Rajan Nanavati, Editor and Founder of Hail To The District
Any football fan worth his or her salt knows it: high school football is practically a religion in the great state of Texas. You’ll find just as many people worshipping at the altar of the gridiron on Friday nights as you will worship at the altar of the Lord on Sunday mornings.
Just like anything else when it comes to the state of Texas, the success of small town football coaches plays a huge part in the greater illustrious history of high school football in the state. To that end, we wanted to identify some of the very best top head coaches of small town high school football teams in Texas:
Jimmy Arias, Friona High School — Third-year coach Jimmy Arias doesn’t have the tenure of the rest of the coaches on this list, but he might be a name to watch in the coming years. Prior to Arias’ arrival, Friona High School — located in Friona, Texas (with a population of less than 4,000) — last won a playoff game in 2009. But Arias has come to Friona and installed a high-octane attack via spread-based offense that features a heavy dose of the running game. The new scheme has resurrected the hopes and the future of the school. The offense is averaging over 40 points per game and has played very impressively in key district games. The team finished with a 7-4 record last year but was undefeated through the early part of the season.
Gary Joseph, Katy High School — Head coach Gary Joseph has been the man in charge at Katy High School in Katy, Texas, a suburb just west of Houston with a population of fewer than 18,000 people. But while he might not be coaching in one of the Lone Star state’s top locales, he might be one of the most prominent coaches in the entire state. His career record coaching the Katy Tigers is 167-14, meaning he basically averages one (or less) losses per season, making him one of the winningest coaches in the state. Coaching at the school since 2004, Joseph has already been named to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and was recently named the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.
Todd Rodgers, Argyle High School — As the head coach at Argyle High School in Argyle, Texas (with a population barely over 4,000 people), Todd Rodgers has turned the program into one of the most formidable teams in the entire state. His Eagles won a state title in 2013, which was one of their four trips to the state title game since 2011. His success in changing the program allowed the school to promote him to the Athletic Director, in addition to being the head football coach. For coaches who are hoping that Rodgers eventually moves on from the profession, they shouldn’t hold their breath. Rodgers recently stated that he could see himself coaching for as much as the next decade. That should be great news for the folks in Argyle.
Jerry Burkhart, Stanton High School — As the old saying goes: one man’s loss is another man’s gain. The latter is likely how the folks in Stanton, Texas — with a population of fewer than 3,000 people — feel right now, as Jerry Burkhart, who led Richland Springs to an eight state championships in football, has been approved as the new head football coach and athletic director at Stanton High School. Burkhart’s success at Richland Springs was nothing short of incredible — he was 192-10 in 15 seasons. That’s a far departure from what Stanton has seen on the field, as the school has an aggregate record of 7-32 over the last four seasons, and hasn’t won a single playoff game since 2010. Since the start of 2016, Stanton has won a total of two games. Obviously, they’re hoping all of that changes — and fast — with the arrival of Burkhart.
Doug Warren, Wimberly High School — The head coach at Wimberly High School in Wimberly, Texas (which has a population of fewer than 3,000 people), Doug Warren and his family are as intertwined with Wimberly as a family can possibly be. Warren doubles as the head coach and the Athletic Director for all Wimberly Texans sports. His wife Michelle serves as a counselor at the school, and both of Warren’s daughters attended the school. As a (very successful) head coach at a smaller school (he has a winning percentage over .700), Warren has been a big proponent of allowing teams who qualify for the postseason to play games at home. For instance, Warren lobbied for his Wimberly team to be able to play their first-round playoff games at Texan Stadium since it’s very hard for smaller schools to find site-neutral venues (which are usually gobbled up by the larger schools).
Steve Wood, Aledo High School — Head coach Steve Wood will be entering the 2018 football season with the goal of getting the taste of defeat out of his and his team’s mouths. After winning the 5A Division II state championship in 2016, Aledo High School (in Aledo, Texas, which has a population of fewer than 3,800 people) lost for the first time in 32 games when their state title defense came up short against College Station High School. It was the first loss for the Bearcats (15-1) in 32 games. The loss also cost Wood the opportunity to tie the all-time UIL state record with eight football championships. Wood has been an educator and a coach for the better part of four decades, and a proud Bearcat for 15 years. He describes coaching as his “passion,” and finds the success of student-athletes to be the most gratifying part of his job.
Scott Surratt, Carthage High School — Carthage High School head football coach Scott Surratt is such a valued asset to the school and its athletic program that the coach was actually handed a healthy raise right in the midst of severe budget cuts. His arrival a decade ago was described as “the best thing that could have happened to a lackluster football program,” as he now has fans routinely packing the school’s stadium in the small East Texas town of Carthage, which has a population of fewer than 7,000 people. Winning a title in the state of Texas is hard enough, but Surratt was named All-East Texas Coach of the Year after leading Carthage to its second consecutive title and sixth crown in Surratt’s 11 seasons. In 2017, Carthage spent the majority of the season blowing out opponents, as only two of its games had a margin of victory under 20 points (and one of those games didn’t come until the state semifinals). Under Surratt, Carthage has a record of 125-24 (.839 winning percentage) over the past decade.