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#1 vjackson

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 09:09 AM

According to the Star-Telegram, a lot of Southlake folk are angry about this article: Go figure.


Issue Date: D Magazine SEPT 2007, Posted On: 8/23/2007

Southlake: Welcome to Perfect City, U.S.A.

Paul Kix
Near the back of the Southwest plane bound for Lubbock, a pretty blonde named LeAnn Herchman twists around in her seat to talk to a fat man in the row behind her. Herchman is 18 years old and wears a green No. 11 football jersey that belongs to her boyfriend, Riley Dodge, quarterback of the Southlake Carroll Dragons, the best high school football team in the state of Texas—maybe the best high school football team in the country.

The fat man has gray chest chair that takes advantage of two buttons left undone on his shirt. He wears a black baseball cap with “Permian” written on it. “The other team can be up 21 points and then weird things happen,” he tells Herchman, his accent so twangy it sounds like a poor imitation of a twang. “All a sudden we’ll git on a roll. Then we’ll win. Some people call it luck. We call it Mojo.”

This December afternoon at the neutral ground of Texas Tech’s football stadium, in the third round of the 5A state playoffs, Southlake will face Odessa Permian, the team of six state championships and Friday Night Lights fame. But Odessa’s glory has faded. It is a city that never recovered from the oil bust of the 1980s. Football there serves as a salve for all hardships and warps all sensibilities. It is a city that is in every way different from Southlake—affluent, booming, its football team just another manifestation of its almost otherworldly success. In recent years, aside from its four football championships, Southlake has won state titles in cross country, swimming and diving, baseball, soccer, theater, accounting, and robotics.

Herchman says to the man in the row behind her, “I don’t know what I’d do if we lost.” She really wouldn’t. She tells the man that Southlake hasn’t lost a football game since the 2003 state championship her freshman year.

He asks Herchman about her own plans for college. Poorly hidden in the question is the assumption that Herchman doesn’t have any, that she will spend the rest of her life chasing men with good pocket presence. But he’s got it all wrong.

She tells the man she has her choice of universities to attend but is leaning toward Oklahoma. It has a good volleyball team. She might accept a scholarship.

They’re good at everything in Southlake. If you’ve never been, there’s something a little Pleasantville about it. The streets are cleaner than your streets, the downtown more vibrant, the students more courteous, their parents more prosperous. Everyone is beautiful in Southlake. Everyone smiles in Southlake. Everyone is a Dragon in Southlake. This last fact, especially, is central to understanding the city. The kids and their mothers coming out of Central Market. The retired men who eat barbecue at the Feed Store. The white collar professionals strolling through the shops of Southlake’s Town Square. They are all Dragons.


At the elementary and junior high levels, every school’s mascot is a Dragon. It creates a powerful bond. For the third-grader sitting in the stands of Dragon Stadium on a Friday night, one thought runs through his head: He is a Dragon, just like me. I am a Dragon, just like him. Starting in the seventh grade, every Southlake Carroll football team runs a version of the same complicated pro-style spread offense. It teaches the kids the Dragon Way, gives them something to know for certain when the crush of media and roar of 11,500 fans greet them a few autumns from now.

And the people on that Southwest flight to Lubbock? The majority of them aren’t even parents of football players. They are parents of band kids and cheerleaders, flying 300 miles across the state to watch a game Southlake will win easily, because Southlake doesn’t lose. Across the aisle from Herchman sit the parents of a Southlake drill teamer. They’re recent transplants from out of state and say all this Dragon stuff is overwhelming. The father laughs. “It’s almost like it’s brainwashing,” he says.

The game in Lubbock is a blowout. Herchman’s boyfriend requires a cortisone shot in his sprained ankle in order to take the field in the second half. Still, Riley Dodge passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Fathers of the football players, who wear their sons’ jerseys and roam the sidelines, encourage him with each toss. “Way to suck it up, Riley!” Coach Todd Dodge, Riley’s father, tries to protect his son’s ankle by having him hand off to running back Tre Newton, son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate. Tre goes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Southlake wins 42-6.

After the game, coach Dodge says, “Oh, it is sweet.” He himself was once a celebrated high school quarterback, in Port Arthur, Texas, the first in state history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. But in 1980 his team lost in the state championship game to Odessa Permian. The son avenging the father’s loss—a perfect storybook win of the sort that could only happen for Southlake.

The Dragons would go on to take state easily, on a 48-game winning streak, two shy of the Texas 5A high school mark. Today, Todd Dodge is the head coach at the University of North Texas. He will be joined in 2008 by son Riley, who could have played anywhere (at first he verbally pledged himself to the University of Texas). Riley will be joined at UNT by his girlfriend, Herchman, who decided to play volleyball there. One reason all three chose the school: it’s only 30 minutes from Southlake.

In 1952, to supply water to the growing region of North Texas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a reservoir in northeast Tarrant County and named it Lake Grapevine. This spurred development on the surrounding farmland, and, in 1956, a group of farmers voted to incorporate their 1.62 square miles, if only to keep neighboring Hurst from annexing it. Since they were south of Lake Grapevine, they called their town Southlake. The town’s population stood at just over 100 people. It would be nine years before Southlake had a fire department, 10 years before it hired its first police chief. In 1974, DFW International Airport opened just 13 miles away.

Today 25,000 people live in Southlake (since 1990, the population has grown 257 percent). They are nearly all white (95 percent), though tell that to the predominantly black St. John Baptist Church, which is building an 80,000-square-foot church on Kimball Avenue. They are strivers, these Southlakers, the nouveau riche. The average price of a home is a little more than $400,000 (third-highest in North Texas, after only the Park Cities). Many of the homes—especially those on White Chapel Boulevard, the wealthiest area of town—are 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot estates with Spanish architecture and names like “The Blessing.” But just down the street from White Chapel is a popular restaurant, a shack really, called the Feed Store. Until the 1990s it was an actual feed store for livestock. Cattle still graze in nearby pastures.

Don Barrineau, a former Southlaker now living in Highland Park, loved Southlake. He says though many in the town have money, they don’t act like it. Barrineau knew one parent who, when he was away on business, would fly back to town for his son’s baseball games and then fly right back out again. Owning three jets made the trips easier. “To talk to him, you just never would have known it,” Barrineau says.

All that money, inevitably, drew one of those fashionable “new urbanism” developments to Southlake. In 1999, something called Town Square sprung up out of the prairie: a 131-acre mixed-used development designed by David Schwarz, the same architect who built the American Airlines Center and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Hilton Hotel on the far west side of Town Square sits across the street from Truluck’s and Taco Diner, which are down the street from Barnes & Noble, which is near the Cheesecake Factory and Snuffer’s. There’s 1.2 million square feet of this—a Lane Bryant here, a Starbucks there. Just like Plano, just like Addison, just like everywhere else.

Except in Southlake it’s different. It works. It works because it’s beautiful. The main entrance of Town Square is a two-square-block public space, with a lawn in the foreground and mature trees shading parts of a fountain. Behind that there’s a gazebo and behind that another lawn with intersecting sidewalks, like a college quad. City Hall is here, too. And the post office. The development, perfectly huge and perfectly planned, does something most unusual in these parts: it gets people walking. Elderly couples, kids with their skateboards, mothers with their strollers. They’re everywhere. Go ahead. Try not killing someone while driving through the place.

The day Town Square opened, developer Brian Stebbins walked around it. It was much smaller then, not yet built out, and Stebbins was thinking of staging a photograph to capture what he envisioned for the future. “That very first morning,” Stebbins says, “there were kids playing by the fountain and people playing Frisbee. And none of them were hired.”

This time of year, the kids playing in Town Square are more likely to be throwing footballs than Frisbees. Because the real heart of the city, at least on certain Friday nights, is found just down Southlake Boulevard, then left on Kimball Avenue. There, atop a rise, is Dragon Stadium, a $15 million, 11,500-seat arena. It has a 45,500-square-foot field house, a press box larger than those at most small colleges, a sky box featured in the Wall Street Journal for its poshness, and a turf consisting of individual artificial blades of grass that is nicer than the turf at Texas Stadium.

On a night in May, for the spring intersquad game, rain keeps many of the faithful at home. But Todd Dodge is here, the triumphant coach. They honor him at halftime, and he gets up to speak. Instead of talking about last year’s team or this year’s team, he talks about the town itself. “From the inside you can’t really explain it,” he says. “And from the outside looking in, you’ll never understand.”

Take this game. It is an otherwise innocuous affair—more a practice than a game—with play stopping so the Dragons can test out their field goal kickers. But scouts from another team are rumored to be present. Not a suburban rival, but a half dozen coaches from a high school in Florida, Miami Northwestern, the state’s reigning 6A state champion. Miami Northwestern will play Southlake this fall at SMU’s Ford Stadium—on national television. Sure enough, deep into the second half, a handful of men in orange and blue windbreakers, the colors of Miami Northwestern, come down from the press box, notebooks in hand.

“See? Miami Northwestern,” says Craig Rogers, a tan, slim father of three girls, the eldest of which was the 2007 class president. None of his friends finds it remarkable that the game is scouted. After all, the new Southlake head coach, Hal Wasson, will head to Florida later that week to check out Miami Northwestern’s spring game.

Something else an outsider would never understand: the madness surrounding season tickets. The Dragons sell 1,600 season tickets to football games. They aren’t the closest to the field, but they are backed stadium seats instead of benches. Having one means you don’t need to be in line by 3 Friday afternoon to ensure a spot in general admission seating (gates open at 6). Season tickets cost $75 for a five-game season, but once you own one, you have the right to buy it every year (provided you pay the three-year $90 seat license). Only 92 came up for sale this year. The first person arrived at midnight at the administrative building, eight hours before they were available. It rained hard that night. But the people waited, the line snaking halfway around the building.

The first person in line this year was 60-something grandmother Joyce Burnett, whose granddaughter Kayli is the student body president of the 2008 class. Burnett’s grandson Brayden is a junior who hopes to start this fall at defensive end. To get her spot in line, Burnett had left the bedside of her husband, Paul, who was recovering from a surgery the previous day to remove a blockage from his leg. A friend of Burnett’s came to sit for about an hour that night so Burnett could check on Paul at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine. But otherwise Burnett was there, in her lawn chair, waiting for the doors to open. Her fortitude paid off, and she was able to buy four season tickets.

Burnett had initially told Paul she’d stay with him in the hospital while he recovered. Paul would have none of it. “Go get those tickets,” he barked from the hospital bed.

Terri Anderson directs season ticket sales for the school. She says it seems to her that every day someone comes to her asking if any new tickets have become available. When she gives them the bad news, it causes a panic among the wives who forgot to renew their tickets. “I’ve had some women come in crying and they’ll say, ‘I hope my husband doesn’t divorce me,’” Anderson says. “I hope they’re kidding.”

It’s that kind of devotion that keeps Craig Rogers in Southlake. Watching the Miami Northwestern coaches leave the spring football game, Rogers says he will never leave Southlake. Just three weeks ago, a Houston company offered him a job as president of North American sales. “And I just told them, I said, ‘If I have to move, I’m not going to do it.’”

Sitting behind him is Cindy Padron, a math teacher at Carroll High School and mother of three boys, the two youngest of which either play or played football. When Padron talks about Southlake and how “blessed” she feels that they moved from San Antonio five years ago, her eyes well up. And not because of the football.

The Carroll Independent School District serves families in Southlake and Grapevine. In a few weeks, 575 Carroll graduates will accept their high school diplomas at this stadium, and 97 percent of them will go on to college. Thirteen of these students will be honored as National Merit Semifinalists, a record number for Southlake Carroll. In fact, for the last nine years, Carroll Senior High School has received an “exemplary” rating from the Texas Education Agency.

