Repeat football titles hard to achieve

The Cameron Yoemen's Class 2A Division I state football championship trophy.

Eleven area high school football teams have attempted it and 11 have failed.

Starting with Rockdale’s Class 2A state title in 1976, 11 area teams have captured state championships and not one has managed to defend their title. Cameron Yoe, the reigning Class 2A Division I champion, will try to become the first to repeat.

“It’s really tough to win one state championship as it is. And winning back-to-back, a lot of things would have to fall in place for you,” Yoemen quarterback Jason Kopriva said. “As the year goes on, just one game at a time, you never know what could happen. If we are fortunate enough to (repeat as state champions), we’d be really blessed and we’d love it.”

Simple math would suggest that winning consecutive state titles is twice as tough as winning just one. But once everything from injury possibilities to the human psyche gets factored in, mathematics might not provide an answer to the question: Just how tough is it to repeat?

“It is hard. But you’re not breaking new ground because you’ve been there before,” said former Temple coach Bob McQueen, whose Wildcats had unsuccessful repeat bids in 1980 and 1993. “The class that follows the class that won it wants to keep that tradition going.”

So perhaps doubling up on titles isn’t as tough as it sounds. After all, once a team hoists that trophy, it has a recipe it can duplicate.

“(The players) want to taste it again,” said Rogers coach Jeff Walker, a former assistant on the coaching staff that helped Liberty Hill go back-to-back in 2006 and ’07. “They are hungry. They know what it tastes like and know what it takes.”

Then what’s the snag? Why doesn’t every champion repeat? And why did Rockdale, Temple, Yoe (1982), Bartlett (’91, ’93, 2000), Killeen (’92), Granger (’98), Gatesville (’01) and Rosebud-Lott (’03) all fare unsuccessful in their bids to repeat.

Maybe it’s the pressure of area townspeople expecting to bring home another trophy long before December ever rolls around.

“Of course we expect them to win it again,” said a lady who answered the phone last week at Cameron City Hall.

“Expectations go through the roof,” Walker said. “Obviously, everybody around town wants you to win it again and expects you to win it again. But nobody’s expectations are higher than the coaches’ anyway.”

Besides, there isn’t much proof that the expectations of townspeople even trickle down to the players.

“You can take it as pressure or you can just take it as kind of an honor and just kind of run with it and be proud,” Kopriva said.

The quarterback’s coach has similar sentiments.

“The pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves, and that’s the pressure to be the very best that we can,” Yoe coach Rick Rhoades said. “As long as we do that each and every day, we’ll have a chance to be a great football team.

“Obviously there’s a lot of people that think, ‘You know, you got a good core of guys coming back. You won it last year. You ought to win it this year.’ It doesn’t work that way. Every year’s a different team and you got to build that team from the ground up each and every year.”

So that could be the big obstacle — the fact that a team’s chemistry and strengths one year could be its weakness and downfall the next season.

“As coaches you have to coach twice as hard the next season,” McQueen said. “You’ve got that bullseye on your back because everybody wants to beat you. You’re everybody’s big game the next season.”

There is no downplaying the size of the aforementioned bullseye. In fact, the Yoemen are counting on being targets this season.

“Everybody’s talking about, ‘We got to put the Yoemen out. We got to do this, we got to do that. We got to beat them. They aren’t going to go back again,” Yoe senior linebacker Somari Wright said. “They don’t think we’re going to go back (to the state title game). We’re going to go back though.

“We do have a big target on our back, don’t get me wrong. Everybody’s going to try to knock the Yoemen out. Every team we play in our district and every team we play in the playoffs, that’s probably what they’re thinking is that they’re going to knock us out. But it ain’t going to happen.”

Bravado can certainly give players a boost. However, perhaps the most effective fuel for a team’s drive to a second straight title is flat-out talent.

“You have to have great players because they make great coaches,” Walker said. “And you have to be injury-free, so you have to be lucky. There’s a little luck involved. You have to have a great system and great kids and great luck. It’s extremely hard.”

So in a nutshell: there will be pressure from outside sources that the players can handle; opponents will throw the kitchen sink into their game plans; talented players tend to win more state titles; and the second one isn’t easy but might be easier than the first.

In other words, perhaps there is no secret formula for winning back-to-back championships.

The only thing known is that getting to wear that crown even once feels pretty special.

“I think I heard somebody say that only two percent of all head coaches win a state championship,” Rhoades said. “So to be part of that two percent, every coach wants to be there. And to be a part of that, that’s a very big honor to me.

“Just getting to the state championship game is a great feat. To win two, that’s going to be tough. There’s some good football teams in the state of Texas and to beat all of them, to be at the top at the end, that’s tough. That’s really, really tough.”

There are 11 other area teams that can attest to that.