Bobcat head coach Jason Herring and coach Drew Cox, defensive line coach, by invitation, attended the 19th annual Texas Longhorns High School Football Clinic from March 1 - 3 where high school coaches talk strategy, discuss problems and rub elbows with some of the finest college football coaches in the country. At the helm is University of Texas head coach Mack Brown who sat at Herring’s and Drew’s table for supper.
“We sat there talking about fishing and hunting,” Herring said. “He makes you feel so welcome.”
Each state championship coach was asked questions about their program during training sessions. Herring’s topic was one he’s had plenty of practice discussing - what was the one single thing you changed to win the state championship?
“Let the kids play three quarters,” Herring said. “How ironic that was the first question.”
In the four years Herring has served as head coach before this year’s championship, the title alluded the team. The coach studied game tapes and came to a conclusion. The Bobcats were so far ahead at the half-time during the regular season, he pulled his starters. When the Cats reached the playoffs, they had about half of the playing time of other powerhouse teams.
“I studied a long time and that was the only thing I could come up with,” he said.
As the starters played through the third quarter, the scores soared, as did the criticism. Herring was chastised in the media and he was disheartened.
Herring and Brown shared that common denominator. Brown, who led the Longhorns to national titles, is highly criticized when the team falls short.
“He gave me the best advice,” Herring said. “You can’t win a national title every year.”
Brown’s advice: “Listen to the people that matter and throw the rest of it away.”
“That’s the best advice anybody ever gave me,” Herring said. “Like me, he takes what the media says to heart. Then his wife told him to throw the negative away.”
Brown also said he followed the Bobcats and Herring’s plight.
“He told me he was sorry I had to go through all that,” Herring said. “Yet, if I had one, I had 500 coaches say they saw (the Bobcats) on TV and they are first-class kids that play hard.”
In addition to daily non-stop discussions and training sessions with top coaches, they went to the field and watched the Longhorns execute plays in practice.
“They open everything up to you,” Herring said. “It’s the ultimate open door policy, complete open arms. They fed us, treated us really good - first class treatment. The amount you can learn is immeasurable.”
Cox says they brought back a wealth of knowledge. From conditioning to exercise programs, to tutorials to keep the team eligible to how to stretch, Herring got a hundred ideas from just one program.
“It’s a real good clinic,” said coach Drew Cox, Bobcat defensive line coach. “The Texas coaches made information available to us.”
Both Cox and Herring say they brought back a lot of knowledge.
“All good coaches are products of where they’ve been,” Herring said. You pick up different pieces from different programs you’ve been in - how to motivate is something you learn along the way.”
This year the coaches and Bobcats rode out the perfect storm for a perfect 41 win, no loss season from 7th to 12th grade.
Plus, Herring says, they had some luck. Nobody can predict a wrong official call, a bad bounce of the ball - all the stars had to line up, Herring says.
The icing on the cake was a three-day weekend with the best of the best.
A winning coach of a powerhouse regularly gets offers from bigger schools and championship-hungry towns and Herring is no exception. But he says he’s not interested in leaving.
“I’m so blessed to be in Refugio where we have support from top to bottom,” he says. “To have these kinds of kids and a school board that’s so supportive, a good superintendent.”