All this success. Every outsider always asks what’s behind it. Larry Padron, sitting next to his wife in the stands, says their son Matthew has a theory. Matthew is the eldest son, the one who grew up in San Antonio and never went to Southlake.

Larry says, “Matthew likes to say, ‘This is a cult.’”

Southlake city officials will tell you why their town has grown so much. They’ll say the foundation was laid by DFW Airport, and then, in the early ’90s, new water and sewer lines in the southern part of the city gave rise to what you see today. But one man is more important than any sewer line: Bob Ledbetter.

He was a tall man with blue eyes and a tight jaw. Ledbetter was nearing 40 when Southlake Carroll hired him away from Frisco in 1979. Ledbetter was to teach three classes at the high school, serve as athletic director and head football coach, and, since Southlake had spent a little extra to woo him, drive a school bus every morning.

Southlake was a Class 2A school then. The kids on Ledbetter’s football team were descendants of farmers: white, slow, and strong. Ledbetter made every one of them run track, a policy that still stands today. He made them lift weights in an era when few high schoolers did. But his best decision was to schedule games against bigger 3A teams. Ledbetter knew Southlake would grow. And when the population hit 5,000 in 1986 and the school became 3A, few were surprised to watch the football team, with its wishbone offense and punishing defense, go 9-1 in the regular season and claim the district championship. Soon after, Ledbetter was scheduling games against 4A schools.

That’s when Southlake got really good. The kids loosed hell on the poor saps from their district. From 1987 until 1993, the Dragons never lost a regular season game, 10-0 every year. Carried across seasons, that’s 72 wins in a row. The Dragons won three state championships during that stretch: 1988, 1992, and 1993.

“Football, whether it’s good or bad, gets a lot of media attention,” Ledbetter says. “And a lot of that had generated a lot of hype about Southlake. And so people moved out here because of the school system.”

Those were heady days—the town in love with its football team, Ledbetter having to lock the stadium gates the day before a game so people wouldn’t reserve a seat by taping down a blanket to the bleachers. “It was a zoo,” he says.

Then people began to expect the team to win. That’s as dark as it gets in Southlake. Other Dallas suburbs grab headlines for heroin deaths (Plano), steroid abuse (Colleyville), and quadruple slayings (McKinney). Southlake is notorious for its success. The downside is that winning, with time, generates less a celebration than an expectation, especially among the newly transplanted who chose the school because of its superiority—because that superiority reflected their own.

“This is a very demanding community,” Ledbetter says. Winning wasn’t enough for Ledbetter. Instead, he began trying to accomplish the impossible: “We strived for the perfect game.”

He remembers one game in the mid-’90s in particular. Southlake had won big. The Dragons were 8-0. But they had fumbled in the first half and maybe mishandled a punt. Ledbetter doesn’t remember exactly. Whatever it was, it got him angry. “I went into the locker room after that ball game and I lambasted those kids,” he says. Duke Christian, an assistant coach, walked into his office afterward. Christian had previously been an assistant coach at Baylor, Tulane, and Oklahoma State. “Coach,” Christian said, “I’ve never been at a place where you can’t even enjoy winning.” It was true. Even after winning those state championships, Ledbetter says he felt as much relief as joy.

In 1995, athletic director Ledbetter stepped down as football coach. Tom Rapp, his former assistant, became his successor. Rapp did not fare well. He went 3-6-1 his first year. By 1999, after only middling success, Rapp resigned. Because of Southlake’s reputation, Ledbetter had endless applications from which to choose. “A who’s who of high school football,” he says. “Guys that won state championships. Guys that came to us with records of 4,000 wins and two losses, you know what I mean?” But the coach he wanted hadn’t applied. His name was Todd Dodge and he’d coached all over the place, most recently at Fossil Ridge High School, in Keller, where the last two years he had gone 2-7 and 5-5. Ledbetter called him.

“Todd, I want you to apply for the Southlake Carroll job.”

Dodge said, “Coach, you know I can’t get that job at Southlake Carroll.”

“Todd, I’m hiring the football coach,” Ledbetter said. “I want you to apply.”

Todd dodge speaks in a voice deeper than you’d expect, with a drawl that hints at his upbringing in Port Arthur. He was a legend there. He threw deep while everyone else ran up the middle, and he called many of his own plays, communicating with his receivers via hand signals. Every college wanted him. Dodge picked the University of Texas. His junior year, he quarterbacked a team that was briefly ranked No. 1. But the Longhorns lost four out of five games during one stretch of the season. Dodge was benched his senior year and learned that the adulation of the crowd could quickly become scorn.

Coaching was all he’d ever wanted to do, and UT had taught him a great deal. “You better be someone who doesn’t get too high with your highs or low with your lows,” he says. He worked first as an assistant coach at Rockwall, later as an offensive coordinator at the University of North Texas, and then at various high school jobs, spending the six years prior to Southlake at three schools and never once compiling a winning record. But at these other schools, Dodge beat Southlake three times. What Bob Ledbetter saw those Friday nights were well-disciplined kids who executed an offense with an expert knowledge of Southlake’s weaknesses. Ledbetter saw a coach the kids respected but never feared, a coach who was not rah-rah but cool, all business. Shortly after accepting the position, Dodge and the Southlake Booster Club printed t-shirts with an ambitious slogan: “Protect the Tradition.”

Dodge didn’t protect much. The Dragons lost their first three games in 2000. This had never happened under Rapp and, of course, never under Ledbetter. Fans questioned Dodge’s spread offense; Ledbetter’s running game had worked so well. But Ledbetter only told Dodge, “Everything’s fine. You just keep doing what you’re doing.” His faith was rewarded. Southlake won every game the rest of the regular season. The Dragons advanced to the fourth round of the playoffs, the state quarterfinals, before losing to top-ranked Wichita Falls.

By this point, Southlake was a town of 20,000 people and, with 7,000 students in the Carroll district, on the cusp of moving up another classification, to 5A, the largest in the state. This was a problem. Its growth now threatened its tradition. The town had to decide whether to split the high school into two schools. “Half the community wanted two high schools,” says Ted Gillum, the district superintendent at the time. Things got contentious. Websites were launched, flyers distributed, citizen groups formed with long names like Citizens, Parents, and Students for Carroll High School.

A smaller school was a better academic environment, some parents argued, the same parents who brought academic studies supporting their opinion to public meetings. No, other parents told the media, two high schools would only split resources and offer students fewer opportunities. No, with such a large school there’d be no way to stand out. No, competition is what led to Southlake’s winning the Lone Star Cup in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 (awarded to the school with the most academic and athletic success). On and on it went.

“Around that same time we recognized the need to build a new stadium,” Gillum says. “And no one wanted it near their house.” In the end, Dragon Stadium was built on Kimball Avenue, and school board trustees in 2001 presented the idea of one high school, but two campuses—a ninth- and 10th-grade campus, and an 11th- and 12th-grade campus. It made sense. Academics at Southlake, already strong, would become as competitive as the athletics and as rich in resources. It would encourage even more people to move to Southlake. But it would be years before others saw this perspective. Too bad for Gillum. By the end of spring 2002, fed up, he resigned.

“The first four years it was one of the best jobs I ever had. The last two years it was one of the worst,” he says, referring to how difficult the involved parents made his job. “Once a month, I go in the backyard and set my hair on fire to remind me of what those years were like.”

Something else happened that same year Gillum resigned: Todd Dodge traveled to Tennessee before the 2002 season to revolutionize the state of high school football.

They ran a spread offense at Middle Tennessee State, where the offense featured four, sometimes five receivers scattered all over the field—just as Dodge’s did. But they didn’t huddle before the play, didn’t even have a receiver run the play in to the huddle. Instead, they relied on hand signals similar to those in baseball. The hand signals sped up the game; every player just lined up and looked back to the coach for the play. The signals also allowed for a more thoughtful offensive attack, since the coach had maybe 22 seconds of the 25-second play clock to consider his next move. Plus, they allowed the coach to call off a play when the defense shifted, and then signal another call in response to the shift. Dodge and three assistants spent four days in Tennessee that spring learning the no huddle. It sure looked familiar to Dodge. It was really just a variant of the signals he used at the line of scrimmage back in Port Arthur.

Still, it was risky. The 2002 season was Southlake’s first as a 5A school, and the quarterback of this eight-concept offense with endless variations, all of it relayed without words, was Chase Wasson. He’d been a running back the season before.

But the kids learned it. Opposing coaches, on the other hand, couldn’t figure it out. The Dragons went undefeated in the regular season. Their average margin of victory was 37.6 points. The offense scored 500 points during that stretch, only the third 5A team to do so. The Marcus High defensive coordinator, who found his team down 56-0 at halftime of its regular season game against Southlake, told the Star-Telegram after the game, “They are ungodly for a high school team.”

Southlake won state that year, going 16-0, and became the first team in Texas history to win a championship the season after jumping into the 5A classification. Chase Wasson threw for 4,822 yards, a state record. He tied the record for most touchdowns in a season with 54. But more than any of the improbable stats was the new moniker for the no huddle: “Dodge ball.”

Over the next four years, Dodge ball did for Dodge what the wishbone had done for Ledbetter: it brought the team championships and the town notoriety. The titles came in 2004, 2005, and 2006, all of them years Southlake went undefeated, all of them years sportswriters named the team “National Champions.” The notoriety was a new sort, though. It was a product of the new millennium, of national television.

In 2004, with a lockout in the NHL, ESPN2 broadcast Southlake’s game against top-ranked Denton Ryan. It was the first time the network had broadcast a high school game in Texas. Eddie George and Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys roamed the field, as did former Dallas Star Richard Matvichuk. Tickets on eBay went for as much as $120. And Clint Renfro, son of former Cowboys receiver Mike Renfro, caught three touchdowns as Southlake rolled to a 52-27 win. Even better, the district aired a 30-second commercial during the broadcast promoting the town.

Over the next few years, Southlake became a brand. Two more games, in 2005 and 2006, were broadcast on national television, both on Fox Sports Net. The school sold thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of t-shirts at Dragon games and at shops throughout town (and owned all licensing fees for Dragon paraphernalia). The sportswear line Under Armour became the official outfitter of the football team. It even filmed a commercial for its national campaign, featuring Green Bay Packer A.J. Hawk, at Dragon Stadium.

The pressure to win mounted. Former wide receiver Anthony Ford, like Bob Ledbetter a decade ago, admitted he felt “definitely more relief” than joy after going 16-0 two straight years. Former linebacker Justin Padron quit walking the streets of Town Square during the season. Too many random guys telling him, “Don’t let us down.” Riley Dodge, during a moment away from the field, said, “I mean, we’re only juniors and seniors in high school, and we have the weight of the world on us. The whole state is watching, the whole country is watching you, and waiting for you to lose. It takes a toll on you.”

The Dragons kept winning, though. More than the coverage on basic cable or the trophies crowding his shelves or even his name as a descriptor of an offense, this was Todd Dodge’s greatest achievement: he kept those kids loose. Every year after two-a-days Dodge walked the team to the weight room, the whole team, and locked the door behind him. For the next four hours, Dodge and his players would take turns talking about themselves, where they came from, who they were, what they hoped to do and be. The players left feeling as though they had a new family. “Like nobody else really mattered anymore,” Justin Padron says. Dodge approached every week of practice not as a means to inspire, though there was that, but as preparation for a test. Some players watched as much as four hours of film a day. Not with the team, but specific to their position, the tape rewinding and freezing and putting in slow motion the tendencies that these Dragons, in these instances, across from that guy, could expect to see. “We go through the syllabus every week. The test is on Friday at 7:30,” says Ron Mendoza, the former defensive coordinator. “No surprises.”

Dodge’s most telling trait was that he never berated a kid in a game. Dodge instead would ask what the player thought would happen and what he saw happen. Dodge guided his kids so that it felt like they were leading the way. At Southlake, that’s all they’d ever done.

