When moving down to Corpus Christi to begin work at the Caller-Times, the first stop I made was at Refugio.
Stepping into the Dairy Queen on North Alamo Street, I was greeted with images of the 2011 state champion Refugio football team. Right away I came to understand Refugio was a town where the high school football team dominated Friday nights.
As I learned more about the Bobcats and their winning tradition, I thought to myself I would never cover this team, surely they were too high profile for “the new guy.” Yet here I stand having followed the Bobcats to AT&T Stadium in Arlington and witnessed them clinch their fifth state championship in school history.
“If people outside of Refugio knew what we put in as a coaching staff, but mostly what we require our kids to put in, they would be blown away at how hard our kids work,” Refugio head coach Jason Herring said post game.
As the dust settles from the Bobcats' 28-7 victory over Post from Wednesday night, it is important to note the expectations the 2019 Bobcats had to overcome time and time again.
Four-year starter Ysidro Mascorro had to live up to his family’s championship legacy at Refugio.
Austin Ochoa faced expectations of being the transfer quarterback to lead the Bobcats back to state.
Jordan Kelley was a ball boy the last time Refugio went to state, now he had to score the points to get the Bobcats there.
But in all of that, there was the expectations Herring and his staff faced. For as successful as Refugio has been under Herring, the state championship was always a menace. Despite having reached the state finals five times under Herring, winning two, Refugio never looked like the dominant team it had been all season and three times suffered devastating loses.
None of that mattered in 2019.
Even with the Bobcats starting the season as the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A Division I by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, they welcomed the challenge.
“I was trying to get the kids to understand don’t blink and miss this chance,” Herring said. “There’s very few chances you’ve got to make a run at a state championship and I knew we had a great team.”
The past two seasons saw the Bobcats hit walls they were unable to overcome. That game reflected a change in Refugio's mentality. They showed a drive to never roll over and die, to always keep fighting.
Even though Refugio rolled through district play, the playoffs were no easy matter. Slow starts plagued Refugio as four times the Bobcats faced a first half deficit. But they always finished.
Whether it was double digits against Shiner or one score against San Augustine, Refugio always made key second half adjustments.
“Halftime butt chewings” became a constant throughout the playoffs as the Bobcats always came out stronger in the second half and found ways to win.
Even in the state final against Post, Refugio trailed after the first quarter before Ochoa put the team on his back and scored four rushing touchdowns to clinch the state title.
“On paper, I’m not sure if we win the eye test,” Herring said. “I’m not sure if somebody could’ve looked at this team and said that’s the 2A state champs. These kids just will themselves to win.”
The 2019 team finishes the season as the first Refugio squad to go 16-0. Even though Herring commends the efforts of his kids with every last breath, this season speaks volumes of his coaches ability to game plan.
At one practice Herring claimed he was going on three hours of sleep for the entire month of November, and loving every second of it. That desire to win and commitment to creating new game plans for each and every opponent had the players prepared for whoever they were facing on any given night.
The players took the messages of their coaches and put in the necessary work. The result was gold medals around their necks.
“I’m telling you I got the best football job in the state of Texas,” Herring said. “I don’t care about the A’s, I care about winning, and I don’t think there’s a better job out there as far as winning and support and kids that will give you all they’ve got.”
Peter L. Scamardo II is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and the USA Today Sports Network. Consider supporting local journalism with a digital subscription to the Caller-Times.