Monday, October 27, 2008

ATH: ITM making news, bad news . . .

Ingram Moore enduring state's longest losing streak
Thursday, October 23, 2008

[update: Fbg won 49-0 . . .]

Tim Clarkson is moving through the crucible of his first high school football coaching job. He has already learned what many of his peers know: severing a chain of losses is at least as difficult as perpetuating a winning streak.

Clarkson is four-fifths of the way through his inaugural season at Ingram Moore, a small Class 3A school located a dozen miles west of the football hotbed of Kerrville Tivy. But while the Class 4A Antlers are preparing for their annual trip to the state playoffs, Clarkson's Warriors are mired in a 29-game losing streak, the longest frustration string in the state.

"Turning this program around is maybe a little more challenging than I thought it would be," conceded Clarkson, whose quarter-century résumé includes assistant jobs with such thriving programs as San Antonio Reagan and Pflugerville.

Ingram (0-8) resides in District 8-3A, which also claims Liberty Hill, owners of the state's longest winning streak (32 games), and finishes its schedule with a pair of former 4A teams, Fredericksburg and Burnet.

Three of the Warriors' four district losses have been by margins of 60 or more points. Canyon Lake, playing its first year of varsity football, edged Ingram Moore 21-14 in their Sept. 26 district opener.

With only 18 varsity players — all of whom see two-way duty — and barely enough younger personnel for a two-win junior varsity team, Clarkson knows more warm bodies are a must for next season and beyond.

"There are a few kids who can help, if we can get them to come out," said Clarkson, whose starting lineup includes six sophomores. "We got off to a bad start in August when our starting center jumped off a bridge and broke his neck. He's back in school now, but his football career is probably over. Next year, we're hoping for enough participation to have both freshman and JV teams."

Ingram Moore's overwhelming competitive problem is District 8-3A. Not only is two-time state champion Liberty Hill, again ranked No. 1, atop the membership list, but "when you see Burnet, Fredericksburg and Llano fighting for the last state playoff spot (behind Liberty Hill and Wimberley), you can see how tough this league is.

"There's a good possibility we could go 4-0 in next year's non-district schedule (against Natalia, Universal City Randolph, Harper and Marion) and not win again. That's what happened in 2005 when all this (losing streak) started. Ingram got off to a 6-0 start that season and then went winless in district."

No matter what happens in against Fredericksburg and Burnet, the Warriors are a long way from matching the frustrations of past sufferers in Texas.

Houston Jeff Davis lost 80 games in a row from 1985 to 1993 and Kountze came up short in 53 consecutive contests from 1977 to 1982. San Antonio Memorial dropped 51 straight from 1983 to 1989 and San Antonio Burbank endured a 50-loss skein from 1989 to 1993.

In Central Texas, Johnston lost 36 straight from mid-2003 through mid-2007. Florence lost 31 in a row from 1982 to 1985. In a period from 1956 to 1961, Liberty Hill lost 30 in a row. And Johnston also endured dry spells of 29 games from 1999 to 2002 and 26 contests from 1994 to 1996.

The three-decade-old high school's enrollment is approximately 500. That puts the Warriors well above the cutoff of 430 between 2A and 3A classification, but well below the enrollments of 900 or more at district rivals Burnet, Fredericksburg and Canyon Lake.

"There is some talk that Hunt, a nearby community, might open a high school," Clarkson said. "If that happens, no one knows if we'd lose enough enrollment to drop down to 2A.

"We don't get a lot of move-ins, so our school population is stable. We have to play the hand we're dealt and do the best we can."

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