Dodge accepted the head coaching job at the University of North Texas halfway through last season’s playoffs. As the team drove to the Alamodome for the championship game in San Antonio, four roadside billboards at various spots along the route thanked Dodge for what he’d done in Southlake. The final score that day: Southlake 43, Austin Westlake 29. Until Southlake, no team in Texas had ever won four championships in five years.

A month after the game, in the school cafeteria, the team had an autograph signing for the community. People brought everything from footballs to wristbands the players had thrown in the stands to helmets.

It took more than three hours for everything to get signed.

A month later, on February 8, Southlake has another signing day. Twelve seniors scrawl letters of intent with athletic programs at Division I schools. Two more sign their names to Division II schools. Not far from the flash of cameras and the grins of parents in the study hall, in an office he is still unpacking, stands Hal Wasson, Southlake’s new head coach. He is older than Dodge and a better dresser, today in a blue shirt and red tie. He sweeps his gray hair to the left. He could easily be mistaken for a geometry teacher.

The pressure on this man is enormous. As Riley Dodge says, “One loss, and this season is a failure. I don’t want to think about it.” But Wasson isn’t worried. “Yesterday when I was unpacking,” he says, “I was going through some old lock and key stuff, and I said, ‘Here’s the original blueprint to the offense.’” The offense is the no huddle. The blueprint is from the trip to Middle Tennessee State. Wasson was one of the three assistant coaches who accompanied Dodge. Dodge ball is the only offense he plans to run. It’s been good not just to him but to his family. His son is Chase Wasson, the quarterback of the first team under Dodge that won state.

In Southlake, he knows, you don’t mess with success.



#2 JBB

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 09:27 AM

If they're angry about the article, they obviously didn't read it.

#3 cjyoung

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 09:31 AM

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 10:09 AM) View Post

According to the Star-Telegram, a lot of Southlake folk are angry about this article: Go figure.


Issue Date: D Magazine SEPT 2007, Posted On: 8/23/2007

Southlake: Welcome to Perfect City, U.S.A.

Paul Kix
Near the back of the Southwest plane bound for Lubbock, a pretty blonde named LeAnn Herchman twists around in her seat to talk to a fat man in the row behind her. Herchman is 18 years old and wears a green No. 11 football jersey that belongs to her boyfriend, Riley Dodge, quarterback of the Southlake Carroll Dragons, the best high school football team in the state of Texas—maybe the best high school football team in the country.

The fat man has gray chest chair that takes advantage of two buttons left undone on his shirt. He wears a black baseball cap with “Permian” written on it. “The other team can be up 21 points and then weird things happen,” he tells Herchman, his accent so twangy it sounds like a poor imitation of a twang. “All a sudden we’ll git on a roll. Then we’ll win. Some people call it luck. We call it Mojo.”

This December afternoon at the neutral ground of Texas Tech’s football stadium, in the third round of the 5A state playoffs, Southlake will face Odessa Permian, the team of six state championships and Friday Night Lights fame. But Odessa’s glory has faded. It is a city that never recovered from the oil bust of the 1980s. Football there serves as a salve for all hardships and warps all sensibilities. It is a city that is in every way different from Southlake—affluent, booming, its football team just another manifestation of its almost otherworldly success. In recent years, aside from its four football championships, Southlake has won state titles in cross country, swimming and diving, baseball, soccer, theater, accounting, and robotics.

Herchman says to the man in the row behind her, “I don’t know what I’d do if we lost.” She really wouldn’t. She tells the man that Southlake hasn’t lost a football game since the 2003 state championship her freshman year.

He asks Herchman about her own plans for college. Poorly hidden in the question is the assumption that Herchman doesn’t have any, that she will spend the rest of her life chasing men with good pocket presence. But he’s got it all wrong.

She tells the man she has her choice of universities to attend but is leaning toward Oklahoma. It has a good volleyball team. She might accept a scholarship.

They’re good at everything in Southlake. If you’ve never been, there’s something a little Pleasantville about it. The streets are cleaner than your streets, the downtown more vibrant, the students more courteous, their parents more prosperous. Everyone is beautiful in Southlake. Everyone smiles in Southlake. Everyone is a Dragon in Southlake. This last fact, especially, is central to understanding the city. The kids and their mothers coming out of Central Market. The retired men who eat barbecue at the Feed Store. The white collar professionals strolling through the shops of Southlake’s Town Square. They are all Dragons.


At the elementary and junior high levels, every school’s mascot is a Dragon. It creates a powerful bond. For the third-grader sitting in the stands of Dragon Stadium on a Friday night, one thought runs through his head: He is a Dragon, just like me. I am a Dragon, just like him. Starting in the seventh grade, every Southlake Carroll football team runs a version of the same complicated pro-style spread offense. It teaches the kids the Dragon Way, gives them something to know for certain when the crush of media and roar of 11,500 fans greet them a few autumns from now.

And the people on that Southwest flight to Lubbock? The majority of them aren’t even parents of football players. They are parents of band kids and cheerleaders, flying 300 miles across the state to watch a game Southlake will win easily, because Southlake doesn’t lose. Across the aisle from Herchman sit the parents of a Southlake drill teamer. They’re recent transplants from out of state and say all this Dragon stuff is overwhelming. The father laughs. “It’s almost like it’s brainwashing,” he says.

The game in Lubbock is a blowout. Herchman’s boyfriend requires a cortisone shot in his sprained ankle in order to take the field in the second half. Still, Riley Dodge passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Fathers of the football players, who wear their sons’ jerseys and roam the sidelines, encourage him with each toss. “Way to suck it up, Riley!” Coach Todd Dodge, Riley’s father, tries to protect his son’s ankle by having him hand off to running back Tre Newton, son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate. Tre goes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Southlake wins 42-6.

After the game, coach Dodge says, “Oh, it is sweet.” He himself was once a celebrated high school quarterback, in Port Arthur, Texas, the first in state history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. But in 1980 his team lost in the state championship game to Odessa Permian. The son avenging the father’s loss—a perfect storybook win of the sort that could only happen for Southlake.

The Dragons would go on to take state easily, on a 48-game winning streak, two shy of the Texas 5A high school mark. Today, Todd Dodge is the head coach at the University of North Texas. He will be joined in 2008 by son Riley, who could have played anywhere (at first he verbally pledged himself to the University of Texas). Riley will be joined at UNT by his girlfriend, Herchman, who decided to play volleyball there. One reason all three chose the school: it’s only 30 minutes from Southlake.

In 1952, to supply water to the growing region of North Texas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a reservoir in northeast Tarrant County and named it Lake Grapevine. This spurred development on the surrounding farmland, and, in 1956, a group of farmers voted to incorporate their 1.62 square miles, if only to keep neighboring Hurst from annexing it. Since they were south of Lake Grapevine, they called their town Southlake. The town’s population stood at just over 100 people. It would be nine years before Southlake had a fire department, 10 years before it hired its first police chief. In 1974, DFW International Airport opened just 13 miles away.

Today 25,000 people live in Southlake (since 1990, the population has grown 257 percent). They are nearly all white (95 percent), though tell that to the predominantly black St. John Baptist Church, which is building an 80,000-square-foot church on Kimball Avenue. They are strivers, these Southlakers, the nouveau riche. The average price of a home is a little more than $400,000 (third-highest in North Texas, after only the Park Cities). Many of the homes—especially those on White Chapel Boulevard, the wealthiest area of town—are 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot estates with Spanish architecture and names like “The Blessing.” But just down the street from White Chapel is a popular restaurant, a shack really, called the Feed Store. Until the 1990s it was an actual feed store for livestock. Cattle still graze in nearby pastures.

Don Barrineau, a former Southlaker now living in Highland Park, loved Southlake. He says though many in the town have money, they don’t act like it. Barrineau knew one parent who, when he was away on business, would fly back to town for his son’s baseball games and then fly right back out again. Owning three jets made the trips easier. “To talk to him, you just never would have known it,” Barrineau says.

All that money, inevitably, drew one of those fashionable “new urbanism” developments to Southlake. In 1999, something called Town Square sprung up out of the prairie: a 131-acre mixed-used development designed by David Schwarz, the same architect who built the American Airlines Center and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Hilton Hotel on the far west side of Town Square sits across the street from Truluck’s and Taco Diner, which are down the street from Barnes & Noble, which is near the Cheesecake Factory and Snuffer’s. There’s 1.2 million square feet of this—a Lane Bryant here, a Starbucks there. Just like Plano, just like Addison, just like everywhere else.

Except in Southlake it’s different. It works. It works because it’s beautiful. The main entrance of Town Square is a two-square-block public space, with a lawn in the foreground and mature trees shading parts of a fountain. Behind that there’s a gazebo and behind that another lawn with intersecting sidewalks, like a college quad. City Hall is here, too. And the post office. The development, perfectly huge and perfectly planned, does something most unusual in these parts: it gets people walking. Elderly couples, kids with their skateboards, mothers with their strollers. They’re everywhere. Go ahead. Try not killing someone while driving through the place.

The day Town Square opened, developer Brian Stebbins walked around it. It was much smaller then, not yet built out, and Stebbins was thinking of staging a photograph to capture what he envisioned for the future. “That very first morning,” Stebbins says, “there were kids playing by the fountain and people playing Frisbee. And none of them were hired.”

This time of year, the kids playing in Town Square are more likely to be throwing footballs than Frisbees. Because the real heart of the city, at least on certain Friday nights, is found just down Southlake Boulevard, then left on Kimball Avenue. There, atop a rise, is Dragon Stadium, a $15 million, 11,500-seat arena. It has a 45,500-square-foot field house, a press box larger than those at most small colleges, a sky box featured in the Wall Street Journal for its poshness, and a turf consisting of individual artificial blades of grass that is nicer than the turf at Texas Stadium.

On a night in May, for the spring intersquad game, rain keeps many of the faithful at home. But Todd Dodge is here, the triumphant coach. They honor him at halftime, and he gets up to speak. Instead of talking about last year’s team or this year’s team, he talks about the town itself. “From the inside you can’t really explain it,” he says. “And from the outside looking in, you’ll never understand.”

Take this game. It is an otherwise innocuous affair—more a practice than a game—with play stopping so the Dragons can test out their field goal kickers. But scouts from another team are rumored to be present. Not a suburban rival, but a half dozen coaches from a high school in Florida, Miami Northwestern, the state’s reigning 6A state champion. Miami Northwestern will play Southlake this fall at SMU’s Ford Stadium—on national television. Sure enough, deep into the second half, a handful of men in orange and blue windbreakers, the colors of Miami Northwestern, come down from the press box, notebooks in hand.

“See? Miami Northwestern,” says Craig Rogers, a tan, slim father of three girls, the eldest of which was the 2007 class president. None of his friends finds it remarkable that the game is scouted. After all, the new Southlake head coach, Hal Wasson, will head to Florida later that week to check out Miami Northwestern’s spring game.

Something else an outsider would never understand: the madness surrounding season tickets. The Dragons sell 1,600 season tickets to football games. They aren’t the closest to the field, but they are backed stadium seats instead of benches. Having one means you don’t need to be in line by 3 Friday afternoon to ensure a spot in general admission seating (gates open at 6). Season tickets cost $75 for a five-game season, but once you own one, you have the right to buy it every year (provided you pay the three-year $90 seat license). Only 92 came up for sale this year. The first person arrived at midnight at the administrative building, eight hours before they were available. It rained hard that night. But the people waited, the line snaking halfway around the building.

