 2011 at 6:08 a.m.

Painted windows at the Refugio Fire Department show the town's spirit on Thursday. Refugio High School on Friday plays Lexington in the Texas high school football Class 2A, Division II semifinals in San Antonio. The entire writing on the door reads: "Bobcats: The Only Fire We Can't Put Out!"

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Refugio Bobcats vs. Lexington EaglesClass 2A, Division II Semifinal

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday,

WHERE: Heroes Stadium, San Antonio

TICKETS: $7 adults, $5 students at Refugio ISD Business Office until noon. $8 at the gate.

REFUGIO - The Refugio Round Table Coffee Club fires up when the talk turns to the beloved Bobcats.

Just about every morning at 9 for the past 30 years, a group of men meet at the Dairy Queen on North Alamo Street, pour a cup of hot coffee and gather around their favorite round table to discuss the football happenings of the day.

"You know the manager brought this table in just for us, right?" said Ronnie Henning, a second-generation Round Table club member.

"We solve all the world's problems at this table," 76-year-old George Nesloney added.

"We mostly talk about football. If we don't, we read the obituaries and find out who died from bad plays," Johnny Murphy, 77, said, laughing.

Murphy was a former Refugio running back in 1949-51, lettering all four years.

"I still have three of my four letterman jackets. I'm not sure what happened to the fourth one," he said. "I was a freshman when we were undefeated. I was the fastest boy on the team for two years."

And fellow Round Table member Don White, 86, was a quarterback for Bloomington High School, he said.

"We played Refugio, and we probably lost every game to them," White, a converted Refugio fan, recalled.

But Vic Walzel, 77, may be the most enthusiastic Bobcat fan at the round table, perhaps in the whole of Refugio. And with the team heading to the Class 2A, Division II semifinal game Friday at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio, no one is more excited than Walzel.

"There's something about high school football. The kids are out there because they want to be, not because they can get anything out of it," he said. "I'd rather watch Refugio play than any college or professional team."

Since relocating to Refugio in 1972, Walzel has been a loyal fan, attending about 500 Refugio home and away games.

"My kids were going to school here, so we started going to the games. I've been to every game since, I think," Walzel said.

In almost 40 years of supporting the team, knee and back surgery have been Walzel's only excuses for game absences.

"It's got to be something bad for me to miss a game. And I've never missed a playoff game," he said. "I try to make sure we don't schedule anything during football season."

Every Friday night, Walzel said, he and fellow Round Table member Jim Shepherd, 84, drive to Bobcat Stadium and set up in their usual spot on the 50-yard line in front of the press box.

"Anyone who knows me, knows where they can find me on Friday nights," Walzel said.

Rooting for a top-ranked Class 2A team with a record-setting offense, Walzel said he's got more than enough incentive to continue supporting the orange and black.

"They've had a tremendous run ever since I've been here," he said. "There was just one year I can remember that wasn't great. But most years they've been 8-2 or better."

In Walzel's high school years, he played football on a small, six-man team. But the retiree's high school football experience was somewhat short-lived.

"I was 5-foot-6 and weighed over 200 pounds. They weren't looking for fat, slow boys on a six-man team," Walzel laughed.

But he's remained an avid football fan since boyhood, and a loyal Bobcat since the '70s.

This weekend in San Antonio, Walzel will join his Round Table friends in San Antonio as they cheer and hope and pray for a victory against Lexington.

"This year, they're a pretty doggone good team. I'm optimistic they can win. They've got a strong offense and a good defense," Walzel said. "They're all pretty doggone special."

Fellow Round Table members agree, they too, are thrilled to see the Bobcats play in the semifinals.

Come Friday, a mass exodus of Refugio fans to San Antonio is certain.

"There won't be anybody in this town starting Thursday," Henning said. "The whole town will be going to that game."

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