Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series of how area football teams fared in this and other decades.
The conclusion of the Texas high school football season will not only mark the end of 2019, but the 2010s decade. It’s also the end of a full century since the UIL instituted a formalized playoff system leading to a true state champion in 1920.
So it makes for an appropriate time to look through a century of football decade by decade for area football teams. Society tends to break up various cultural eras into the neater dividers of decades even though many trends, fads, musical styles and cultural eras bleed from one decade to another.
The broad landscape of high school football in Texas, however, can be sliced nicely into 10-year pieces with the fortuitous beginnings of it coming at the start of a decade a century ago.
Of course, not all area teams were playing football the last 10 decades and some didn’t even exist in their current form, while other school’s gridiron origins — such as Temple, Belton, Cameron and Rockdale — significantly pre-date the UIL playoff era.
As not only the flagship football program in this area but the third winningest program in the state, Temple has weathered its share of storms while maintaining its mantle among the most respected traditional powers in Texas. Temple has appeared in nine state championship games in the span between 1940 and 2016. In four different decades — 1940s, 50s, 70s and 2010s — the Wildcats played for the title twice apiece and won it all in 1992. The Wildcats have won 774 games in program history and won 56 games from 1905-1919 before 10-game schedules became commonplace.
What decade would be viewed as the Wildcats’ most successful?
Off the top of the head, it can be presumed perhaps that one of the last four decades might lead the pack as the UIL expanded the playoffs, which provided for more games to be played and more opportunities to win. Plus, those pesky ties were done away with in the mid-1990s.
Success and talent tend to be cyclical so consistency often varies from season to another much less one decade to another. Temple consistency, with notable exceptions, has been impressive. It is a record not entirely built on one era of massive victorious success, but cultivated over all of those decades. That’s how a record such as 774-358-52 is amassed.
The Wildcats of the 2010s bounced back in a big way from the Wildcats of the 2000s. The first decade of this century turned out to be the most extensive down period in program history as Temple posted a 36-68 record under three head coaches with just two winning campaigns.
Temple found its footing this decade with nine straight winning seasons after a 1-9 2010. Five straight 10-plus win seasons and two state runner-up finishes lifted the Wildcats to an 83-40 mark for the 2010s. It was the Wildcats’ fourth 80-plus win decade.
Was it a program best? Not quite.
The teams from the era of leisure suits and disco music still can claim the mantle of Temple’s winningest decade. And there was no expansion of the playoffs to help pick up a few more victories. Only district champions entered the postseason.
The Wildcats didn’t exactly begin the 1970s like a cannon blast. The first two seasons netted a combined 7-12 record. Bob McQueen replaced John Elam in 1972 and things changed in a hurry with a 9-1 mark, a record that would now be a playoff shoo-in. In fact, it was another four years before the Wildcats made the playoffs.
In the final four years of the decade, the Wildcats won all 40 of their regular-season games, went to the state title game twice and won their first on the final week of the decade. Temple went 86-24-2 in the 70s. At the time, that eclipsed the 1950’s teams that went 79-29-2. By the way, the win totals of other decades of yesteryear are 73 from the 1930s, 71 from the 1920s, 66 in the 1960s and 61 in the 1940s.
The 80s and 90s — all coached entirely by McQueen — brushed up against the 70’s record, but came up shy. The 80’s teams with four seasons of 10-plus victories went 82-29-2 and the 90’s went 81-37-3, including the state title in 1992.
Although the 80s didn’t catch the win total of the 70s and was surpassed by the 2010s, at least the first half of the 80’s teams can take solace in knowing they were part of the most successful 10-year span in Wildcats history. From 1976-85 Temple teams went an astounding 109-14-2.
No matter how you slice the decades, that will be hard to beat.