By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Though Hays football coach Bob Shelton is often called “legendary,” there really aren’t any legends about him, except that he’s always stuck around. Indeed, Shelton is a common, pleasant man, the antithesis of self-promotion in a profession that often equates job hopping with ambition.
As Shelton would have it, the legends are really about his football teams, the 41 at Hays High School and the four before then at Buda High School. To the extent that legends are told about Shelton, they’re just as likely to reference his days of basketball stardom in the late 1950s at Dripping Springs High School, where he still holds the career scoring record.
Perhaps it’s more apt to call Shelton a Hays County sports icon, which is a “best example” of some undertaking. Going back to his high school career and including his days at the formerly named Southwest Texas State, Shelton has made the Hays County athletic scene for more than 50 years, and they’re still counting.
Shelton is gunning for his 300th career high school football coaching victory tonight at the appropriately named Bob Shelton Stadium, where his Rebels will play Lockhart at 7:30 p.m. Shelton is 276-160-3 at Hays after a 23-15-4 record at Buda, for a combined mark of 299-175-7.
But for Shelton, it’s not his achievement that really matters here. The players have a chance to make their own history. The Rebels haven’t won a district championship outright since 1998, and they need a win tonight to keep the far inside track.
“It’s a district game, and that’s the most important thing,” Shelton said, the way he’s said it about every district game for more than 40 years. “The 300 wins, I think it’s something that when I’ve been out of it for a while, I’ll think about it. I’m sure there will be a point when I’ll look back on it.”
Already, there’s so much else to remember for Shelton, who turned 68 on Oct. 4. Just by staying put, he has moved up the ranks, all the way from a dinky Class B Buda High School in the 1960s, to a wobbly consolidation to Hays High School in 1968, though the struggles of bringing Buda and Kyle families under one banner to build a winning football tradition, to the many nights of absolute magic.
It hasn’t been easy. Through the first ten years of his career, Shelton held a career record of 46-51-5, including 23-36-1 in the first six years at Hays.
The breakthrough began in 1974, when the Rebels posted their first winning season at 7-3 and became a consistent district contender within Class 2A. From 1974 through 1979, the Rebels posted a 47-13-1 record. But only district champions qualified for the playoffs in those days, so the Rebels made but one playoff appearance, in 1976.
In 1980, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) added classifications and playoff teams, bumping Hays up to Class 4A. Thus, the struggles began again. From 1981 through 1986, the Rebels posted only one winning season, which resulted in a 1982 playoff berth.
However, to this day, their 3-7 performance in 1985 remains the Rebels’ last losing record, and that is one of the true marks of Shelton’s program. If the Rebels haven’t won a state championship or routinely advanced to the regional finals, they have navigated football’s changing times and constantly shifting contexts with consistently competitive teams. Shelton is working on his 23rd straight year without putting a losing team on the field.
The program enjoyed its most success in the 1990s, when the Rebels made seven playoff appearances and posted a 13-8 playoff record. In 1996, they went to a Class 4A state championship game, losing, 34-19, to Grapevine.
Those Class 4A teams of the 1990s featured wishbone football in the style of Darrell K. Royal, triggered by dashing quarterbacks and linemen who came off the ball like rockets. The Rebels ran the ball, played defense and didn’t bother a lot with passing or kicking. Knowing exactly what the Rebels would do, opponents usually still couldn’t stop them.
With the start of the 21st century, Hays grew into Class 5A, which brought another period of adjustment. In order to keep up with the more diverse big-school operations, Hays had to diversify, and now the Rebels are as multiple as an offense can make itself.
After a two-year absence from the playoffs, the Rebels were back in 2003 with two of their signature wins. In October, they beat Westlake, 21-19 at Bob Shelton Stadium, sending that local power to its first district defeat in 72 games. In November, they won their first Class 5A playoff game, beating highly ranked San Antonio Roosevelt, 14-10, in San Antonio.
The 2005 team produced the most dazzling offense in Hays history. Led by quarterback Nash McPheeters, running back Amadeus Waters and a dominant offensive line, the Rebels averaged a school record 486 yards per game. They averaged 47.1 points per game during the regular season, when an improbable last second comeback by Westlake sent them to a 31-30 loss on the last night of the regular season, depriving them of a perfect regular season record.
The 2006 team struggled through the end of a grueling District 26-4A campaign, but came up huge in the playoffs. A 35-14 win against Lake Travis remains the last defeat for that school, which won the 2007 state championship.
But no win in Hays history quite matches Dec. 3, 2006, in the Alamodome. Down 20-14 in the Region IV semifinals against unbeaten and third-ranked Corpus Christi Calallen, the Rebels needed to go 98 yards in 43 seconds with no timeouts. In a drive that would impress John Elway, Hays quarterback Brooks Pinckard moved the Rebels to the Calallen 20 in five plays.
With three seconds remaining and the Rebels on the Calallen 20, Pinckard threw in the back of the end zone to Clayton Rogers, who came down with a miracle touchdown catch as time expired. While the Hays crowd went wild, Alex Perez added the extra point, giving the Rebels their 21-20 win and advancement to the regional final, where they lost to Schertz Clemens.
The last couple years have shown the effects of an additional high school in the Hays CISD. With Lehman High School now in its third year of varsity football, the numbers at Hays are down, and there’s no question that a good bit of that Lehman talent would make the Rebels a much more imposing football team.
But the Pinckard-Rogers drive in the Alamodome set the tone for Hays to see past its limits and cook up dramatic, exciting football displaying presence of mind and an absolute refusal to stomach defeat until the game is completely finished. Three times last year, the Rebels pushed games into overtime when defeat was all but certain, winning two of them.
And last Friday night at Elgin, another incredible finish put the Rebels over the top. Down 20-14 and starting at their own three with 31 seconds left, Hays scored the tying touchdown on a 97-yard pass from Sam Breyfogle to Trevell Jones after the ball bounced off the helmet of Hays receiver Trey Berry and into Jones’ arms. This time, the referees flagged Hays for excessive celebration, so Perez missed a 35-yard point-after kick. But the Rebels won in overtime, 26-20.
“It’s got to be close to the Calallen game, but I guess it’s not quite as important because of that Calallen game was in the playoffs,” Shelton said of last Friday’s win. “It’s a hard thing teaching kids to play hard to the end. It doesn’t matter what you say a lot of times. But our tradition helps us quite a bit because our kids always think they’re in the game after some of the wins we’ve had.”
Tonight, the Rebels (3-3 overall, 1-0 District 17-4A) will take on a Lockhart team, which, like Elgin, runs the Slot-T. The Lions (3-3, 0-1) are much sharper with the offense under second-year head coach Trey Moses, who got his start as a freshman coach at Hays and moved on to the varsity staff at San Marcos, where he learned the Slot-T.
Unlike Elgin, which runs a more halfback-oriented Slot-T, the Lions give most of their carries to fullback Dominique Hardaway, who already is up to 968 rushing yards and ten touchdowns in 137 carries. Quarterback Zachary Leija has rushed for 547 yards.
The Rebels will bring their multiple force of offensive talents, led by quarterback Berry, who has rushed for 600 yards and passed for 421. If the Rebels find themselves in a bind, they learned last week that Breyfogle can bring them back from the shotgun, in which Berry functions as a clutch receiver.
The question defensively for Hays is how it will handle the Slot-T. But there’s a silver lining, since the Rebels faced that exotic formation last week. Shelton said he has “probably never” faced the Slot-T two weeks in a row.
Which just goes to show that if you hang around for 45 years, you might see everything. As of tonight, that might include 300 career wins.Email | Print