The greatest victory of all time: Pleasant Grove vs. Wimberley in Texas 4A Division 2 state championship
Texarkana football fans are basking in the glow of the success of the Pleasant Grove Hawks football team as it prepares for its third state championship game in a row.
Columnist Caven Carpenter reflects on teamwork and brotherhood while discussing our US military, and he tells us what to expect during Friday's hotly contested matchup against Wimberley.
Well Hawk Nation, here we are on the eve of another state championship game.
As I think back on the football season, I recall the first game against Paris on a hot, August night that, quite frankly, seems like years ago.
However, many players, coaches, band, cheerleaders, drill team, and fans like myself were supremely optimistic and had already marked our calendars for Friday, December 20, 2019, at 3:00 pm before that first game.
Now, it has actually happened! The Pleasant Grove Hawks take on the Wimberley Texans on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington at 3 pm for the 4A Division 2 state championship.
Last weekThe Hawks game against Midland Greenwood showcased one of the gutsiest football performances I have ever seen. With key starters Nick Martin and Bruce Garrett out with injuries, several Hawks stepped up to bring home the victory of 48-20 over the Rangers.
Senior KJ Hicks played both ways with flu-like symptoms. And for the first time all year, QB Ben Harmon played significant time on defense.
But this is what winners do. There's a very fine line between winning and losing and what young men will put their bodies and minds through to get the victory.
This past weekend filled me with so much emotion watching the Hawks' game on Friday and later the Army/Navy game on Saturday.
It got me thinking: If I had to show a young kid how the game of football is played, I think my examples would be the Hawks, the Black Knights, and the Midshipmen.
A comparison with a disclaimerI sometimes (or always) have a tear in my eye watching the Army/Navy game.
That's because I know how much the young Americans playing in the game love their country and each other. Plus, I think about the sacrifice they will make after graduation.
It’s a brotherhood that can found in VERY FEW places! Of course, football is one such place. And another is the military.
DISCLAIMER: What follows is my opinion. And by no means am I claiming that war and combat are the same as Texas high school football or that sports teams playing against each other are equivalent to actual warring nations.
What I am going to talk about is how both football and military service can bring out the best in many people as they work as a team and develop a lasting brotherhood.
In both cases, the bonds can last a lifetime.
WarThe most cataclysmic event in human history began on September 1, 1939, following the German invasion of Poland. A little over two years later, the US entered World War II on December 8, 1941.
Between 1942 and the spring of 1944, the Allied forces (US, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, and others) battled the Axis forces of Germany, Japan, and Italy in the South Pacific, North Africa, and in southern Italy.
The one place the Allies were not fighting the Germans was Western Europe. As we all know, at that time Germany occupied nearly all of Europe, including France.
The Allied leaders, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, knew the only way to defeat their enemy and win the war was to get boots on the ground in France and drive the Germans back to their own country by destroying the German army and their will to make war.
Greatest team of all timeWhat if the Hawks had two years of practice, training, and preparation for tomorrow’s game against Wimberley?
Just imagine if every Hawk football player had one thought for two years: "Beat Wimberley."
In some cases, this intense focus is what happened with hundreds of thousands of American, British, and Canadian troops in WWII. That's because many of these young men trained for close to two years with the goal of attacking the Germans in Northwest France to gain a foothold on the continent and defeat the enemy.
The plan was to be called Operation Overlord, and the invasion would eventually happen on the Normandy coast of France on June 5, 1944, or D-Day.
The Allies would land at five beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. But the weather was so bad that the commanders delayed the landings until the next day, June 6.
That meant more than 6,000 ships, 13,000 airplanes, and over 200,000 soldiers had to wait.
The massive scale of this mission could best be described on a local level as moving the entire population of Texarkana and Longview along with every car, truck, and medical provision. Then throw in a few Walmart stores worth of inventory and take everything over miles of rough water to a final destination on a beach that was under hostile fire.
By the way, to get a good sense of what happened that day, watch the film Saving Private Ryan. If you haven’t seen the movie, WHY NOT!?!
The opening scene shows the struggle of the 29th Infantry Division as they tried to get off the beach alive. It's so true to life that many actual D-Day veterans couldn't even watch the film due to the many painful memories it brought to the surface.
But here is where our lesson about teamwork really begins. To have a great team — whether it be a football team or a rifle platoon in WWII — you must have great leaders.
On the football field, Josh Gibson would be the general, and his coaches the officers.
Sometimes, coaches ask their kids to do things that they don’t want to do but that will make the team more successful (and the outcome better).
But in war, it's completely different because an officer can order his men to do the unthinkable — even die for each other.
Watershed moment of the entire warAt 6:30 am on June 6, 1944, the first of many landing crafts arrived on Omaha Beach.
In the first wave, the boats were carrying boys from Bedford, Virginia who just two years earlier played on their high school football team TOGETHER, and they signed up to serve their nation TOGETHER as well. Sadly, most of the Bedford Boys never made it to French soil.