The first person in line this year was 60-something grandmother Joyce Burnett, whose granddaughter Kayli is the student body president of the 2008 class. Burnett’s grandson Brayden is a junior who hopes to start this fall at defensive end. To get her spot in line, Burnett had left the bedside of her husband, Paul, who was recovering from a surgery the previous day to remove a blockage from his leg. A friend of Burnett’s came to sit for about an hour that night so Burnett could check on Paul at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine. But otherwise Burnett was there, in her lawn chair, waiting for the doors to open. Her fortitude paid off, and she was able to buy four season tickets.

Burnett had initially told Paul she’d stay with him in the hospital while he recovered. Paul would have none of it. “Go get those tickets,” he barked from the hospital bed.

Terri Anderson directs season ticket sales for the school. She says it seems to her that every day someone comes to her asking if any new tickets have become available. When she gives them the bad news, it causes a panic among the wives who forgot to renew their tickets. “I’ve had some women come in crying and they’ll say, ‘I hope my husband doesn’t divorce me,’” Anderson says. “I hope they’re kidding.”

It’s that kind of devotion that keeps Craig Rogers in Southlake. Watching the Miami Northwestern coaches leave the spring football game, Rogers says he will never leave Southlake. Just three weeks ago, a Houston company offered him a job as president of North American sales. “And I just told them, I said, ‘If I have to move, I’m not going to do it.’”

Sitting behind him is Cindy Padron, a math teacher at Carroll High School and mother of three boys, the two youngest of which either play or played football. When Padron talks about Southlake and how “blessed” she feels that they moved from San Antonio five years ago, her eyes well up. And not because of the football.

The Carroll Independent School District serves families in Southlake and Grapevine. In a few weeks, 575 Carroll graduates will accept their high school diplomas at this stadium, and 97 percent of them will go on to college. Thirteen of these students will be honored as National Merit Semifinalists, a record number for Southlake Carroll. In fact, for the last nine years, Carroll Senior High School has received an “exemplary” rating from the Texas Education Agency.

All this success. Every outsider always asks what’s behind it. Larry Padron, sitting next to his wife in the stands, says their son Matthew has a theory. Matthew is the eldest son, the one who grew up in San Antonio and never went to Southlake.

Larry says, “Matthew likes to say, ‘This is a cult.’”

Southlake city officials will tell you why their town has grown so much. They’ll say the foundation was laid by DFW Airport, and then, in the early ’90s, new water and sewer lines in the southern part of the city gave rise to what you see today. But one man is more important than any sewer line: Bob Ledbetter.

He was a tall man with blue eyes and a tight jaw. Ledbetter was nearing 40 when Southlake Carroll hired him away from Frisco in 1979. Ledbetter was to teach three classes at the high school, serve as athletic director and head football coach, and, since Southlake had spent a little extra to woo him, drive a school bus every morning.

Southlake was a Class 2A school then. The kids on Ledbetter’s football team were descendants of farmers: white, slow, and strong. Ledbetter made every one of them run track, a policy that still stands today. He made them lift weights in an era when few high schoolers did. But his best decision was to schedule games against bigger 3A teams. Ledbetter knew Southlake would grow. And when the population hit 5,000 in 1986 and the school became 3A, few were surprised to watch the football team, with its wishbone offense and punishing defense, go 9-1 in the regular season and claim the district championship. Soon after, Ledbetter was scheduling games against 4A schools.

That’s when Southlake got really good. The kids loosed hell on the poor saps from their district. From 1987 until 1993, the Dragons never lost a regular season game, 10-0 every year. Carried across seasons, that’s 72 wins in a row. The Dragons won three state championships during that stretch: 1988, 1992, and 1993.

“Football, whether it’s good or bad, gets a lot of media attention,” Ledbetter says. “And a lot of that had generated a lot of hype about Southlake. And so people moved out here because of the school system.”

Those were heady days—the town in love with its football team, Ledbetter having to lock the stadium gates the day before a game so people wouldn’t reserve a seat by taping down a blanket to the bleachers. “It was a zoo,” he says.

Then people began to expect the team to win. That’s as dark as it gets in Southlake. Other Dallas suburbs grab headlines for heroin deaths (Plano), steroid abuse (Colleyville), and quadruple slayings (McKinney). Southlake is notorious for its success. The downside is that winning, with time, generates less a celebration than an expectation, especially among the newly transplanted who chose the school because of its superiority—because that superiority reflected their own.

“This is a very demanding community,” Ledbetter says. Winning wasn’t enough for Ledbetter. Instead, he began trying to accomplish the impossible: “We strived for the perfect game.”

He remembers one game in the mid-’90s in particular. Southlake had won big. The Dragons were 8-0. But they had fumbled in the first half and maybe mishandled a punt. Ledbetter doesn’t remember exactly. Whatever it was, it got him angry. “I went into the locker room after that ball game and I lambasted those kids,” he says. Duke Christian, an assistant coach, walked into his office afterward. Christian had previously been an assistant coach at Baylor, Tulane, and Oklahoma State. “Coach,” Christian said, “I’ve never been at a place where you can’t even enjoy winning.” It was true. Even after winning those state championships, Ledbetter says he felt as much relief as joy.

In 1995, athletic director Ledbetter stepped down as football coach. Tom Rapp, his former assistant, became his successor. Rapp did not fare well. He went 3-6-1 his first year. By 1999, after only middling success, Rapp resigned. Because of Southlake’s reputation, Ledbetter had endless applications from which to choose. “A who’s who of high school football,” he says. “Guys that won state championships. Guys that came to us with records of 4,000 wins and two losses, you know what I mean?” But the coach he wanted hadn’t applied. His name was Todd Dodge and he’d coached all over the place, most recently at Fossil Ridge High School, in Keller, where the last two years he had gone 2-7 and 5-5. Ledbetter called him.

“Todd, I want you to apply for the Southlake Carroll job.”

Dodge said, “Coach, you know I can’t get that job at Southlake Carroll.”

“Todd, I’m hiring the football coach,” Ledbetter said. “I want you to apply.”

Todd dodge speaks in a voice deeper than you’d expect, with a drawl that hints at his upbringing in Port Arthur. He was a legend there. He threw deep while everyone else ran up the middle, and he called many of his own plays, communicating with his receivers via hand signals. Every college wanted him. Dodge picked the University of Texas. His junior year, he quarterbacked a team that was briefly ranked No. 1. But the Longhorns lost four out of five games during one stretch of the season. Dodge was benched his senior year and learned that the adulation of the crowd could quickly become scorn.

Coaching was all he’d ever wanted to do, and UT had taught him a great deal. “You better be someone who doesn’t get too high with your highs or low with your lows,” he says. He worked first as an assistant coach at Rockwall, later as an offensive coordinator at the University of North Texas, and then at various high school jobs, spending the six years prior to Southlake at three schools and never once compiling a winning record. But at these other schools, Dodge beat Southlake three times. What Bob Ledbetter saw those Friday nights were well-disciplined kids who executed an offense with an expert knowledge of Southlake’s weaknesses. Ledbetter saw a coach the kids respected but never feared, a coach who was not rah-rah but cool, all business. Shortly after accepting the position, Dodge and the Southlake Booster Club printed t-shirts with an ambitious slogan: “Protect the Tradition.”

Dodge didn’t protect much. The Dragons lost their first three games in 2000. This had never happened under Rapp and, of course, never under Ledbetter. Fans questioned Dodge’s spread offense; Ledbetter’s running game had worked so well. But Ledbetter only told Dodge, “Everything’s fine. You just keep doing what you’re doing.” His faith was rewarded. Southlake won every game the rest of the regular season. The Dragons advanced to the fourth round of the playoffs, the state quarterfinals, before losing to top-ranked Wichita Falls.

By this point, Southlake was a town of 20,000 people and, with 7,000 students in the Carroll district, on the cusp of moving up another classification, to 5A, the largest in the state. This was a problem. Its growth now threatened its tradition. The town had to decide whether to split the high school into two schools. “Half the community wanted two high schools,” says Ted Gillum, the district superintendent at the time. Things got contentious. Websites were launched, flyers distributed, citizen groups formed with long names like Citizens, Parents, and Students for Carroll High School.

A smaller school was a better academic environment, some parents argued, the same parents who brought academic studies supporting their opinion to public meetings. No, other parents told the media, two high schools would only split resources and offer students fewer opportunities. No, with such a large school there’d be no way to stand out. No, competition is what led to Southlake’s winning the Lone Star Cup in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 (awarded to the school with the most academic and athletic success). On and on it went.

“Around that same time we recognized the need to build a new stadium,” Gillum says. “And no one wanted it near their house.” In the end, Dragon Stadium was built on Kimball Avenue, and school board trustees in 2001 presented the idea of one high school, but two campuses—a ninth- and 10th-grade campus, and an 11th- and 12th-grade campus. It made sense. Academics at Southlake, already strong, would become as competitive as the athletics and as rich in resources. It would encourage even more people to move to Southlake. But it would be years before others saw this perspective. Too bad for Gillum. By the end of spring 2002, fed up, he resigned.

“The first four years it was one of the best jobs I ever had. The last two years it was one of the worst,” he says, referring to how difficult the involved parents made his job. “Once a month, I go in the backyard and set my hair on fire to remind me of what those years were like.”

Something else happened that same year Gillum resigned: Todd Dodge traveled to Tennessee before the 2002 season to revolutionize the state of high school football.

They ran a spread offense at Middle Tennessee State, where the offense featured four, sometimes five receivers scattered all over the field—just as Dodge’s did. But they didn’t huddle before the play, didn’t even have a receiver run the play in to the huddle. Instead, they relied on hand signals similar to those in baseball. The hand signals sped up the game; every player just lined up and looked back to the coach for the play. The signals also allowed for a more thoughtful offensive attack, since the coach had maybe 22 seconds of the 25-second play clock to consider his next move. Plus, they allowed the coach to call off a play when the defense shifted, and then signal another call in response to the shift. Dodge and three assistants spent four days in Tennessee that spring learning the no huddle. It sure looked familiar to Dodge. It was really just a variant of the signals he used at the line of scrimmage back in Port Arthur.

Still, it was risky. The 2002 season was Southlake’s first as a 5A school, and the quarterback of this eight-concept offense with endless variations, all of it relayed without words, was Chase Wasson. He’d been a running back the season before.

But the kids learned it. Opposing coaches, on the other hand, couldn’t figure it out. The Dragons went undefeated in the regular season. Their average margin of victory was 37.6 points. The offense scored 500 points during that stretch, only the third 5A team to do so. The Marcus High defensive coordinator, who found his team down 56-0 at halftime of its regular season game against Southlake, told the Star-Telegram after the game, “They are ungodly for a high school team.”

Southlake won state that year, going 16-0, and became the first team in Texas history to win a championship the season after jumping into the 5A classification. Chase Wasson threw for 4,822 yards, a state record. He tied the record for most touchdowns in a season with 54. But more than any of the improbable stats was the new moniker for the no huddle: “Dodge ball.”

Over the next four years, Dodge ball did for Dodge what the wishbone had done for Ledbetter: it brought the team championships and the town notoriety. The titles came in 2004, 2005, and 2006, all of them years Southlake went undefeated, all of them years sportswriters named the team “National Champions.” The notoriety was a new sort, though. It was a product of the new millennium, of national television.

In 2004, with a lockout in the NHL, ESPN2 broadcast Southlake’s game against top-ranked Denton Ryan. It was the first time the network had broadcast a high school game in Texas. Eddie George and Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys roamed the field, as did former Dallas Star Richard Matvichuk. Tickets on eBay went for as much as $120. And Clint Renfro, son of former Cowboys receiver Mike Renfro, caught three touchdowns as Southlake rolled to a 52-27 win. Even better, the district aired a 30-second commercial during the broadcast promoting the town.

