Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Why Mansfield ISD is adding schools, gaining football victories
Mansfield ISD football thrives on competition and equitable resources
Number such as records, times, statistics and weights all factor heavily into a football team’s success.
In the Mansfield ISD, another set of numbers has proved decisive in recent years: enrollment.
Enrollment numbers are a tricky thing in the Mansfield ISD. Growth has helped athletics as a whole, bringing in new talent. But that same growth has led to shifting populations and new schools, which complicate schools’ paths to success.
Since Mansfield Legacy fielded its first football team in 2008, Mansfield ISD’s cumulative record has improved from 19-26 that year to 33-13 in 2011, with two schools — Mansfield Timberview and Mansfield — still alive in the third round of the UIL playoffs.
Coaches describe the improvement as something intangible, an almost contagious desire to win.
“I think that’s made all the teams better, because you’re always playing a good team,” Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme said of the rivalry games. “It’s not anything where you’re playing a bad team and it doesn’t help you get ready for the playoffs or the stretch run.”
Mansfield ISD athletics director Debbie Weems said from the moment the ISD’s second school, Mansfield Summit, opened in 2002, the athletics department and booster clubs have worked to make sure that football resources are equitably distributed.
Timberview coach Mark Walker said that of the multi-school ISDs he is fmailiar with, the relationships among the football programs in the Mansfield ISD are closer than any other. Walker and the other three coaches — Hulme, Summit’s Travis Pride and Legacy’s Chris Melson — have good relationships, and each has led his school to at least one playoff run.
“I think all the kids enjoy playing for them,” Hulme said of his fellow coaches. “I think that has a lot to do with it, too. If the kids are having fun and enjoying being out there, then practices are better, just everything is better.”
In the near future, a fifth Mansfield ISD head coach will join the group. Walker spoke ominously of “high school five,” Lake Ridge, which is scheduled to open next year.
The new school will shift enrollment and claim some of Walker’s players next year. This constant reorganization within Mansfield ISD caused Timberview and Legacy to move from 4A to 5A in 2010, while Summit moved down to 4A. And that wasn’t Timberview’s first switch — it had just moved down to 4A in 2008. It’s hard to know what the next alignment will bring for the district and its football program.
“You wouldn’t suspect that we’d be able to maintain anything because of the splits,” Weems said.
Somehow, the Mansfield schools have kept winning. And, in a way, the constant reorganization has made the district stronger.
On Saturday, both Timberview and Mansfield played and won at Cowboys Stadium. Walker said that many of each school’s fans and players stayed late or arrived early to support the other team. With so much growth and change, many families and players have ties to multiple schools, and that’s created a fan identification not only with teams, but with the district as a whole.
That may change if Mansfield defeats Abilene and Timberview wins over Abilene Cooper on Saturday. In such a situation, the two Mansfield schools would match up in the 5A-II Region I final the following weekend.
“I’m beside myself, I’m so excited,” Weems said of the possibility.
No matter what happens this weekend, Mansfield ISD’s football program has come further than even it’s biggest advocates imagined. With dedicated coaches and a spreading success, the district’s athletics department has created something they believe is sustainable.
“We can play football, or we can create a program,” Walker said.