San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 18th, 2008
Hays football coach reaches rare, remarkable milestone

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – The story lines would have been fine for next Friday night, with Hays football coach Bob Shelton attempting his 300th career win at Manor.

A nice little tale was shaping up, something along the lines of a tangent being shot off into infinity and circling back to its point of origin. Shelton claimed his first win as a varsity football coach in Manor while guiding the now-defunct Buda High School in 1964. The man he replaced at Buda, George Jett, later became the superintendent in Manor. Somehow, Shelton winning No. 300 in Manor was going to tie together nicely.

The Hays faithful went to Bob Shelton Stadium Friday night hoping to see Shelton reach 300 then and there against Lockhart, but by late into the fourth quarter, it wasn’t going to happen. Lifeless offensively for much of the second half, the Rebels trailed Lockhart, 20-14, with 2:42 remaining. They fell behind by allowing Lockhart to break long touchdown runs on its first two possessions after intermission.

In response, the Rebels cobbled together all of 51 yards in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Something happened to this football team. It didn’t seem to understand that it was in the middle of a football game.

In short, this week’s build-up to Shelton winning No. 300 was dragging into next week, with the Rebels to play in Manor and the coach trying to reach his wins milestone at the point of its origin. It was a bit of a letdown, to be sure, though maybe a good story is worth the wait.

But Hays quarterback Trey Berry didn’t care much for that story line, and neither did running back Billy Gandy. Shelton, for his part, just wanted to get it done with. But it didn’t matter. They were stuck with it.

So, the Rebels plodded along with one last set of snaps Friday night, moving about as sluggishly as they moved for the whole second half. The Rebels had first and ten at their own 40 when the call went to Gandy, who drove into the middle of the line. Time was wasting and the Rebels weren’t going anywhere.

But suddenly, as if the light came down from heaven, Gandy found himself with a wide-open field. Known more for his downhill style than his speed, Gandy surged through the secondary and pushed for the goal line, weaving left to right and back as he lurched towards the end zone in the hope that his serpentine steps would keep the faster Lockhart pursuers from reaching him.

And when Gandy finally reached the end zone at the finish of an improbable 60-yard touchdown run, an enormous exhaling surged through Bob Shelton Stadium. As Alex Perez made the point after kick, the Rebels took a 21-20 lead. On the next play from scrimmage, Hays’ Anthony Pesina intercepted Lockhart’s Tyler Tolley with 2:36 remaining, returning the ball to the Lockhart 28.

And – what do you know? – the kids came through again. Just like that, the Rebels, who gave no indication for the last three quarters of this football game that they were good enough to win it – well, they won it, they won another trademark, late arriving Hays victory, though not just any trademark, late arriving Hays victory. This one ended with more celebration than usual.

On the field, the media from Austin to San Marcos surrounded Shelton to collect his thoughts about 300 career victories, an achievement every bit as remarkable for its humble style as its glorious rarity. Later, Shelton’s players mobbed him in the middle of the turf.

The old coach posed for pictures with his coaches and his team as the public applauded his career from the stands. Public address announcer Bubba Kimbro announced Shelton as the seventh 300-game winner in history among Texas high school football coaches, and the only Texas head coach to spend 45 years in one spot.

Thus, the Hays football program lived another joyous moment of its peculiar, proud aura, which isn’t the aura of a great dynasty, but the hard-won satisfaction of a local project made from kids who are unremarkable in every respect except for their flair with the football moment, to which they are socialized by the Hays teams that came before them and a coaching staff that’s been under the same direction for three generations.

And, you know, Bob Shelton isn’t the kind of guy to tout himself. If he were, he wouldn’t be coaching high school football in Buda for 45 years. But he clearly savored this one, smiling as one seldom sees him smile.

“It was good to get it here at home and I’ve just been blessed to have so many great coaches here with me,” Shelton told reporters right away. “You know, the coaching staff has been together since 1994, pretty much. And we’ve had a lot of great players, a lot of great kids. So, the honor is really for them. They’re the ones that did all the work and I’m just real proud of them and what they’ve done.”

Naturally, questions were posed to Shelton about his next milestone. He’s 68 years old with a career record of 300-175-7, including 277-160-3 at Hays. So, 400 wins is out of the question, and 350 is highly unlikely. But Shelton didn’t even commit to reaching 300 wins at Hays. To add those 23 victories, he would need the rest of this year and at least two more. Hearing that, one reporter asked Shelton if he were hinting at retirement.

“I’m not hinting,” Shelton said. “I just don’t know. I know I’m not going to do it much longer. But I’ve enjoyed it.”

For now, Shelton said, “This is our second district game and we’re 2-0. That’s the most important thing.”

The Rebels (4-3 overall, 2-0 District 17-4A) came out as if they intended to turn the evening into a very long coronation for their coach. At the end of their first possession, Torrance Smith ran 19 yards for a touchdown, making it 7-0 in the first quarter. On the second play of the second quarter, Berry went 51 yards for a touchdown on the option keeper, making it 14-0.

But Lockhart (3-4, 0-2) kept pounding away behind a running attack that totaled 350 yards, including 160 for fullback Dominique Hardaway. Lockhart scored the next three touchdowns on a nine-yard run for Kory Robbins, then third-quarter touchdown runs of 32 and 70 yards by Richard Ybarra. The point after kick failed after the second Ybarra run and the Lions held a 20-14 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter.

However, the Rebels played with so little juice that it never looked as if the missed kick would make a difference. As it turned out, that missed kick gave the Rebels an opening, then the line gave Gandy an opening.

“I can’t imagine doing it in Manor,” Berry said about the likelihood that Shelton’s milestone would be deferred by a week. “I’m glad we did it here. You can never count us out. I knew were going to win it.”

A bit more than 30 minutes past the end of the game, while the Hays boosters served cake to the coaches and players, Shelton sat in his office with some of the Hays CISD old timers who congratulated him on No. 300. Shelton said he was already thinking about No. 301. That will be the story line next Friday night in Manor.

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