For the next several hours, death, chaos, and fear hovered over the men on Omaha Beach.
If they moved forward towards the Germans, it meant certain death, but going backward meant drowning in the unforgiving sea.
However, the entire war depended on Operation Overlord succeeding, so the beaches had to be secured.
At this point, the Germans had no tanks in the battle. If they had them, the Americans could have been swept away in minutes. But just a couple of hours away, German forces were waiting on their leader to release a massive cache of tanks.
Most American officers had been killed, and the outcome hung in the balance. So a leader had to step forward. WHO WAS IT GOING TO BE?
NOW, I want to make sure and say once more that I am in no way comparing what these brave soldiers did to high school football.
BUT, at one point in the Hawks' game last Friday night against Greenwood, the outcome was not certain. In fact, players were gone, and someone had to step up. That's when General Josh Gibson and his lieutenants rallied the troops.
I could write an entire column on the leadership of QB Ben Harmon (maybe I will!), and what he has meant to this team and this community.
It takes players like KJ Hicks who was ill last Friday; Logan Johnson who was cramping; Landon Jackson, and Marcus Burris, who are HELD ON EVERY PLAY; and countless other players to decide to give everything they have FULL TILT, AND HEART AND SOUL to their brothers.
This is what winners do!
State championship game: What to watch for1. Look for the Wimberley Texans to play much like Greenwood and Sunnyvale. The main difference is that the Texans will throw the ball almost 75% of the time. Wimberley has a really good quarterback in #9 Cooper McCollum. Look for McCollum to try to get rid of the ball early. Can the offensive line give him time to throw.? If so, points for them could come much easier.
2. There is no "next week," so look for anything, like trick plays and fake punts.
3. The Hawks must run the ball and control the clock.
4. The biggest key to the game, in my opinion, is the offensive line and Bruce Garrett. Bruce needs to be THE DUDE, so KJ Hicks can play mostly on defense.
OVER/UNDER➼ Sergio Rodriguez touchdowns (That count, HAHA): 2
➼ Hawks D Line QB sacks: 4.5
➼ Bruce Garrett rushing yards: 145
➼ Number of points scored by Anthony Mejia: 7.5
➼ The number of pictures taken of Hawks with that big beautiful trophy: 1 MILLION!
Where to eat in Arlington?Sorry, I’m going to go off-script here. This is where I usually tell you the best places to eat for away games.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be too anxious to eat in Arlington! Instead, I would like to give you a little homework.
Here's my list of books, movies, and documentaries that will help you learn more about the history of the greatest team ever: AMERICA and our military.
1. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose (Book and HBO mini-series)
2. The Bedford Boy by Alex Kershaw
3. Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley
4. With The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge
5. The Pacific - HBO mini-series
6. The War and The Vietnam War - PBS Documentaries By Ken Burns
Back to the beachThe clock was ticking on the survival of the soldiers pinned down on Omaha Beach.
Bloody, wet, and terrified boys had to take the beachhead before German reinforcements showed up. as the fate of that grave day and the war hung in the balance.
Brigadier General Norman “Dutch” Cota arrived on Omaha Beach about midway through the battle. Cota, the highest-ranking officer now in France, began to lead (even though he might have been the oldest American GI in Normandy at 51).
While he might have been the oldest, there is no question he was the BADDEST DUDE on the beach.
Indeed, the stories recounted by many of the soldiers from that day read like work of fiction as they vividly detail the amazingly heroic actions taken by General Cota.
Although every person on the beach that day had their heads and bodies literally in the sand, it is said that Cota stood straight up while bullets whizzed by his head.
Soldiers recounted that he had a half-smoked, wet cigar clenched in his teeth as he exhorted the men to get off the beach and go inland.
Cota found a gap in the German wire and convinced his men to go through, but they were cut down by machine gunfire.
Then the words that every soldier in earshot would tell historians were uttered by General Cota: “Gentleman, we’re getting killed on the beach, let’s go inland and get killed there!”
Years later, many of the young men who survived said that they believed they were going to die but decided to go out fighting.
Because of the actions of General Cota and the men of the 29th Division, the day was won and the long march to Berlin to defeat the enemy could begin
A final noteMy young Hawk brothers: Who’s going to LEAD? Who’s going to make a play? Who’s going to get off the beach?
"From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be rememberèd. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." William Shakespeare from the St Crispin's Day speech of Henry V.
HAWK NATION, sleep tight tonight, history will be made tomorrow!
About the author: Caven Carpenter is an avid fan of all things Pleasant Grove and is a former PGISD coach. He was a member of Pleasant Grove's very first graduating class and a player on its first varsity football team. Besides being a self-proclaimed expert on sports, history, music, and movies, Caven is a family man who also loves helping people find the right insurance as a local agent for Texas Farm Bureau.