PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas
December 2, 2010
Permian Mojo only explanation for TJ not finishing 15-0
Best of West for Friday, December 3
The Port Arthur News
— Editor’s note: The following column from the Best of West
collection was first published in the Port Arthur News on Dec. 21, 1980
Whatever Mojo's mystical powers are, they were never more effective than
during the second half of the 5A state championship game in Texas
Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With Thomas Jefferson on the way to blowing out the Panthers as
unceremoniously as it had done previous playoff foes Aldine, Stratford
and San Antonio Holmes, the game took almost an inexplicable turn toward
the West Texans late in the third quarter.
A bitterly disappointed TJ coach Ronnie Thompson labeled the
transformation turning a 19-7 Jacket lead into a 28-19 Permian triumph
as a "switch in momentum." But it was more like black
magic or divine intervention.
Permian was hanging on the ropes ready to go belly up, when evil forces
seemed to get in the way of the Jacket knockout punch. After
closing the first half by scoring on their final two possessions, TJ
opened the third period in the same devastating fashion. But look
• After driving from their 26 to a first down at the Permian 26, the
Jackets came up empty on an end zone interception.
• After roaring to a first down at the Permian 11 the next time it got
the ball, TJ was foiled by a dropped pass in the end zone, then a missed
27-yard field goal that would have opened a 22-7 lead.
• Then, after Permian had regrouped and closed to 19-14, a fumbled
punt with 7:22 left opened the door to the winning touchdown.
To properly appreciate how completely out of the game Permian was, as
things started going haywire, consider that the Panthers had been
outgained 258-76 when Marty Tatum's field attempt sailed wide left with
2:26 to play in the third period.
Not only was Permian unable to stop TJ from moving the football up and
down the field, it was having trouble getting back to the line of
scrimmage. With Brent Williams leading a savage TJ defensive
charge, the Panthers netted minus 17 yards on the five possessions
following their initial touchdown.
"We had them right where we wanted them, but we didn't put them
away when the opportunity was there," reflected Thompson sadly.
"I guess the most appropriate thing to say is that Permian didn't
roll over when things looked worst. It just played that much
harder. Give them some credit."
And, when they were finally able to get the faintest whiff of a third
state championship, the Panthers reacted like sharks to the smell of
blood. On its game winning, 44-yard touchdown drive, Permian
simply blocked TJ like nobody has all season. The Panthers would not be
Still, because of the way the Jackets dominated for so long, and because
of the type of mistakes that allowed Permian to come off the deck, this
is a defeat that will not easily be swallowed or forgotten. The
state championship was there for the taking and the memory will be a
To Thompson's credit, he took great pains to assure the blame for defeat
was not placed at the feet of a handful of individuals. Quite
properly, he didn't fault Todd Dodge for a drive killing interception,
Robert Smothers for a dropped TD pass, Tatum for the missed field goal
or Rick Wyble for his fumbled punt.
Hopefully, Jacket fans will be as compassionate.
"We don't have any scapegoats," asserted Thompson.
"A number of things could have happened to change the outcome.
We didn't make the super catches we've been making all year; we didn't
take advantage of our chances to score; and we didn't stop them when we
“We won 14 games as a team; today we lost one as a team. Our
kids gave everything they had, and will live with the outcome."
Wide receiver Brent Duhon may have wrapped up the situation even better
than his coach.
Duhon, who played perhaps the finest game of his star-spangled career,
said: "We can't stand around and keep our heads down. This
team turned TJ football around 100 percent. It's back to the way it
used to be now. We wanted this one bad and we didn't get it,
but I'm mighty proud of what we accomplished."
It is a thought which should be shouted from rooftops in Port Arthur and
accepted with a degree of appreciation throughout District 22-5A and the
This was a team that gave a community needing a rallying point something
it could unite behind. They did it with flair, a sense of
excitement seldom seen on the schoolboy level. Long after the unhappy
memories of Saturday, Dec. 20, finally fade, their records and
achievements will live on in the record books.
The shame of it is, this team was so close to seizing a niche in history
as one of the greatest teams Texas has ever seen. They were within
14 minutes of a devastating 15-0 run to the top prize in schoolboy
football — the Texas 5A championship. But one bad quarter
should not tarnish their memory.
"I've never been so disappointed," said Thompson softly.
"This group of kids has given so much. We came so far from
being a 1-9 team two years ago. It's hard to believe it ended like
this. I really didn't think anybody could beat us. We're not
state champions on the scoreboard, but this team is No. 1 in my
TJ had everything but Mojo. In retrospect, that's the only sensible
explanation. And the curse was upon the Jackets long before
Dallas' temperature, for instance, was 40 degrees colder for the title
game than it was on Thursday. The night before the game TJ's
players were forced out of their usual routine when their bus driver got
lost, then the cafeteria that was to have fed them closed. The team
didn't get fed until it was supposed to be in bed.