Over the next few years, Southlake became a brand. Two more games, in 2005 and 2006, were broadcast on national television, both on Fox Sports Net. The school sold thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of t-shirts at Dragon games and at shops throughout town (and owned all licensing fees for Dragon paraphernalia). The sportswear line Under Armour became the official outfitter of the football team. It even filmed a commercial for its national campaign, featuring Green Bay Packer A.J. Hawk, at Dragon Stadium.

The pressure to win mounted. Former wide receiver Anthony Ford, like Bob Ledbetter a decade ago, admitted he felt “definitely more relief” than joy after going 16-0 two straight years. Former linebacker Justin Padron quit walking the streets of Town Square during the season. Too many random guys telling him, “Don’t let us down.” Riley Dodge, during a moment away from the field, said, “I mean, we’re only juniors and seniors in high school, and we have the weight of the world on us. The whole state is watching, the whole country is watching you, and waiting for you to lose. It takes a toll on you.”

The Dragons kept winning, though. More than the coverage on basic cable or the trophies crowding his shelves or even his name as a descriptor of an offense, this was Todd Dodge’s greatest achievement: he kept those kids loose. Every year after two-a-days Dodge walked the team to the weight room, the whole team, and locked the door behind him. For the next four hours, Dodge and his players would take turns talking about themselves, where they came from, who they were, what they hoped to do and be. The players left feeling as though they had a new family. “Like nobody else really mattered anymore,” Justin Padron says. Dodge approached every week of practice not as a means to inspire, though there was that, but as preparation for a test. Some players watched as much as four hours of film a day. Not with the team, but specific to their position, the tape rewinding and freezing and putting in slow motion the tendencies that these Dragons, in these instances, across from that guy, could expect to see. “We go through the syllabus every week. The test is on Friday at 7:30,” says Ron Mendoza, the former defensive coordinator. “No surprises.”

Dodge’s most telling trait was that he never berated a kid in a game. Dodge instead would ask what the player thought would happen and what he saw happen. Dodge guided his kids so that it felt like they were leading the way. At Southlake, that’s all they’d ever done.

Dodge accepted the head coaching job at the University of North Texas halfway through last season’s playoffs. As the team drove to the Alamodome for the championship game in San Antonio, four roadside billboards at various spots along the route thanked Dodge for what he’d done in Southlake. The final score that day: Southlake 43, Austin Westlake 29. Until Southlake, no team in Texas had ever won four championships in five years.

A month after the game, in the school cafeteria, the team had an autograph signing for the community. People brought everything from footballs to wristbands the players had thrown in the stands to helmets.

It took more than three hours for everything to get signed.

A month later, on February 8, Southlake has another signing day. Twelve seniors scrawl letters of intent with athletic programs at Division I schools. Two more sign their names to Division II schools. Not far from the flash of cameras and the grins of parents in the study hall, in an office he is still unpacking, stands Hal Wasson, Southlake’s new head coach. He is older than Dodge and a better dresser, today in a blue shirt and red tie. He sweeps his gray hair to the left. He could easily be mistaken for a geometry teacher.

The pressure on this man is enormous. As Riley Dodge says, “One loss, and this season is a failure. I don’t want to think about it.” But Wasson isn’t worried. “Yesterday when I was unpacking,” he says, “I was going through some old lock and key stuff, and I said, ‘Here’s the original blueprint to the offense.’” The offense is the no huddle. The blueprint is from the trip to Middle Tennessee State. Wasson was one of the three assistant coaches who accompanied Dodge. Dodge ball is the only offense he plans to run. It’s been good not just to him but to his family. His son is Chase Wasson, the quarterback of the first team under Dodge that won state.

In Southlake, he knows, you don’t mess with success.


Mad about what?

#4 JBB

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 09:34 AM

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP QUOTING POSTS THAT LONG FOR A THREE WORD REPLY. I mean, really, do you think someone wouldn't know what you're referring to?

#5 safly

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 10:52 AM

QUOTE(cjyoung @ Aug 29 2007, 10:31 AM) View Post

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 10:09 AM) View Post

According to the Star-Telegram, a lot of Southlake folk are angry about this article: Go figure.


Issue Date: D Magazine SEPT 2007, Posted On: 8/23/2007

Southlake: Welcome to Perfect City, U.S.A.

Paul Kix
Near the back of the Southwest plane bound for Lubbock, a pretty blonde named LeAnn Herchman twists around in her seat to talk to a fat man in the row behind her. Herchman is 18 years old and wears a green No. 11 football jersey that belongs to her boyfriend, Riley Dodge, quarterback of the Southlake Carroll Dragons, the best high school football team in the state of Texas—maybe the best high school football team in the country.

The fat man has gray chest chair that takes advantage of two buttons left undone on his shirt. He wears a black baseball cap with “Permian” written on it. “The other team can be up 21 points and then weird things happen,” he tells Herchman, his accent so twangy it sounds like a poor imitation of a twang. “All a sudden we’ll git on a roll. Then we’ll win. Some people call it luck. We call it Mojo.”

This December afternoon at the neutral ground of Texas Tech’s football stadium, in the third round of the 5A state playoffs, Southlake will face Odessa Permian, the team of six state championships and Friday Night Lights fame. But Odessa’s glory has faded. It is a city that never recovered from the oil bust of the 1980s. Football there serves as a salve for all hardships and warps all sensibilities. It is a city that is in every way different from Southlake—affluent, booming, its football team just another manifestation of its almost otherworldly success. In recent years, aside from its four football championships, Southlake has won state titles in cross country, swimming and diving, baseball, soccer, theater, accounting, and robotics.

Herchman says to the man in the row behind her, “I don’t know what I’d do if we lost.” She really wouldn’t. She tells the man that Southlake hasn’t lost a football game since the 2003 state championship her freshman year.

He asks Herchman about her own plans for college. Poorly hidden in the question is the assumption that Herchman doesn’t have any, that she will spend the rest of her life chasing men with good pocket presence. But he’s got it all wrong.

She tells the man she has her choice of universities to attend but is leaning toward Oklahoma. It has a good volleyball team. She might accept a scholarship.

They’re good at everything in Southlake. If you’ve never been, there’s something a little Pleasantville about it. The streets are cleaner than your streets, the downtown more vibrant, the students more courteous, their parents more prosperous. Everyone is beautiful in Southlake. Everyone smiles in Southlake. Everyone is a Dragon in Southlake. This last fact, especially, is central to understanding the city. The kids and their mothers coming out of Central Market. The retired men who eat barbecue at the Feed Store. The white collar professionals strolling through the shops of Southlake’s Town Square. They are all Dragons.


At the elementary and junior high levels, every school’s mascot is a Dragon. It creates a powerful bond. For the third-grader sitting in the stands of Dragon Stadium on a Friday night, one thought runs through his head: He is a Dragon, just like me. I am a Dragon, just like him. Starting in the seventh grade, every Southlake Carroll football team runs a version of the same complicated pro-style spread offense. It teaches the kids the Dragon Way, gives them something to know for certain when the crush of media and roar of 11,500 fans greet them a few autumns from now.

And the people on that Southwest flight to Lubbock? The majority of them aren’t even parents of football players. They are parents of band kids and cheerleaders, flying 300 miles across the state to watch a game Southlake will win easily, because Southlake doesn’t lose. Across the aisle from Herchman sit the parents of a Southlake drill teamer. They’re recent transplants from out of state and say all this Dragon stuff is overwhelming. The father laughs. “It’s almost like it’s brainwashing,” he says.

The game in Lubbock is a blowout. Herchman’s boyfriend requires a cortisone shot in his sprained ankle in order to take the field in the second half. Still, Riley Dodge passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Fathers of the football players, who wear their sons’ jerseys and roam the sidelines, encourage him with each toss. “Way to suck it up, Riley!” Coach Todd Dodge, Riley’s father, tries to protect his son’s ankle by having him hand off to running back Tre Newton, son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate. Tre goes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Southlake wins 42-6.

After the game, coach Dodge says, “Oh, it is sweet.” He himself was once a celebrated high school quarterback, in Port Arthur, Texas, the first in state history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. But in 1980 his team lost in the state championship game to Odessa Permian. The son avenging the father’s loss—a perfect storybook win of the sort that could only happen for Southlake.

The Dragons would go on to take state easily, on a 48-game winning streak, two shy of the Texas 5A high school mark. Today, Todd Dodge is the head coach at the University of North Texas. He will be joined in 2008 by son Riley, who could have played anywhere (at first he verbally pledged himself to the University of Texas). Riley will be joined at UNT by his girlfriend, Herchman, who decided to play volleyball there. One reason all three chose the school: it’s only 30 minutes from Southlake.

In 1952, to supply water to the growing region of North Texas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a reservoir in northeast Tarrant County and named it Lake Grapevine. This spurred development on the surrounding farmland, and, in 1956, a group of farmers voted to incorporate their 1.62 square miles, if only to keep neighboring Hurst from annexing it. Since they were south of Lake Grapevine, they called their town Southlake. The town’s population stood at just over 100 people. It would be nine years before Southlake had a fire department, 10 years before it hired its first police chief. In 1974, DFW International Airport opened just 13 miles away.

Today 25,000 people live in Southlake (since 1990, the population has grown 257 percent). They are nearly all white (95 percent), though tell that to the predominantly black St. John Baptist Church, which is building an 80,000-square-foot church on Kimball Avenue. They are strivers, these Southlakers, the nouveau riche. The average price of a home is a little more than $400,000 (third-highest in North Texas, after only the Park Cities). Many of the homes—especially those on White Chapel Boulevard, the wealthiest area of town—are 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot estates with Spanish architecture and names like “The Blessing.” But just down the street from White Chapel is a popular restaurant, a shack really, called the Feed Store. Until the 1990s it was an actual feed store for livestock. Cattle still graze in nearby pastures.

Don Barrineau, a former Southlaker now living in Highland Park, loved Southlake. He says though many in the town have money, they don’t act like it. Barrineau knew one parent who, when he was away on business, would fly back to town for his son’s baseball games and then fly right back out again. Owning three jets made the trips easier. “To talk to him, you just never would have known it,” Barrineau says.

All that money, inevitably, drew one of those fashionable “new urbanism” developments to Southlake. In 1999, something called Town Square sprung up out of the prairie: a 131-acre mixed-used development designed by David Schwarz, the same architect who built the American Airlines Center and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Hilton Hotel on the far west side of Town Square sits across the street from Truluck’s and Taco Diner, which are down the street from Barnes & Noble, which is near the Cheesecake Factory and Snuffer’s. There’s 1.2 million square feet of this—a Lane Bryant here, a Starbucks there. Just like Plano, just like Addison, just like everywhere else.

Except in Southlake it’s different. It works. It works because it’s beautiful. The main entrance of Town Square is a two-square-block public space, with a lawn in the foreground and mature trees shading parts of a fountain. Behind that there’s a gazebo and behind that another lawn with intersecting sidewalks, like a college quad. City Hall is here, too. And the post office. The development, perfectly huge and perfectly planned, does something most unusual in these parts: it gets people walking. Elderly couples, kids with their skateboards, mothers with their strollers. They’re everywhere. Go ahead. Try not killing someone while driving through the place.

The day Town Square opened, developer Brian Stebbins walked around it. It was much smaller then, not yet built out, and Stebbins was thinking of staging a photograph to capture what he envisioned for the future. “That very first morning,” Stebbins says, “there were kids playing by the fountain and people playing Frisbee. And none of them were hired.”

This time of year, the kids playing in Town Square are more likely to be throwing footballs than Frisbees. Because the real heart of the city, at least on certain Friday nights, is found just down Southlake Boulevard, then left on Kimball Avenue. There, atop a rise, is Dragon Stadium, a $15 million, 11,500-seat arena. It has a 45,500-square-foot field house, a press box larger than those at most small colleges, a sky box featured in the Wall Street Journal for its poshness, and a turf consisting of individual artificial blades of grass that is nicer than the turf at Texas Stadium.

