Among my journalistic stops while in “retirement” was servicing as n online copy editor for the Aledo (Tex.) Community News, serving a small bedroom enclave just west of Fort Worth. As is the case with most of Texas’ major metro areas, it is a place where people call home – where they sleep – without having the benefit of actually working there.
In Aledo, the largest source of community pride is its high school, at the Class 4A level (second highest attendance zone as established by the extra-curricular ruling University Interscholastic League) for the past 6-7 years. And the biggest symbol of that Bearcat pride is its multi-championship football squad.
But the big news this week among high school squads has been the formal complaint of “bullying” filed against the team by a parent from an opposing team which got shellacked 91-0 by Aledo last Friday night.
When Aledo plays, it isn’t usually a close game, and the 2013 season is no exception. AHS plays in perhaps the weakest district in the entire state, manned by Fort Worth schools, which, sadly, are terrible and cannot dream of competing with Aledo’s perennial powerhouse offense.
AHS averages (in 32 minutes of game action) a whopping … 69.3 points per game, including lopsided, non-district victories over famed Highland Park (44-3) and Stephenville (56-14). Between the two opponents sit almost a double-fistful of state titles. Baylor coach Art Briles got his reputation at Stephenville and two HP alums are Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, teammates for football and baseball.
They are joined by legendary Hall of Famers Doak Walker and Bobby Layne – just to name a few.
From 2009-11, Aledo won three consecutive 4A-Division II championship trophies, mostly by wide margins over some of the best programs offered in the Lone Star State. In Texas, there are SO many schools – all wanting a piece of a championship pie – the UIL employs a two-level system (based on attendance) for each classification. Instead of having five overall champions (plus six-man football, a blast if you’ve never seen it in person), there are 10 state titlists – double the pleasure and double the confusion.
Aledo has always been known as a high-scoring football team, established in 2009 when a freshman named Johnathan Gray stepped on to the field. When his high school career was completed, he was named National High School Player of the Year twice (an unprecedented feat). He set the all-time touchdown record of 205 (eclipsing the previous mark of 204 set by a familiar Michigan name – Mike Hart).
His squad won three consecutive 4A championships and he rushed for 10,881 yards in his career (on 1,209 carries) and a 9 yard average.
Gray’s biggest performances were reserved for those three state title games. In 2009, he ran for 252 yards and four touchdowns as AHS defeated the Brenham Cubs.
In 2010, he gained 323 yards and scored eight touchdowns as Aledo swarmed the defending champions from LaMarque. Those TDs helped Gray top the total of 57 scored by the legendary Kenneth Hall of Sugar Land in the late 1950s.
And a senior, playing his final high school game, Gray rushed for 241 yadrs, and scored the record-breaking 205th touchdown to overcome Hart’s mark. He finished his high school career first all-time in touchdowns and second all-time in points scored.
Such is the legacy at Aledo High School.
Sidenote: Gray is Texas’ leading rusher this season with 562 yards on 11 carries and four scores.
In District 7-4A, there is no adequate competition and it’s no one’s fault other than the UIL’s bi-annual redistricting bundling. Year and year, Aledo finds nothing but cupcakes when district play takes place. Through the first four games in 7-4A, Aledo has outscored its opposition by an average of 77 points! And it includes last Friday’s spectacular 91-0 drubbing of poor Fort Worth Western Hills (which followed an 84-7 win over O.D. Wyatt).
As a result, some unnamed parent from Western Hills has filed a formal complaint with the district committee for investigation of … bullying! With such activity ever increasing among students at all grade level, Texas law requires each district to provide bullying complaint forms on its website; the district’s high school principal is then required to check out the allegations and file a written report.
Aledo Head Coach Tim Buchanan is caught on the (Long)horns of a dilemma – what constitutes “bullying” on the football field when it’s only about the final score.
“It’s not something you can laugh off or anything like that,” he said. “What they said was that I should’ve told my players to ease up and not play so hard.”
It is simply impossible to ask a player, possibly a fourth-stringer, getting his only chance to play all season, to give less than his all. He isn’t coached that way and shouldn’t play that way. When young men are asked to play less than 100 percent, they get hurt – seriously hurt. That is not bullying.
Football as an official means of bullying is not defined in the Texas Education Code, which classifies bullying as “as engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity … and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student … or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.”
Even Western Hills Coach John Naylor agrees.
“I think the game was handled fine,” he said. “They’re No. 1 for a reason, and I know Coach Buchanan. We’re fighting a real uphill battle right now.”
Western Hill brought only 30 players – not an adequate amount on the roster to face such a “buzzsaw” as Naylor described AHS.
“Aledo just plays hard, and they’re good sports; they don’t talk at all,” he added. “They get after it, and that’s the way football is supposed to be played in Texas.”
In Buchanan’s defense, he pulled his starters on offense after 21 plays and a running clock was implemented in the third quarter. Aledo’s quarterbacks only attempted 10 passes.
“I’m upset about it,” Buchanan said. “I don’t like it; I sit there the whole third and fourth quarter and try to think how I can keep us from scoring.”
The real question is the quality of the opposition. Should a game (and lopsided outcome everyone knows is coming) actually be forced upon either team? Nothing is learned by teams like Aledo when winning by 77 points and nothing is gained by a school enduring such a scoreboard beating.
It’s sad; perhaps a tad tragic, but is it bullying? The simple answer is no and the hurt feelings of a parent, rooting for a team that simply cannot compete, is not grounds for any kind of investigation of innocent children.
Oh, by the way, 91 points – a great total for a basketball team – is NOT the Texas record; that was set in 1969 by Valley Mills with a 103-point showing against Grandview.
That wasn’t bullying either.