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Football is more than a game in Refugio

Dec. 14, 2011 at 6:14 a.m.
Updated Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:15 a.m.

The Refugio Bobcats take the field during pre-game ceremonies against Lexington last week.

The Refugio Bobcats take the field during pre-game ceremonies against Lexington last week.

Lynx Hawthorne has played football in Refugio for one season and Draigon Silvas has been around it for most of his life.

But they both know how important the game is to the community, which to many travelers serves as a stopping point on the way to the Rio Grande Valley.

Anyone traveling south on U.S. Highway 77 need only look to their right to see Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium, but the impetus that has made Refugio the winningest Class 2A program in the state has been ingrained in the culture.

"It all begins at the bloodlines of this town and the support," Hawthorne said. "During the season, the Pee Wee football and how many kids come out. I went to some games and they get after people. They beat them 48-0 and that's where it starts. You've got kids who want to be a Refugio Bobcat that bad and they probably even dream about."

Silvas had those dreams growing up and hearing stories from his father, Manuel, and uncle Willie Mack Garza, who both played in the 1987 Class 2A state championship game.

"Ever since I started football when I was 10, that's all I heard about was football," Draigon Silvas said. "I always wanted to be a Bobcat since I was little. Football is not just getting out there and playing the game. It's like life or death out there. It's something really special to me when we get out there and play like we played this past week."

Refugio thrashed Lexington 63-33 in the Class 2A, Division II semifinals and advanced to the state final against Cisco on Friday at noon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Refugio will make its first appearance in the state final since losing to Lorena 8-7 in 1987.

The Bobcats will be seeking their first state title since 1982, when they beat Littlefield 22-21 in the state final. Refugio was a co-champion in 1970 when it tied Iowa Park 7-7 in the state final.

"Football means so much to this town, people just don't understand," said Refugio coach Jason Herring, who won a state championship at Sonora. "It's everything to this town. I know people say it's that way in all the other towns. No, it's not. Not like it is here. It's everything.

"Where else in 2A football do you have 11,000 people show up in Victoria to watch a game. That speaks volumes of what it means to this town, this community, when we only have 2,800 people in our town."

Kent Harris was the starting quarterback on the 1982 state championship team.

He transferred to Refugio from Gregory-Portland before his senior year when his father, George, joined Bobby Kelly's coaching staff.

"It was a completely different from what I experienced at Gregory-Portland," Harris said. "Bobby Kelly made the game a lot of fun. We were disciplined, but he did not coach out of fear or intimidation. As a result, I wasn't scared to make a mistake."

Harris sees similarities between the 1982 team, which included Ray Hutchinson and James Lott, who played at Texas, David Lewis, who played at TCU, and Eugene Whitmire, who played at Texas A&I, and this year's team.

"This is the first team I've seen in our league when it comes to speed," Harris said. "They have the ability to break away from anywhere on the field."

Silvas displayed the Bobcats' breakaway ability on a 92-yard touchdown run in the semifinal game, which reminded fans of the runs Garza used to make before playing in the secondary at Texas.

"Before I even knew what football was I always heard that my dad was a bad man on the field, my uncle was a bad man on the field that did wonderous things," Silvas said. "It was like something that made me want to do things because people would walk up to me and tell me I was never going to be better than my daddy or my uncle.

"And look at me now. Going to the state game and my dad told me at the eighth-grade level he felt like I was better than him his senior year. Those are things I heard that made me want to work harder and be better in life."

Harris attended Texas A&I for a year before transferring to Baylor, where he won a number of track and field titles and honors in the pole vault.

He currently lives in the The Woodlands and is a vice-president for a company that does pharmaceutical analysis.

But he ranks winning a state championship as one of the highlights of his life and plans to be at Cowboys Stadium where he hopes to see Refugio win another title.

"Winning a state championship next to the birth of my kid and my marriage is probably my No. 1 accomplishment," Harris said. "It takes every element - luck, guts, skill and factors within and without your control. You have play through all that. That's how difficult it is to accomplish."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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