PORT LAVACA - Richard Whitaker had some second thoughts about leaving Kingsville to become the athletic director and head football coach at Calhoun before the 2005 season.
Whitaker had begun to turn the Kingsville program around and the Sandcrabs hadn't been to the playoffs since 1961.
But Whitaker wanted to become an athletic director and was impressed by members of the search committee at Calhoun.
Whitaker decided to take the leap after his wife, Kellie, was told by then superintendent Larry Nichols that the district knew even Bill Parcells wouldn't win in the upcoming season.
"I don't know if that was supposed to sell her on bringing me here," Whitaker said. "It at least let me know that the administration knew it was a tough job. I put more pressure on myself than they put on me."
The Sandcrabs went 2-8 in Whitaker's first year, but they ended the playoff drought the next season and started a string of 10 consecutive postseason appearances.
"That first group of kids really sold us," Whitaker said. "We were getting our brains beat in. We never had a kid miss. We never had a kid miss on Saturdays. They were excited. That was a selling point to the staff and myself that we had a chance because we had kids who really wanted to get things turned around."
The turnaround reached a milestone Friday when Calhoun opened the season with a 19-7 win over Stafford, giving Whitaker his 100th win at the school.
"When you go 2-8 your first year, 100 at that school is kind of a milestone that's not even in your mind," Whitaker said. "We've just been so blessed here to have really good kids. I've been blessed that my coaching staff has pretty much stayed intact. My coordinators have been with me the whole time. We've had a very supportive community and a very supportive administration and you need all those things to have continued success."
Whitaker has built a 100-45 record in his 13th season at Calhoun.
The achievement becomes even more impressive considering the Sandcrabs went 29-98-2 and never had a winning season in the 13 years before Whitaker was hired.
"He's a great coach," said senior quarterback Marshall Batts. "He teaches us a lot. We're able to be coached by him. A lot of coaches you learn from them but you never take them too serious. Some coaches are like that. But coach Whit is the exact opposite of that. You're always paying attention to him, he always captures your attention and he's always able to coach you."
Whitaker admits the move from Region III to Region IV in 2006 benefited the Sandcrabs, and he also gives credit to the option offense he learned as an assistant under Bill Smith, who won a state championship at Aldine.
"There's a lot of ways to get things accomplished," Whitaker said. "This is what I know. I was fortunate to work for Bill Smith at a very young age. If I was asked to do anything else, I couldn't help the kids. I do believe this offense has been a great fit for our kids. I think it's a tough offense to prepare for because you don't see it as often."
Batts agrees the option is a perfect fit for Calhoun.
"Of course, the way our offense is set up," he said. "It's an offense based on you don't have to have the tall guys and the really fast guys. You play with the strong guys and the guys really willing to work."
Whitaker is disappointed the milestone didn't come last season when Calhoun lost its last five games and had its playoff streak come to an end.
"Last year, was kind of a weird year because we just couldn't hang on to the football," he said. "The other night we had one fumble and I'm hoping this year is going to be a lot better year. I tell our kids all the time, if we don't turn it over, we've got a chance."
Whitaker, 51, has coached for 30 years and has an overall record of 132-74 in his 19 years as a head coach.
But Whitaker has no plans to rest on his laurels and has already turned his attention to Friday night's game at El Campo.
"Thirty years is a long time to do this," he said. "But I still love it and I still enjoy it. I've probably changed a whole lot over the years about the way I approach things. Maybe I'm more intense or less intense, I don't know. It's still fun and as long as it's fun and I can have some success, hopefully, I'll do this for a little while longer."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or email@example.com.