On a night in May, for the spring intersquad game, rain keeps many of the faithful at home. But Todd Dodge is here, the triumphant coach. They honor him at halftime, and he gets up to speak. Instead of talking about last year’s team or this year’s team, he talks about the town itself. “From the inside you can’t really explain it,” he says. “And from the outside looking in, you’ll never understand.”

Take this game. It is an otherwise innocuous affair—more a practice than a game—with play stopping so the Dragons can test out their field goal kickers. But scouts from another team are rumored to be present. Not a suburban rival, but a half dozen coaches from a high school in Florida, Miami Northwestern, the state’s reigning 6A state champion. Miami Northwestern will play Southlake this fall at SMU’s Ford Stadium—on national television. Sure enough, deep into the second half, a handful of men in orange and blue windbreakers, the colors of Miami Northwestern, come down from the press box, notebooks in hand.

“See? Miami Northwestern,” says Craig Rogers, a tan, slim father of three girls, the eldest of which was the 2007 class president. None of his friends finds it remarkable that the game is scouted. After all, the new Southlake head coach, Hal Wasson, will head to Florida later that week to check out Miami Northwestern’s spring game.

Something else an outsider would never understand: the madness surrounding season tickets. The Dragons sell 1,600 season tickets to football games. They aren’t the closest to the field, but they are backed stadium seats instead of benches. Having one means you don’t need to be in line by 3 Friday afternoon to ensure a spot in general admission seating (gates open at 6). Season tickets cost $75 for a five-game season, but once you own one, you have the right to buy it every year (provided you pay the three-year $90 seat license). Only 92 came up for sale this year. The first person arrived at midnight at the administrative building, eight hours before they were available. It rained hard that night. But the people waited, the line snaking halfway around the building.

The first person in line this year was 60-something grandmother Joyce Burnett, whose granddaughter Kayli is the student body president of the 2008 class. Burnett’s grandson Brayden is a junior who hopes to start this fall at defensive end. To get her spot in line, Burnett had left the bedside of her husband, Paul, who was recovering from a surgery the previous day to remove a blockage from his leg. A friend of Burnett’s came to sit for about an hour that night so Burnett could check on Paul at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine. But otherwise Burnett was there, in her lawn chair, waiting for the doors to open. Her fortitude paid off, and she was able to buy four season tickets.

Burnett had initially told Paul she’d stay with him in the hospital while he recovered. Paul would have none of it. “Go get those tickets,” he barked from the hospital bed.

Terri Anderson directs season ticket sales for the school. She says it seems to her that every day someone comes to her asking if any new tickets have become available. When she gives them the bad news, it causes a panic among the wives who forgot to renew their tickets. “I’ve had some women come in crying and they’ll say, ‘I hope my husband doesn’t divorce me,’” Anderson says. “I hope they’re kidding.”

It’s that kind of devotion that keeps Craig Rogers in Southlake. Watching the Miami Northwestern coaches leave the spring football game, Rogers says he will never leave Southlake. Just three weeks ago, a Houston company offered him a job as president of North American sales. “And I just told them, I said, ‘If I have to move, I’m not going to do it.’”

Sitting behind him is Cindy Padron, a math teacher at Carroll High School and mother of three boys, the two youngest of which either play or played football. When Padron talks about Southlake and how “blessed” she feels that they moved from San Antonio five years ago, her eyes well up. And not because of the football.

The Carroll Independent School District serves families in Southlake and Grapevine. In a few weeks, 575 Carroll graduates will accept their high school diplomas at this stadium, and 97 percent of them will go on to college. Thirteen of these students will be honored as National Merit Semifinalists, a record number for Southlake Carroll. In fact, for the last nine years, Carroll Senior High School has received an “exemplary” rating from the Texas Education Agency.

All this success. Every outsider always asks what’s behind it. Larry Padron, sitting next to his wife in the stands, says their son Matthew has a theory. Matthew is the eldest son, the one who grew up in San Antonio and never went to Southlake.

Larry says, “Matthew likes to say, ‘This is a cult.’”

Southlake city officials will tell you why their town has grown so much. They’ll say the foundation was laid by DFW Airport, and then, in the early ’90s, new water and sewer lines in the southern part of the city gave rise to what you see today. But one man is more important than any sewer line: Bob Ledbetter.

He was a tall man with blue eyes and a tight jaw. Ledbetter was nearing 40 when Southlake Carroll hired him away from Frisco in 1979. Ledbetter was to teach three classes at the high school, serve as athletic director and head football coach, and, since Southlake had spent a little extra to woo him, drive a school bus every morning.

Southlake was a Class 2A school then. The kids on Ledbetter’s football team were descendants of farmers: white, slow, and strong. Ledbetter made every one of them run track, a policy that still stands today. He made them lift weights in an era when few high schoolers did. But his best decision was to schedule games against bigger 3A teams. Ledbetter knew Southlake would grow. And when the population hit 5,000 in 1986 and the school became 3A, few were surprised to watch the football team, with its wishbone offense and punishing defense, go 9-1 in the regular season and claim the district championship. Soon after, Ledbetter was scheduling games against 4A schools.

That’s when Southlake got really good. The kids loosed hell on the poor saps from their district. From 1987 until 1993, the Dragons never lost a regular season game, 10-0 every year. Carried across seasons, that’s 72 wins in a row. The Dragons won three state championships during that stretch: 1988, 1992, and 1993.

“Football, whether it’s good or bad, gets a lot of media attention,” Ledbetter says. “And a lot of that had generated a lot of hype about Southlake. And so people moved out here because of the school system.”

Those were heady days—the town in love with its football team, Ledbetter having to lock the stadium gates the day before a game so people wouldn’t reserve a seat by taping down a blanket to the bleachers. “It was a zoo,” he says.

Then people began to expect the team to win. That’s as dark as it gets in Southlake. Other Dallas suburbs grab headlines for heroin deaths (Plano), steroid abuse (Colleyville), and quadruple slayings (McKinney). Southlake is notorious for its success. The downside is that winning, with time, generates less a celebration than an expectation, especially among the newly transplanted who chose the school because of its superiority—because that superiority reflected their own.

“This is a very demanding community,” Ledbetter says. Winning wasn’t enough for Ledbetter. Instead, he began trying to accomplish the impossible: “We strived for the perfect game.”

He remembers one game in the mid-’90s in particular. Southlake had won big. The Dragons were 8-0. But they had fumbled in the first half and maybe mishandled a punt. Ledbetter doesn’t remember exactly. Whatever it was, it got him angry. “I went into the locker room after that ball game and I lambasted those kids,” he says. Duke Christian, an assistant coach, walked into his office afterward. Christian had previously been an assistant coach at Baylor, Tulane, and Oklahoma State. “Coach,” Christian said, “I’ve never been at a place where you can’t even enjoy winning.” It was true. Even after winning those state championships, Ledbetter says he felt as much relief as joy.

In 1995, athletic director Ledbetter stepped down as football coach. Tom Rapp, his former assistant, became his successor. Rapp did not fare well. He went 3-6-1 his first year. By 1999, after only middling success, Rapp resigned. Because of Southlake’s reputation, Ledbetter had endless applications from which to choose. “A who’s who of high school football,” he says. “Guys that won state championships. Guys that came to us with records of 4,000 wins and two losses, you know what I mean?” But the coach he wanted hadn’t applied. His name was Todd Dodge and he’d coached all over the place, most recently at Fossil Ridge High School, in Keller, where the last two years he had gone 2-7 and 5-5. Ledbetter called him.

“Todd, I want you to apply for the Southlake Carroll job.”

Dodge said, “Coach, you know I can’t get that job at Southlake Carroll.”

“Todd, I’m hiring the football coach,” Ledbetter said. “I want you to apply.”

Todd dodge speaks in a voice deeper than you’d expect, with a drawl that hints at his upbringing in Port Arthur. He was a legend there. He threw deep while everyone else ran up the middle, and he called many of his own plays, communicating with his receivers via hand signals. Every college wanted him. Dodge picked the University of Texas. His junior year, he quarterbacked a team that was briefly ranked No. 1. But the Longhorns lost four out of five games during one stretch of the season. Dodge was benched his senior year and learned that the adulation of the crowd could quickly become scorn.

Coaching was all he’d ever wanted to do, and UT had taught him a great deal. “You better be someone who doesn’t get too high with your highs or low with your lows,” he says. He worked first as an assistant coach at Rockwall, later as an offensive coordinator at the University of North Texas, and then at various high school jobs, spending the six years prior to Southlake at three schools and never once compiling a winning record. But at these other schools, Dodge beat Southlake three times. What Bob Ledbetter saw those Friday nights were well-disciplined kids who executed an offense with an expert knowledge of Southlake’s weaknesses. Ledbetter saw a coach the kids respected but never feared, a coach who was not rah-rah but cool, all business. Shortly after accepting the position, Dodge and the Southlake Booster Club printed t-shirts with an ambitious slogan: “Protect the Tradition.”

Dodge didn’t protect much. The Dragons lost their first three games in 2000. This had never happened under Rapp and, of course, never under Ledbetter. Fans questioned Dodge’s spread offense; Ledbetter’s running game had worked so well. But Ledbetter only told Dodge, “Everything’s fine. You just keep doing what you’re doing.” His faith was rewarded. Southlake won every game the rest of the regular season. The Dragons advanced to the fourth round of the playoffs, the state quarterfinals, before losing to top-ranked Wichita Falls.

By this point, Southlake was a town of 20,000 people and, with 7,000 students in the Carroll district, on the cusp of moving up another classification, to 5A, the largest in the state. This was a problem. Its growth now threatened its tradition. The town had to decide whether to split the high school into two schools. “Half the community wanted two high schools,” says Ted Gillum, the district superintendent at the time. Things got contentious. Websites were launched, flyers distributed, citizen groups formed with long names like Citizens, Parents, and Students for Carroll High School.

A smaller school was a better academic environment, some parents argued, the same parents who brought academic studies supporting their opinion to public meetings. No, other parents told the media, two high schools would only split resources and offer students fewer opportunities. No, with such a large school there’d be no way to stand out. No, competition is what led to Southlake’s winning the Lone Star Cup in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 (awarded to the school with the most academic and athletic success). On and on it went.

“Around that same time we recognized the need to build a new stadium,” Gillum says. “And no one wanted it near their house.” In the end, Dragon Stadium was built on Kimball Avenue, and school board trustees in 2001 presented the idea of one high school, but two campuses—a ninth- and 10th-grade campus, and an 11th- and 12th-grade campus. It made sense. Academics at Southlake, already strong, would become as competitive as the athletics and as rich in resources. It would encourage even more people to move to Southlake. But it would be years before others saw this perspective. Too bad for Gillum. By the end of spring 2002, fed up, he resigned.

“The first four years it was one of the best jobs I ever had. The last two years it was one of the worst,” he says, referring to how difficult the involved parents made his job. “Once a month, I go in the backyard and set my hair on fire to remind me of what those years were like.”

Something else happened that same year Gillum resigned: Todd Dodge traveled to Tennessee before the 2002 season to revolutionize the state of high school football.

They ran a spread offense at Middle Tennessee State, where the offense featured four, sometimes five receivers scattered all over the field—just as Dodge’s did. But they didn’t huddle before the play, didn’t even have a receiver run the play in to the huddle. Instead, they relied on hand signals similar to those in baseball. The hand signals sped up the game; every player just lined up and looked back to the coach for the play. The signals also allowed for a more thoughtful offensive attack, since the coach had maybe 22 seconds of the 25-second play clock to consider his next move. Plus, they allowed the coach to call off a play when the defense shifted, and then signal another call in response to the shift. Dodge and three assistants spent four days in Tennessee that spring learning the no huddle. It sure looked familiar to Dodge. It was really just a variant of the signals he used at the line of scrimmage back in Port Arthur.

