GRANDVIEW — The impact a state championship, no matter the sport, brings to a community is immeasurable, but winning back-to-back state titles in football in Texas is about as sweet as it gets.
The Times-Review reached out to several community members to collect their thoughts on Grandview’s historic accomplishment Thursday of becoming just the 55th team in Texas high school football history (99 years) to win consecutive state championships.
Grandview ISD Superintendent Joe Perrin commended the players and coaches for persevering through so many obstacles.
“I’m super proud of them, especially the fact that they overcame so much adversity with injuries,” Perrin said. “I’m really proud of the fact that the coaches and kids really worked hard together and were able to achieve a goal that they had set 12 months before.”
Perrin added that the football state championship will be appreciated by every administrator, teacher, employee, and student in Grandview, as well as the community, which has been a huge supporter of Zebra athletics.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment, not only for the kids on the team but for the community and for the school,” Perrin said. “We have such tremendous support in all the things we do and we really appreciate that. That’s a big part of our success is the support we have from the community, the school board, and the parents. It starts at the elementary school and goes all the way through. We’re very proud as a school district and a community to win back-to-back state championships.”
Grandview High School Principal Kirby Basham believes the football team’s back-to-back runs will help impact Zebra athletics overall.
“I think it just sets the expectation at a new level,” Basham said. “We’ve played in a number of regional finals and never broke through. After last year’s state championship, it proves we’re ready and we know what it takes. Not just our football team but our basketball teams and our baseball and softball teams — all of our teams. They know the work it takes and the mindset you have to have. I think there’s more championships to come in the future because of this. The hardest one to win is the first one.”
Both Perrin and Basham raved about the job head coach Ryan Ebner and his coaching staff have done. After building up Grandview’s baseball program as the Zebras’ head coach, Ebner was promoted to head football coach after last year’s state title. And he guided the Zebras to another championship in his first year leading the way.
“I’m super proud of coach Ebner and the job he’s done, not only this year but for the past 16 or 17 years,” Perrin said. “He is definitely a big part of Grandview and a big part of the success we’ve been able to have. I feel like his relationship with kids and his relationship with the community and the teachers and the staff, it really puts our kids in a position to be successful in every way imaginable. We have a very strong coaching staff that puts kids first and does the little things to make sure that our kids are put in a position to be successful. I’m very thankful and very proud for that.”
“Coach Ebner and some of those coaches have been here a long time, and those guys have been laying the foundation for 16 or 17 years for what’s happened last year and this year,” Basham said. “They laid the foundation. The teams that lost in the regional finals years ago and then the last couple years, those teams laid the foundation for this group and set the expectation. That’s what makes it so special.”
Grandview City Manager David Henley attended both state championship games each of the past two years and he said those state title runs have increased interest in Grandview.
“The already excellent reputation of our school district coupled with our football team’s success have brought quite a lot of interest in our school district and city from visitors and families and businesses considering moving to Grandview,” Henley said.
The quality of GVISD’s athletics programs impress, but are only a part of the story, Henley said.
“What impresses me even more is the humbleness of our kids,” Henley said. “Even in their loss to Whitney, they were a class act. Just a great group of kids who are setting a precedence and, from all I’ve heard, doing a great job acting as role models to the younger kids coming up after them.”
Johnson County Commissioner Larry Woolley has deep ties to Grandview. Woolley once served as an ag teacher and principal of Grandview Junior High, and both of his daughters, Landi Campbell and Loni Lucherk, graduated from Grandview.
As he did last year, Woolley attended the championship game again this year.
“It’s hard to put my feelings into words this morning,” Woolley said on Friday. “As to last night’s game, it was exciting but also such a clean competition. I saw no issues on the field or any signs of unsportsmanlike conduct. Both teams played with character. Pottsboro was a class act, too, well-coached, well-orchestrated and a good bunch of kids who deserve a lot of credit.”
Woolley called the back-to-back championships the fruits of the GVISD way.
“When I applied here in June of 1982, I remember Principal Larry Smith and Superintendent Harold Pinkerton talking about the idea that winning is a long-time tradition,” Woolley said. “That applies to athletics, sure, but much more than that. That tradition, those lessons are instilled in our students at Grandview in all they do from first to 12th grade.”
That said, the Grandview football team of this and last year made their city proud.
“I’ve heard that their P.E. teacher back when this group was in elementary school told the ones who were the high school coaches back then that these kids were a special group who worked well together,” Woolley said. “She told those coaches to be watching out for them as they came up through the grades because she thought they were capable of going a long way. Turns out she was right.”
Grandview students are a reflection of Grandview and vice versa, Woolley said.
“Grandview’s a special community,” Woolley said. “I’ve seen people pull together to help each other in times of tragedy or need. And, when good things happen, I’ve seen them pull together as a community to celebrate one another.”
Woolley replied “No doubt” when asked if the Johnson County Commissioners Court will once again honor the football team’s success.
“[Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon] was sitting two rows in front of me at the game yesterday and turned and said, ‘Hey Larry, we’ve got to do something again for these kids,’” Woolley said. “I’d already started writing up a proclamation for them a few days earlier but then thought, ‘No, I’m going to wait. I don’t want to jinx them.’”
Woolley said he got a kick out of hearing from other people that the TV cameras at one point caught him and his daughter sitting in the stands.
Former Cleburne Fire Chief Clint Ishmael, who played football for Grandview from 1977 to 1981 credited the team’s success in large part to the character of the players but also to the support of the school and town.
“This was an amazing accomplishment for them,” Ishmael said. “They started the season highly ranked, but that’s no guarantee to winning another championship. And this season was certainly no gimme. They struggled through injuries and challenges all season and it’s to their credit how those kids and coaches worked tirelessly and achieve and earn that success on a week-by-week basis.
“Grandview has always had a history of academic excellence. And of supporting athletics because sports teaches students so much more about life than simply wins and losses. But, as for yesterday, any time you win a state championship, that’s something special. To go back-to-back though, that’s something else and something that only happens few and far between.”
Ishmael closed with a popular phrase among Grandview graduates and supporters.
“Once a Zebra always a Zebra,” Ishmael said.