When he first arrived in Marlin last year after moving from El Paso, Ruben Torres didn’t get consumed thinking about wins.
He didn’t rush to push his players into the weight room or to install any offensive or defensive schemes. His first goal was to learn his players’ names, to figure out who they were as people.
That approach worked, and actually led to plenty of wins come fall Friday nights. Eleven of them, in fact, as the Bulldogs surged all the way to the Class 2A Division I state semifinals.
The entire state took notice, and since that time Marlin has been the recipient of a variety of honors. The latest: Torres and the Bulldogs will accept the Gordon Wood Award from the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame at its annual induction banquet on May 7 in Waco. The award, named for the legendary former Brownwood coach who won nine state championships, is presented annually to a noteworthy Texas high school football team that displayed good sportsmanship, overcame challenges, enjoyed community support, and achieved success on the field.
In that way, it is similar to the Tribune-Herald’s Jinx Tucker Trophy, which Marlin claimed in January.
“I think when you find out what the meaning of those awards are — the Gordon Wood and of course the Jinx Tucker Award, it really does leave you speechless,” Torres said. “I think it’s a credit to our superintendent (Darryl Henson) and his vision and all the work he’s done to try to restore the community. You don’t have community without people. … Those awards put into perspective all that our kids and our community have had to overcome. It’s definitely more gratifying than any championship or any game you can win.”
Torres saw promise and potential in Marlin. But he never would have offered any bold predictions that the Bulldogs would land in the state semis in his first season after he first showed up on campus in February 2021, just before the state was hit with a “Snowmageddon” winter storm.
“The athleticism was there. The challenge was going to be getting our numbers up,” he said. “If you ask me did I think we’d be in the state semifinals, no, I never talked about that.”
No, his first goal was learning names, attaching them to faces, getting to know his guys. By learning the personality of the team, Torres understood the approach he needed to take with the Bulldogs.
“I think as I learned the players, that kind of shaped the coaching style that I wanted to provide for them,” he said. “What we realized was that these kids wanted to be coached, wanted to be coached hard, and wanted to see some results. I think that as they started to see that, there was a lot more teaching than yelling, there was a lot more patience than punishment, it all started to come together.”
The program’s best salesmen turned out to be the kids involved. They talked to their friends, and the numbers grew. Torres said that Marlin went from 14 to 17 varsity regulars when he took over to around 33 to 35 by the time the season kicked off in the fall.
After Marlin lost to Hawley, 19-12, in the state semis, the Bulldogs returned to campus with a new sense of focus. Some of the players traded in their football pads for basketball jerseys or track and field singlets, while others hit the weights for the offseason strength and conditioning program.
They’re proud of what they accomplished in the 2021 season. But the Bulldogs also don’t want to be one-year wonders.
“We’ve been in that new phase, and with the exception of the awards we’ve been blessed to get and be recognized for, we don’t really talk about last year at all,” Torres said. “Everything has been moving forward. Next year is going to be much harder, the path to get there will be harder, but I think that our kids are up for the challenge. They’re putting in the work.”
Marlin, Lorena coaches honored by DCTF
Lorena’s Ray Biles and Marlin’s Ruben Torres picked up Coach of the Year honors on Monday from Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, for Classes 3A and 2A, respectively.
In his 30th season leading the Leopards, Biles led Lorena to a 14-2 season and the Class 3A Div. I state championship, the school’s first since 1987. Lorena’s 35-18 state win over Brock coincidentally happened to be the 200th in Biles’ career. He was named the Trib’s Super Centex Coach of the Year after the season.
Torres, meanwhile, oversaw Marlin’s rise to an 11-4 season and a trip to the Class 2A Div. I state semifinals in his first year as head coach. Prior to his arrival, Marlin had suffered losing seasons in nine of the past 10 years.
Chilton promotes Huitt to new post
Chilton ISD has named Bennie Huitt as its permanent athletic director and head football coach.