Still, it was risky. The 2002 season was Southlake’s first as a 5A school, and the quarterback of this eight-concept offense with endless variations, all of it relayed without words, was Chase Wasson. He’d been a running back the season before.

But the kids learned it. Opposing coaches, on the other hand, couldn’t figure it out. The Dragons went undefeated in the regular season. Their average margin of victory was 37.6 points. The offense scored 500 points during that stretch, only the third 5A team to do so. The Marcus High defensive coordinator, who found his team down 56-0 at halftime of its regular season game against Southlake, told the Star-Telegram after the game, “They are ungodly for a high school team.”

Southlake won state that year, going 16-0, and became the first team in Texas history to win a championship the season after jumping into the 5A classification. Chase Wasson threw for 4,822 yards, a state record. He tied the record for most touchdowns in a season with 54. But more than any of the improbable stats was the new moniker for the no huddle: “Dodge ball.”

Over the next four years, Dodge ball did for Dodge what the wishbone had done for Ledbetter: it brought the team championships and the town notoriety. The titles came in 2004, 2005, and 2006, all of them years Southlake went undefeated, all of them years sportswriters named the team “National Champions.” The notoriety was a new sort, though. It was a product of the new millennium, of national television.

In 2004, with a lockout in the NHL, ESPN2 broadcast Southlake’s game against top-ranked Denton Ryan. It was the first time the network had broadcast a high school game in Texas. Eddie George and Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys roamed the field, as did former Dallas Star Richard Matvichuk. Tickets on eBay went for as much as $120. And Clint Renfro, son of former Cowboys receiver Mike Renfro, caught three touchdowns as Southlake rolled to a 52-27 win. Even better, the district aired a 30-second commercial during the broadcast promoting the town.

Over the next few years, Southlake became a brand. Two more games, in 2005 and 2006, were broadcast on national television, both on Fox Sports Net. The school sold thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of t-shirts at Dragon games and at shops throughout town (and owned all licensing fees for Dragon paraphernalia). The sportswear line Under Armour became the official outfitter of the football team. It even filmed a commercial for its national campaign, featuring Green Bay Packer A.J. Hawk, at Dragon Stadium.

The pressure to win mounted. Former wide receiver Anthony Ford, like Bob Ledbetter a decade ago, admitted he felt “definitely more relief” than joy after going 16-0 two straight years. Former linebacker Justin Padron quit walking the streets of Town Square during the season. Too many random guys telling him, “Don’t let us down.” Riley Dodge, during a moment away from the field, said, “I mean, we’re only juniors and seniors in high school, and we have the weight of the world on us. The whole state is watching, the whole country is watching you, and waiting for you to lose. It takes a toll on you.”

The Dragons kept winning, though. More than the coverage on basic cable or the trophies crowding his shelves or even his name as a descriptor of an offense, this was Todd Dodge’s greatest achievement: he kept those kids loose. Every year after two-a-days Dodge walked the team to the weight room, the whole team, and locked the door behind him. For the next four hours, Dodge and his players would take turns talking about themselves, where they came from, who they were, what they hoped to do and be. The players left feeling as though they had a new family. “Like nobody else really mattered anymore,” Justin Padron says. Dodge approached every week of practice not as a means to inspire, though there was that, but as preparation for a test. Some players watched as much as four hours of film a day. Not with the team, but specific to their position, the tape rewinding and freezing and putting in slow motion the tendencies that these Dragons, in these instances, across from that guy, could expect to see. “We go through the syllabus every week. The test is on Friday at 7:30,” says Ron Mendoza, the former defensive coordinator. “No surprises.”

Dodge’s most telling trait was that he never berated a kid in a game. Dodge instead would ask what the player thought would happen and what he saw happen. Dodge guided his kids so that it felt like they were leading the way. At Southlake, that’s all they’d ever done.

Dodge accepted the head coaching job at the University of North Texas halfway through last season’s playoffs. As the team drove to the Alamodome for the championship game in San Antonio, four roadside billboards at various spots along the route thanked Dodge for what he’d done in Southlake. The final score that day: Southlake 43, Austin Westlake 29. Until Southlake, no team in Texas had ever won four championships in five years.

A month after the game, in the school cafeteria, the team had an autograph signing for the community. People brought everything from footballs to wristbands the players had thrown in the stands to helmets.

It took more than three hours for everything to get signed.

A month later, on February 8, Southlake has another signing day. Twelve seniors scrawl letters of intent with athletic programs at Division I schools. Two more sign their names to Division II schools. Not far from the flash of cameras and the grins of parents in the study hall, in an office he is still unpacking, stands Hal Wasson, Southlake’s new head coach. He is older than Dodge and a better dresser, today in a blue shirt and red tie. He sweeps his gray hair to the left. He could easily be mistaken for a geometry teacher.

The pressure on this man is enormous. As Riley Dodge says, “One loss, and this season is a failure. I don’t want to think about it.” But Wasson isn’t worried. “Yesterday when I was unpacking,” he says, “I was going through some old lock and key stuff, and I said, ‘Here’s the original blueprint to the offense.’” The offense is the no huddle. The blueprint is from the trip to Middle Tennessee State. Wasson was one of the three assistant coaches who accompanied Dodge. Dodge ball is the only offense he plans to run. It’s been good not just to him but to his family. His son is Chase Wasson, the quarterback of the first team under Dodge that won state.

In Southlake, he knows, you don’t mess with success.


Mad about what?

FUNNY! rotflmao.gif rotflmao.gif rotflmao.gif
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#6 PLS

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 12:56 PM

uproar was over the cover title of the article. if you go to d magazine's website, they have since changed the title. not a bad article, but not great either...

#7 Keller Pirate

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:22 PM

I would like to know what some of you high school football experts think about the 2 campus Carroll High School. They refer to the school with the freshman and sophmores as Carroll High School and the campus with the juniors and seniors as Carroll Senior High School. The 2 campuses are more than a mile apart. I think they have been exploiting a technicality to call it one school and maintain their 5A rating. The state football powers must see it differently.

#8 mikedsjr

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:47 PM

QUOTE(Keller Pirate @ Aug 29 2007, 04:22 PM) View Post

They refer to the school with the freshman and sophmores as Carroll High School and the campus with the juniors and seniors as Carroll Senior High School.

That is how the Plano system is set up and it has been that way forever.

#9 JBB

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:50 PM

QUOTE(Keller Pirate @ Aug 29 2007, 04:22 PM) View Post

I would like to know what some of you high school football experts think about the 2 campus Carroll High School. They refer to the school with the freshman and sophmores as Carroll High School and the campus with the juniors and seniors as Carroll Senior High School. The 2 campuses are more than a mile apart. I think they have been exploiting a technicality to call it one school and maintain their 5A rating. The state football powers must see it differently.


Splitting to a 2 high school district was proposed by a former superintendent and quickly dismissed after a public uproar. They like the unity created by one high school.

#10 Matt615

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Posted 30 August 2007 - 10:26 PM

The only thing to be upset about is the cover of the magazine that says Why you should hate SOUTHLAKE... Seems uncouth, but I bet it sold a bunch of magazines.

#11 safly

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 09:37 AM

QUOTE(JBB @ Aug 29 2007, 04:50 PM) View Post

QUOTE(Keller Pirate @ Aug 29 2007, 04:22 PM) View Post

I would like to know what some of you high school football experts think about the 2 campus Carroll High School. They refer to the school with the freshman and sophmores as Carroll High School and the campus with the juniors and seniors as Carroll Senior High School. The 2 campuses are more than a mile apart. I think they have been exploiting a technicality to call it one school and maintain their 5A rating. The state football powers must see it differently.


Splitting to a 2 high school district was proposed by a former superintendent and quickly dismissed after a public uproar. They like the unity created by one high school.


Well I guess those public uproars are just proof that shortsightedness can have a voice too. I don't buy that one high school unity CRAP-OLA (T-shirt coming soon!). MY alma mater had two campuses while I attended and about 7 years later voted on a second HS within the district, both 5-A. It's more of an opp't and is more RESPONSIBLE to allow the students who reside within the district a more optimal, fair and balanced classroom structure or setting. If the schools were still split, and knowing Southlake, it would probably have a mascot akin to the DRAGON, like Medieval MONSTERS or Fire WINGS??? And all the kids will still enjoy their brown bag specials and Route 44 slushies as usual together.

My HS had it's share of the TEXAS HS football powerhouse days, but with the new HS recently opened, those days seem further away. BUT, that is not the point here! Even though the new school had a somewhat dismal 1st year football season under it's belt, the students and COMMUNITY still pull together, still greet eachother at the local HEB's, still wave their American flags, still honor those who serve and still pay the same property taxes. SO LIFE GOES ON! I'd hope the good people of Southlake would greatly consider it an opportunity rather than a handicap when splitting schools.

But then again, it's a GROWING UP process and I just don't think Southlake is really ready to do that just yet.mellow.gif
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#12 cjyoung

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 10:26 AM

QUOTE(JBB @ Aug 29 2007, 10:34 AM) View Post

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP QUOTING POSTS THAT LONG FOR A THREE WORD REPLY. I mean, really, do you think someone wouldn't know what you're referring to?


Nope. tongue.gif Just ignore any and all posts featuring the name "cjyoung" with a picture of me and my boys at US Coast Guard graduation.

I don't think that GOD cares about postings in this forum.

#13 cjyoung

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 10:28 AM

QUOTE(Keller Pirate @ Aug 29 2007, 04:22 PM) View Post

I would like to know what some of you high school football experts think about the 2 campus Carroll High School. They refer to the school with the freshman and sophmores as Carroll High School and the campus with the juniors and seniors as Carroll Senior High School. The 2 campuses are more than a mile apart. I think they have been exploiting a technicality to call it one school and maintain their 5A rating. The state football powers must see it differently.


Carroll should have two high schools.

#14 Matt615

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 11:33 AM

Carroll should have two high schools.
[/quote]

IYHO, why?


#15 JBB

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 01:41 PM

I'm not sure what that nonsense about the Coast Guard has to do with any of this, but I don't think asking to keep the board clutter free is off-base. I don't ignore your posts because you usual have something to say, but that quote posting drives me insane. It's pointless.

Back on topic, if Carroll should be split into two high schools, so should Keller High, Colleyville Heritage, and Haltom. Those three schools in Carrolls athletic district have higher enrollment than Carroll.

#16 Keller Pirate

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 02:46 PM

QUOTE(JBB @ Sep 4 2007, 02:41 PM) View Post

Back on topic, if Carroll should be split into two high schools, so should Keller High, Colleyville Heritage, and Haltom. Those three schools in Carrolls athletic district have higher enrollment than Carroll.


That doesn't compute. Those 3 schools are in fact one school each, Carroll is 2 schools, Carroll High School and Carroll Senior High School. Each has its own princpal and they are located over 1 mile from each other. Splitting other schools because they are in the same athletic district just doesn't make sense.

Carroll High School has 1400 students and Carroll Senior High School has 1224 students according to their website. They combined the two schools for sports only so they would be able to play with the big boys. The stuff about community unity is bull at best since the schools are in fact seperate. They even list them as 2 schools on the Carroll ISD website.

However, based on the comments I have seen posted here, this isn't a big deal in Texas and is somewhat common, so more power to them. Besides that keeps the senior boys away from the freshman girls. unsure.gif

#17 JBB

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 03:23 PM

I guess I was a little unclear about the reasons for saying SLC should have two high schools. I thought it was related to the enrollment numbers. I guess I don't see what the big deal is. If they were splitting the numbers and playing down to 3A or 4A because they would have some type of competitive advantage, I guess I could understand.

#18 AndyN

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 11:14 PM

Interesting title.

