Special video of Refugio's magical season
By BY CLAY WHITTINGTON - CWHITTINGTON@VICAD.COM
Feb. 4, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated Feb. 20, 2012 at 8:21 p.m.
The varsity players won it, but Refugio earned it.
In mid-December, the Refugio Bobcats capped off a perfect season by winning the Class 2A, Division II state championship, defeating previously unbeaten Cisco 36-35 in the title game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
It was the ultimate culmination for the small-town team, the school and the city.
While the varsity players received the recognition, every person associated with the team celebrated, and rightfully so.
After all, it took a collective effort to make the program a success.
From district administrators and teachers to coaches and players, everyone was focused on a singular goal.
And the result was flawless.
On top of winning the school's first state football title in 29 years, Refugio accomplished something equally impressive. As a program, the Bobcats never lost a game during the 2011 season.
Between the junior high and high school teams, Refugio posted an unblemished 41-0 record, making the varsity's championship run just one of the reasons head coach Jason Herring cherishes last season's campaign.
"I had 41 stones put in the top of our ring, one for each win," the coach said. "That's how much it means to me.
"Even though those little seventh-graders didn't get a ring, they are represented on that ring. Every win they had is represented."
Same goes for the eighth-grade, junior varsity and varsity teams, with no victory being more important than another.
The remarkable feat was not easy, though.
Refugio does not have a separate middle school football coaching staff. The same eight men who oversee the varsity team also coach the school district's three other teams, creating a level of familiarity and consistency that Herring believes is responsible for producing the perfect season.
"It takes eight committed bodies," Herring said. "The days are long. We start at 6:30 in the morning, and we don't get home until 6:30 or 7:30 at night. And it is solid all day long.
"There is no question, it is hard, and it takes a special kind of coach."
The dedication extends to all sports, both girls and boys, and would not be possible without the support of all parties involved.
"You've got to have a very committed school district," Herring said. "You've got to have a very committed superintendent, a very committed school board, very committed high school counselors. Everybody has to be on the same page, and that is what makes Refugio special.
"If the principal isn't on board, then he won't set the schedule up so those coaches can be at every single athletic period. It's got to be a level of consistency from top to bottom, and if anywhere in there there is a break, then you are not going to be as good as you should be."
Nobody can argue with the results.
The seventh- and eighth-grade teams each went 8-0 in 2011, while the junior varsity squad was 10-0 and the varsity posted a 15-0 record.
The approach of having the same coaches foster the growth of players at each level should continue to pay dividends in upcoming seasons.
"To me, the junior high and JV programs are the lifeblood of your program," Herring said. "That is your future.
"We've got varsity coaches not only working with them and coaching them, but going to their games and calling the plays. That is invaluable. That is a huge advantage."
After winning the state championship, sophomore quarterback Travis Quintanilla was asked how he was able to stay poised in such a high-pressure atmosphere.
His response was simple: "I was rarely nervous in the state game. It was just go out there and throw and catch."
The composure was a result of running the same exact plays since the seventh grade.
The only downside to the unprecedented season is it will be awfully hard to top, but that will not prevent the teams from trying.
In the meantime, Refugio, as a whole, will savor the accomplishments - all 41 of them.
"We won," Herring said of the school district. "It was a united front all the way across. (If it wasn't), there is no way we would have gone 41-0 and won it all. There is no way.
"There are so many intricacies of even being allowed to run a program that way. We won the state championship. Everyone involved in Refugio ISD, we won the state championship."