“There’s such a razor-thin line between being very good and being the best,” said Jason Herring, Refugio head coach.
The No. 1 ranked Bobcats have made 42 playoff appearances – more than any other 2A team – but the state championship has been elusive.
“I spend every year thinking about what we need to change,” Herring said.
Over the past four seasons as head coach, Herring has studied any and every way known to him to close that razor-thin gap.
“I decided during the summer before the first game that the starters would play three quarters this season,” Herring said. “I’ve tweaked every single thing and that’s the only thing I can come up with — we’ve been playing half the quarters that other championship teams have played.”
In past years, the Bobcats’ dominance over other squads in the district spurred Herring to bench his star players at halftime in order not to embarrass the weaker teams.
This summer, he decided that helping weaker teams by hurting your own no longer added up. By the time the playoffs begin this year, the Cats would have been 20 quarters behind in playing time, had he pulled the key players at the half.
“When you have to play teams like Schulenburg that have played 40 quarters, I’m not even sure 30 quarters are even enough,” he said.
Looking back, he may have let the first squad stay on the field longer.
“The kids wanted to play more last year and they asked me to let them play but I didn’t want to hurt the other kids – the last thing in the world I’d ever want to do is hurt a kid.”
Herring is hopeful the extra game time may be the secret ingredient needed for a championship. By playing the “studs” an extra quarter against much weaker teams, school scoring records started crumbling.
The last two lopsided scores, 91-6 and 82-6 against Freer and Riviera, landed Herring in the line of fire of Internet bloggers who have called him a bully, Satan, and even threatened him behind a cloak of anonymity.
“A bully? I’ve never been called a bully in my life,” he says. “In fact, I’m the polar opposite. Everyone who knows me, knows that.”
And the criticism doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, with even less-talented teams left to play in district.
For a coach who is a genuine people person, and more importantly, a kid person, the undue criticism is blatantly unfair. The worst thing, Herring says, is the attention placed on him.
“I hate attention and I hate the drama created by people who have never seen us play and people who have never darkened this door,” he said.
Even more perplexing is the no-win situation placed on the coach.
“You can’t simulate a game in practice,” he said. “You can’t tell a kid you have to throw a good pass on fourth down or face losing the ball in practice, the pressure’s not there. You always get that second chance.”
So, Herring will shoulder the criticism, however unfounded, for the sake of knowing the team will be prepared for the playoffs.
More importantly, he knows, and the Bobcats know, there’s been no concerted effort to run up the score – it’s just a number. And they will continue to contribute their best because “they’re very special,” Herring says.
“We play as hard as we can play for three quarters and I coach as hard as I can for three quarters,” Herring said. “I’m going to do every single thing within the rules to give our kids a 100 percent chance of being where they need to be when the playoffs begin.”