Huitt had been serving as Chilton’s interim AD/HFC since Chris James announced his resignation earlier in the month. Huitt has been on staff for the past three years, serving as assistant athletic director, football defensive coordinator and head powerlifting coach.
Huitt has more than 20 years of coaching experience, including past stints at Navasota, Trinity and Marlin, his hometown. He graduated from Marlin High School in 1992 before going on to play football at Ranger College and Angelo State University.
Huitt spent four seasons as Marlin’s head football coach from 2013-16, tallying a 17-25 record, capped off by a 6-6 mark and trip to the area playoffs in 2015. He was the District 10-2A Coach of the Year that season.
Chilton is coming off a 12-2 season in which Mart was the only team to defeat the Pirates.
Meridian adds Kerbow to fill AD/HFC vacancy
Meridian ISD has hired Jim Kerbow as its new head football coach/athletic director, approving the move at last week’s school board meeting.
Kerbow makes the move across Central Texas to Meridian from Itasca, where he spent the past three years leading the Wampus Cats. He went 5-23 in his time in Itasca. He also has past stints at Huntington, Frankston, Rosebud-Lott, Rockdale, Lamar Consolidated, Columbus and Tyler Lee in more than 20 years of coaching.
In an email, Meridian ISD superintendent Kim Edwards said the school district was “very excited” to add Kerbow to its staff.
The Yellow Jackets went 1-9 on the gridiron last year. They last made the playoffs in 2017.
Kerbow follows Wade Morton, who left to take an assistant coach position at defending state champion China Spring.
Deadline approaching for Clifton applicants
Friday is the application deadline for coaches interested in the vacant Clifton athletic director/head football coach job.
That position opened earlier this month when Chuck Caniford left for Krum after eight seasons leading the Cubs. Clifton ISD superintendent Andy Ball said the timetable for presenting a candidate to the school board is up in the air and will be dependent upon the candidates’ interview availability.
Clifton was 1-9 last season, and last made the playoffs in 2019, when the Cubs went 8-4.
Midway welcomes Johnson as defensive coordinator
Midway’s football team will have a new face leading its defense in the fall, though he’s certainly no stranger to head coach Shane Anderson.
Midway announced the hiring of Kaeron Johnson as its new defensive coordinator this week. Johnson comes to the Panthers after two years as the DC at Richmond Fulshear. But he’s well-acquainted with Anderson, as he had a past stint as Connally’s DC when Anderson was head coach of the Cadets.
Johnson, 32, was a two-way all-state player at Cuero who played fullback and defensive lineman at Baylor from 2009-12. He’ll look to shore up a Midway defense that allowed more than 46 points per game in the Panthers’ 1-9 season in 2021.
Vanguard extends tennis title reign
When it comes to private school tennis, Vanguard is making net gain after net gain.
The Vikings just wrapped up their TAPPS district tournament in Arlington, capturing their sixth straight district title for the boys’ program and their second straight for the girls.
Vanguard’s Zach Henry won the boys’ single title, outlasting a tough opponent from Dallas Lutheran in the final. Hyrum Blackwelder teamed with Aldo Ibarra to win the boys’ doubles title over teammates Seth Blackwelder and Carter Oates. The Lady Vikings, meanwhile, were led by Aubrey Carroll (third in singles) and the doubles team of McKenna Lowery and Karoline Horner, who also finished third.
Vanguard will celebrate senior night Monday against Live Oak, then will turn its attention to next week’s TAPPS State Tournament at the Waco Regional Tennis Center. The Vanguard boys will be shooting for a TAPPS state title three-peat, as the Vikings won in 2019 and 2021, with COVID-19 scratching the 2020 tournament.
Super Centex soccer nominations sought
Central Texas soccer coaches whose seasons are complete are encouraged to submit nominations for the annual Super Centex Girls and Boys Soccer Teams.
Nominations should include players’ positions, classifications, statistics, and any awards or honors they’ve received, along with any additional information the coach would like to include. The Trib will also select a Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
Nominations may be sent to Brice Cherry (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chad Conine (email@example.com). Coaches may also submit their all-district teams at that time.
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