Laugh if you want, but that damn Mojo was the difference.
PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas
July 1, 2010
Thompson’s touch erases nightmares for Jacket football
Best of West for Friday, July 2
The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — The following column from the Best of West collection
was originally published in the Port Arthur News on Aug. 14, 1981.
What seemed for the longest time like a never-ending nightmare, an
annual fall flight into a chamber of horrors, now seems like little more
than a bad dream.
After nearly a decade of turmoil, a period when one of Texas’ proudest
schoolboy traditions took more abuse than Hugh Hefner at a feminist
convention, Thomas Jefferson’s football program is once against the
picture of health.
The lengthy period of convalescence is history.
When head coach Ronnie Thompson assembles his troops for the season’s
first workout Monday, they’ll come together as a team once again
expected to be a force in the state playoffs. Depending on the poll of
your choosing, the Jackets are rated anywhere from No. 1 to No. 8 in the
More than anything, the transformation at TJ is a tribute to Thompson.
He not only guided the Jackets from the outhouse to the penthouse in two
years, he did so in the most crowd-pleasing style imaginable. Seldom has
any team been more fun to watch than the one wearing maroon and gold
To be sure, Thompson was blessed with a fair share of quality athletes.
A Duhon and a Dodge, a Smothers and a Holloway, don’t come along every
year. But the tipoff to what he’s accomplished is that the Jackets
could lose four players of that caliber and still be so highly regarded.
At this time a year ago, when Texas Sport and Texas Football magazines
came out projecting TJ into the state finals, a lot of people laughed.
After all, this was a team coming off a 6-4 season. A year earlier they
were 1-9. It was not difficult finding skeptics willing to scoff at the
idea the Jackets would even be 22-5A champs.
Now, however, the barrage of pre-season superlatives finds few doubters.
Even with the heart of a 14-1 state finalist team headed for the
University of Texas to try and help save Fred Akers, the Jackets are
legitimately labeled a power.
They are overwhelming favorites to repeat in rugged 22-5A, something
which hasn’t been done since 1977.
The bottom line, of course, is that Thompson’s erected the foundation
for a program that’s just starting to reap dividends. What should be a
rebuilding year isn’t because good players, indoctrinated into the
present system, are ready to step in.
Instead of going back to square one, as they were forced to do so many
times during the coaching turmoil of the 1970s, TJ athletes will be
running the same plays, following the same philosophies for the fourth
No longer do the Jackets have to give their rivals a head start, while
everybody becomes familiar with yet another system.
That all important continuity, which was jeopardized when it appeared
Thompson would join Akers’ staff last spring, looks secure for the
immediate future. Although there are some administrative problems which
arouse his ire from time to time, the District 22-5A Coach of the Year
professes to be happy with his present location.
“This is where I need to be right now,” he asserts. “This is where
I want to be right now. If I wanted or needed to get out, I could have.
I’d like to keep the door open with the University of Texas. Like I
said last spring, it’s one of the few places I’d consider leaving
Port Arthur for.
“But at this point in time I’m only thinking about the program
The program he currently oversees is one that’s 180 degrees from what
he inherited in the spring of 1978.
“It’s so much different it’s hard to describe,” he nods. “Our
success has changed the attitude of the players 100 percent. The first
group wanted to win, but didn’t know what it took. Now our players
expect to win and know what it takes.
“They believe in themselves and they believe in each other, which is
something that didn’t exist in the beginning. They know how hard you
have to work to get on top, and they know you have to work harder to
stay on top. They push each other. That’s what happens when you get
the taste of being a champion.”
The public, it would appear, is as excited as the players. Their
appetites whetted by 14 straight victories and a near miss in the state
championship game, Jacket fans have been inquiring about season tickets
since last spring. When the ticket sale began a couple of weeks ago, the
lines were predictably long.
Thompson, who understands football fans are prone to jump off the
bandwagon as quickly as they jump on, says he’s not concerned about
the lofty expectations, nor the pressure of being the 22-5A favorite and
a possible state finalist. To the contrary, he claims to relish the
spotlight and all that goes with it.
“I know our fans are thinking big,” he said. “I’m sure they
expect to remain excited about this team. That’s what we need. This
town went too long without a team to get excited over. I’m sure if
something goes wrong, some people will abandon us. But the real fans
won’t. And we’ve got a bunch of them.”
All of whom, it might be added, don’t suffer through fall nightmares
Sports editor Bob West