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Day in a coach's life - Odessa American: News

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Day in a coach's life

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:00 am

MCCAMEY Head coach Jay McWilliams’ headset was off, and he stood at the visitor’s 34-yard line. Now useless, the color-coded, spread-offense play sheet was in his pocket.

He was silent. Not one defeated sigh came out of him.

The seconds ticked off the new 13-foot tall McCamey Badgers scoreboard: 25 seconds, 24, 23

What goes through a head coach’s mind when a loss is inevitable?

McWilliams’ head was down, and his hands were on his hips. The Crane Golden Cranes had the football and the lead 27-19.

The metal cylinder noisemakers the McCamey Badger fans rattled since the 7:30 p.m. kickoff had silenced.

Just McWilliams alone, searching.

21, 20, 19 seconds …

The Badgers were coming off a Class 1A Division I state runner-up season and their seventh playoff appearance.

But 2007 was beginning in defeat.

18, 17 seconds …

Isolated on the sideline, McWilliams looked at the grass.

Did he think about the next game and how his team can improve? Is it his day and how it all came crumbling down in three hours on a Friday night?

Is it what he could have done differently with an extra hour of preparation? But McWilliams likely wouldn’t even use the 60 minutes for preparation.

He’s the jack-of-all-trades Class 1A coach who went home during lunch to vacuum the floor before the coaches’ post-game get-together of homemade brisket and beans.

From 7:30 a.m. on, McWilliams wheeled around the McCamey ISD campus and put in a 16-hour day.

While the season opener was always fresh on the periphery, McWilliams defied the coaching stereotype of a man so preoccupied with kickoff he tunes out his responsibilities as a teacher and school district leader.

McWilliams taught government to seniors for two periods.

“You’ll hear this a lot this year from me,” McWilliams told his first period class that had 12 students, including six football players and a cheerleader.

“You cannot run a business, a company, a football team, a school building — it doesn’t matter if you don’t have someone in charge,” he said.

McWilliams is that leader. On this Friday, he put a hopeful McCamey 20-man varsity squad on the field and led. It happens every Friday here just as it does at Crane, Pecos, Andrews, Iraan and every other school in the Permian Basin.

And the Friday night leader made a Friday morning copy of the junior varsity game because his assistant asked him for the favor.

And McCamey’s leader didn’t eat a steak lunch with boosters greasing his pockets for last year’s success as it would be depicted in some Hollywood concoction. He ate a burrito, beans and nachos off a plastic serving tray one table over from the middle school and high school students.

And the Badger band may have not been the same if McWilliams, the leader, didn’t help a preteen boy after lunch get his trombone from the locked middle school locker room.

At 10:30 p.m., the band was packing up the wind instruments.

15, 14, 13, 12 seconds …

This is a 47-year-old man proud of what he’s accomplished at McCamey. McWilliams has never missed the playoffs in seven seasons after the Badgers went 12 years without a postseason appearance. He turned around a 2-4 start last year into an eight-game winning streak and an appearance in the Class 1A state championship.

He wears the stone-studded runner-up ring on his right hand, but on Friday morning he wasn’t discussing his offense with starting quarterback Joseph Gillis. It was U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s controversial arrest in Minnesota and the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.

And the class listened as McWilliams’ baritone voice filled the classroom. And they’ve typically listened. The last two school years his students have all passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test in the subject he taught.

He was the 2002 McCamey Chamber of Commerce teacher of the year.

“Me being here as long as I have, they all know me,” McWilliams said. “They all trust me. I think they know I’m going to treat their kids fairly.”

Back on the field, it was a different test ending.

11, 10, 9, 8 seconds …

McWilliams had spent the last three hours pacing the home sideline, relaying undecipherable play calls to teenage boys who carry a town’s weekend hope on their shoulder pads.

“Jet right, 38 bobcat.”

“Jet right, 26 pull.”

“Trips left …”

McCamey didn’t get another offensive play Friday, and the coaches won’t look at the offensive play sheet again — the same sheet McWilliams laminated just before he gave a rousing, optimistic speech at the districtwide pep rally.

“We get to unveil the new scoreboard,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to light it up on the Badger side.”

Did McWilliams think about that optimism as rival Crane’s offensive line realized it didn’t have to line up for another play?

7, 6, 5 seconds …

McWilliams’ team was less than a good bull ride away from 0-1. The self-proclaimed bad loser was taking it on the chin — a chin planted firmly into his chest as he looked down.

What raced through his mind?

4, 3, 2, 1 second …

He shook Crane head coach Naldo Esparza’s hand and the hand of every Crane football player.

He led the Lord’s Prayer on the field.

“… And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us …”

McWilliams led his team off the field.

“We’ve got to do some soul searching and figure out how we can improve,” he told them.

At 11:15 p.m., he watched the game tape with his staff. They had to be back at 8 a.m. to break down the film.

They headed to McWilliams’ house less than a quarter mile from the field.

Homemade brisket waited.

At least, the carpets were vacuumed.

>> OA staff writer F.A. Krift will look behind the scenes and inside the world of high school football in West Texas. The series will run Thursdays in the OA.

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