Written by Corbett Smith
Corbett Smith: Dallas ISD football schools trying to keep pace with the suburbanites
Inferior resources, declining enrollments hamper Dallas schools
Lincoln coach James Argenti stood in the Forester Field end zone, surveying his football team as players stretched for Monday’s practice.
“Players are playing well, coaches are coaching hard,” Argenti said. “And the kids believe. They’ve bought into it.”
Argenti should be proud; Lincoln (10-1) has survived to the area round — an accomplishment only a quarter of Class 4A teams around the state can claim. His team bumped off South Oak Cliff in the Class 4A Division II bi-district round, advancing to the second round for the second-straight season and staking its claim to be called the best 4A school in Dallas ISD in 2012.
The question is how much farther their playoff path runs.
Lincoln and Dallas’ three other 4A representatives — Carter, Kimball and Samuell — will all be considerable underdogs this week. And in 4A, the second round hasn’t been kind to DISD over the last decade. No DISD program in Class 4A has advanced past the second round since 2008, when Carter beat Richardson Pearce before falling in the third round to Longview.
While Skyline has done well in 5A recently, and Madison has been solid in 3A, Dallas’ 4A schools are 2-22 since 2006 against non-DISD competition in the playoffs. DISD has been guaranteed at least three teams in the second round each season because since 2006, its 4A schools have been placed in adjoining districts, playing each other in the first round.
Why such a drought?
There was no consensus among coaches for a single reason for the district’s struggles, but fewer resources, economic disadvantages, and a smaller talent base were common threads.
On average, Dallas coaches have smaller coaching staffs and lesser facilities than their suburban counterparts.
Something as easy as taking the practice field can be decidedly more difficult. This week, most of Dallas’ playoff teams — including Skyline — had to bus to stadiums across the city in order to practice, because of a combination of late school days, daylight saving time and a lack of lights on practice fields.
“That’s a major headache for us,” Skyline coach Reginald Samples said.
Seventy percent or more of the students at the four 4A high schools still in the playoffs are economically disadvantaged, according to state figures.
“People don’t understand that when they leave here, they don’t go home to steak and potatoes,” Argenti said. “They go home to maybe some Sunny Delight and some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Our kids are resilient because in their lives, they have to be able to adjust every day.”
Dallas’ talent base has — slowly over the last two decades — been siphoned off to suburban schools in Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Lancaster, Duncanville, Garland and Mesquite — as families moved out of the city.
“We’ve got to start taking care of our own, stay home and build our schools, and make it to where people want to go here.” Carter coach Patrick Williams said.
Lincoln’s case is even more dramatic. While it still has a handful of college-level prospects, depth has been a major issue, according to Argenti. Lincoln opted to play 4A with only 712 students at last alignment, and will suit up around 40 players for its game against Mesquite Poteet.
None of the coaches, however, said these were excuses for failure.
“We just have to do better, work harder,” Kimball coach Carlton Nelson said.
Williams, Nelson and Argenti all were all confident heading into this weekend’s games. Reduce the number of mistakes, they said, and their teams will have good chances to advance.
That belief was evident at Forester, as Lincoln junior quarterback Erick Neal slung crisp passes all across the field.
“We’re confident,” Neal said. “We’re well-balanced on both sides of the ball, and we’re working hard, balling out for our seniors.”