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post

This December afternoon at the neutral ground of Texas Tech’s football stadium, in the third round of the 5A state playoffs, Southlake will face Odessa Permian, the team of six state championships and Friday Night Lights fame. But Odessa’s glory has faded. It is a city that never recovered from the oil bust of the 1980s. Football there serves as a salve for all hardships and warps all sensibilities. It is a city that is in every way different from Southlake—affluent, booming, its football team just another manifestation of its almost otherworldly success.


I just love people who read a 17 year-old book or fly through on the interstate and think they know a place. Never recovered? I know of trade jobs pulling in $100+ per hour right now. You can't do that in the metroplex. To think that West Texas is a worn-out busted region is far from the truth right now, as you can not buy a house for 203 months out and the local businesses can't find enough employees to fill the jobs. The office I was managing in Wichita Falls was closed and relocated to Midland (as in Odessa-Midland) last year. It's so grand of the author to make assumptions about a place he doesn't know. Can't help thinking he knows about as much about Southlake.



QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post

After the game, coach Dodge says, “Oh, it is sweet.” He himself was once a celebrated high school quarterback, in Port Arthur, Texas, the first in state history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. But in 1980 his team lost in the state championship game to Odessa Permian. The son avenging the father’s loss—a perfect storybook win of the sort that could only happen for Southlake.


I was at that game. My brother was on the defensive line. We were suppose to be smashed. I'm sure OPP will make up for this loss to Southlake. Lord knows they steamrolled Highland Park a few times.


QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post

Today 25,000 people live in Southlake (since 1990, the population has grown 257 percent). They are nearly all white (95 percent), though tell that to the predominantly black St. John Baptist Church, which is building an 80,000-square-foot church on Kimball Avenue. They are strivers, these Southlakers, the nouveau riche. The average price of a home is a little more than $400,000 (third-highest in North Texas, after only the Park Cities). Many of the homes—especially those on White Chapel Boulevard, the wealthiest area of town—are 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot estates with Spanish architecture and names like “The Blessing.” But just down the street from White Chapel is a popular restaurant, a shack really, called the Feed Store. Until the 1990s it was an actual feed store for livestock. Cattle still graze in nearby pastures.


I call it Crackerville, tongue-in-cheek. I know of bare 1 acre lots selling for $400,000, much less with a house. I think my thoughts on Southlake chasing WalMart out of the city are well known, if not here on the Dallas Forum.

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post
All that money, inevitably, drew one of those fashionable “new urbanism” developments to Southlake. In 1999, something called Town Square sprung up out of the prairie: a 131-acre mixed-used development designed by David Schwarz, the same architect who built the American Airlines Center and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Hilton Hotel on the far west side of Town Square sits across the street from Truluck’s and Taco Diner, which are down the street from Barnes & Noble, which is near the Cheesecake Factory and Snuffer’s. There’s 1.2 million square feet of this—a Lane Bryant here, a Starbucks there. Just like Plano, just like Addison, just like everywhere else..


God I hate that thing. It is so artificial.

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post
Except in Southlake it’s different. It works. It works because it’s beautiful. The main entrance of Town Square is a two-square-block public space, with a lawn in the foreground and mature trees shading parts of a fountain. Behind that there’s a gazebo and behind that another lawn with intersecting sidewalks, like a college quad. City Hall is here, too. And the post office. The development, perfectly huge and perfectly planned...


I disagree.

Interesting article. Call me back after they've made their movie. wink.gif
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#19 safly

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 06:37 PM

Did your bro play for OPP? D-lineman! I get HYPE!

They were stout throughout the 80's. We were supposed to play OPP in '93, but then they had some UIL infractions going on, so no DREAM State matchup with our horses. Instead we squeeked through a TIE with Aldine Ike (should have been THE STATE GAME at the Dome), and then we WORKED them pretty boys from PLANO at Floyd Casey for State. So glad football is BACK!

That 'Friday Night Lights' movie was a farce. That was my HS playing DCarter for State, but at Texas Stadium('88). Them boys had SQUAD, they had cats like Jesse Armstead just DAMMING up the run. Alot of them were dumb as rocks off the field, as what was to be there crowning acheivement turned into SCANDAL. So we won on a tech.

MY boys got OPP good in '95 though, at Texas Stadium. Sweet!

Like I was saying, our HS had both the Red (S,J)and Grey(S,F) Campus for our one school. Then a second HS popped up within the district(all one campus), but there is still the Red and Grey for my old school.


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#20 hannerhan

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 11:06 AM

QUOTE(AndyN @ Sep 5 2007, 12:14 AM) View Post

Interesting title.

QUOTE(vjackson @ Aug 29 2007, 09:09 AM) View Post

This December afternoon at the neutral ground of Texas Tech’s football stadium, in the third round of the 5A state playoffs, Southlake will face Odessa Permian, the team of six state championships and Friday Night Lights fame. But Odessa’s glory has faded. It is a city that never recovered from the oil bust of the 1980s. Football there serves as a salve for all hardships and warps all sensibilities. It is a city that is in every way different from Southlake—affluent, booming, its football team just another manifestation of its almost otherworldly success.


I just love people who read a 17 year-old book or fly through on the interstate and think they know a place. Never recovered? I know of trade jobs pulling in $100+ per hour right now. You can't do that in the metroplex. To think that West Texas is a worn-out busted region is far from the truth right now, as you can not buy a house for 203 months out and the local businesses can't find enough employees to fill the jobs. The office I was managing in Wichita Falls was closed and relocated to Midland (as in Odessa-Midland) last year. It's so grand of the author to make assumptions about a place he doesn't know. Can't help thinking he knows about as much about Southlake.



I thought it was a very well-informed article other than this major glaring error that you correctly point out. Midland and Odessa are definitely on the mend. I drove through West Midland a while back and couldn't believe it...thought I was in Frisco.

And I also disagree with the author's adoration of STS. But overall a very enjoyable piece.


#21 Fort Worthology

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 12:01 PM

Although I'm sure nobody is surprised, Southlake Town Square is literally the only part of Southlake I like. Otherwise...not my cup of tea, that town.

Nothing against any residents, but it's way too suburban outside of STS for me.

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#22 PLS

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 02:37 PM

i, for one, don't get the southlake bashing - a city that i think has done one of the better jobs of urban planning in the dfw area. the town square could certainly be improved in some elements of design (wider streets comes to mind), but i don't know how it could be considered anything but an overall success.

#23 hannerhan

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 03:05 PM

QUOTE(PLS @ Sep 7 2007, 03:37 PM) View Post

i, for one, don't get the southlake bashing - a city that i think has done one of the better jobs of urban planning in the dfw area. the town square could certainly be improved in some elements of design (wider streets comes to mind), but i don't know how it could be considered anything but an overall success.


Don't you remember the title of the article? laugh.gif

Yes I think the town square is clearly considered a success. My main beef with Southlake is the fact that I'm not interested in commuting 30 minutes. I love the idea of living where you work, which (almost) no one in Southlake does. Give me museums, my office, Sundance Square and 7th Street all within 3 miles of my house over Southlake any day. But hey, Southlake is awesome...which is why everyone hates them.

#24 AndyN

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 05:20 PM

QUOTE(PLS @ Sep 7 2007, 02:37 PM) View Post

i, for one, don't get the southlake bashing - a city that i think has done one of the better jobs of urban planning in the dfw area. the town square could certainly be improved in some elements of design (wider streets comes to mind), but i don't know how it could be considered anything but an overall success.



I don't deny that TownSquare is a success. Just not my cup of tea. The average person today has no appreciation for fine architecture. You could put up a styrofoam building covered with mylar made to look like a substantial building and Joe Q. Public would love it as long as his Apple Store and Cheesecake Factory are open.

Also I see I made a typo in my original post. You can't get a house for 2 or 3 months, not 203 months. I'm sure they can build new houses in less than 16.9 years.
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#25 RD Milhollin

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 10:21 AM

[quote name='Matt615' date='Sep 4 2007, 11:33 AM' post='39914']
Carroll should have two high schools.
[/quote]

IYHO, why?
[/quote]

As an educator who has done research in this area, I can authoritatively tell you that other considerations aside (median income, percentage of single-parent homes, languages spoken at home, parent involvement in education, etc.) the size of a school is directly and strongly correlated to student achievement. Smaller schools allow administration, not just teachers, to come into contact with students other than the top and bottom 5% of the population. Smaller schools allow more students to qualify for leadership positions in clubs and other activities. I am familiar with one massive area school where one admistrator was basically in charge of keeping the other administrators in line, besides being responsible for negotiating with gang leaders to make sure any violent activity took place off campus. Schools and districts like Carroll have high marks academically, but the income, language, etc. constraints on their students are much less that other high population schools, such as Haltom. Constructing mega-schools to save overhead expense is going to have serious long-term consequences for the poorer classes whose children will be able to slip between the cracks of success. Check out the Gates Foundation model school projects to see what legitimate, well-funded, applied research into what works for education suggests should be done with large urban schools.

It is true that considerations related to football competition hamper the best efforts of genuinely interested educators and administrators to provide the best education for lower-income urban students. I have met parents who view student participation in varsity sports as more important that academic achievement, sort of akin to betting their child's future on the lottery; similar chances of "winning" in the big leagues. IMO the system of school funding for statewide sports is confused; it is basically a means of subsidizing with scarce tax funds the private concerns that own and operate professional sports. I believe the system should be reversed: pro sports should fund inter-district sports, and this sort of competition should be taken off the state and school district budgets.


#26 safly

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 01:12 PM

I couldn't agree with you MORE about athletic funding for state schools. It is very disproportionate to say the least. And these parents you speak of actually have NO GRASP of reality when it comes to their child's future and the stardom at the HS level and EXPECTATIONS, much less SUCCESS, at the upper levels. I can honestly say that even if I had competed at a sub 5-A level, that there is just no way any NCAA school would come down to my house and OFFER me a scholarship. I flat out did not run a sub 4.5/40yd. and I am a mere 4.5inches shy of 6 feet and 3inches, so I guess I just got lost in the gene pool lotto for those prospects. And you CAN'T teach speed physically. So for me, I chose to learn the fundamentals of success in sports and how I could APPLY it to my daily life and for my future, way beyond athletics. Of course I made some mistakes, but my coaches where well aware of me being COACHABLE and that I would learn from those mistakes, and not make the same ones twice. I just wish most parents would CHOOSE to learn that same valuable lesson too. Very stubborn these days to say the least. Thank you ESPN and multi-million dollar MLB contracts.

Also I believe that when a game is televised on TV, such as the HS playoffs, then those exact networks should pay a 30% overall royalty fee divided to each class in the state.

Students being appointed leadership positions BEYOND the playing field have a greater effect on their success in the future, than what is honed on the playing field. Most of the time.

The coaches do a GREAT job in selling the importance of athletics in this state. I hope those same coaches step up their game for what is taking place in the classrooms. A sad state of affairs, but there is hope, unless nobody truly cares. Remember that scene in the movie 'Friday Night Lights', when Booby (All-Star RB) has come to the grim reality that his fure as a college/pro prospect are DONE. He has no answers for life and what life has to offer him outside of football. Very sad message to get at that age, but necessary in order to truly overcome obstacles and ACHIEVE in life. To me, that was the most IMPORTANT and most REALISTIC scene worth watching throughout the whole entire film.

Here is an interesting website of an association that I am proud to say that my former head coach and the father of a good friend of mine leads.

Quite relevant to this exact topic of discussion.
TexasHSCA

BTW, I don't envy educators, but I they do have my total respect. Who else do you know shows up to work everyday ready and motivated to teach so many disillusioned/hormonal mixture of youth, and do this for about 8 hours a day, five days a week. And ALL with their hands tied behind their back.
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