When Bishop Gorman kicks off its 2012 football season against Beckville, they’ll do so at rival Grace Community’s Clyde-Perkins Stadium as part of the Tyler Football Classic.
For the school’s new athletic director and football coach, it’ll make for an early homecoming of sorts.
Jeff Smith joined the Crusaders after 16 years as a Cougar. On Tuesday, he hired former Cougars offensive coordinator Coby Gipson as Gorman’s new head football coach.
“I’ll guess that on Aug. 31 when our first game against Beckville is played at Clyde-Perkins Stadiums that we’ll both feel a little weird,” Smith said. “It’ll be very exciting.”
Gipson will begin his head coaching career where he spent the last six years as an assistant under Mike Maddox. He’ll be able to show his old head coach firsthand what he’s learned.
“I firmly believe that (Maddox) is the best head coach in the state of Texas,” Gipson said. “To be able to learn from someone like that is a special opportunity and to get to share what he taught me with another program is just a blessing.”
Gipson’s hire will spark a new era for Gorman football. The Crusaders were a clock-controlling, run-first offense under former coach Rick Palmer. Gipson promises to bring a fast-paced offense similar to what’s made the Cougars one of the most dynamic offenses in East Texas.
After talking with his new team Tuesday night, Gipson said the team appears excited about the new direction. What makes Gipson excited about the offense is the size of the offensive line.
“There’s a considerable size of the offensive line and to me that’s always a great thing,” Gipson said. “Everything on offense starts with an offensive line. Without a valuable offensive line you’re going to struggle on offense.”
Gipson will be able to build on the experience his players received in qualifying for the Texas Private School Coaches Association State 7-On-7 tournament for the first time. Though the Crusaders failed to win a game at the tournament, Gipson took positives from it.
“It shows commitment from the kids wanting to get better,” he said. “It shows me that they’re willing to put in the work: the work ethic is strong, the desire is strong.”
Gipson’s old team and new team will face off on Oct. 19 at McCallum Stadium in TAPPS D-II District 2 play, marking the first league match between the rivals in two years. Gipson had a chance to speak with the Cougars before leaving Grace.
“They are first class kids on and off the field,” he said of his former players. “They wish me the best except for one week of the season. They’re truly some of the greatest high school kids that I’ve been around in my life.”
That the two schools are in the same district was a major factor for Gipson to trade in the Grace blue for Gorman green. There was talk that the Crusaders might go independent in football with the size and difficulty of the newly formed district. Gipson said an independent Gorman might have been a “game changer” in terms of taking the job.
“The decision was a very good decision to get back into the district because kids deserve the right to compete for a district championship, a playoff spot,” he said. “I think everybody around here is glad that that is now still a possibility.”
Added Smith: “It makes us, especially since we’re one of the lower enrollment schools in (TAPPS) Division II football, it makes me work harder, it makes him work harder and it in turn makes the kids work harder.”
It will all come to a head when Grace and Gorman square off on the gridiron in the thick of the hunt for a playoff berth.
“Both teams will play hard; both teams will want to win,” Gipson said. “Both teams will want to represent their school with honor. Both teams will want to play to honor God and we hope at the end of the game we’ll look back and say that we both left it all on the field.”