Sharks spark different mood in community

Published 8:33 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

SABINE PASS — Robin Vocale works at the lone gas station in the community, and she’s noticed a sense of joy among her customers.

“Oh, they’re happy this year, because I was here last year,” the Sportsman’s Supply worker said. “They’re ecstatic. Everybody’s happy, trying to get to the games out of town and everything. They’re really happy.

“I mean, it’s probably a shocker. I was shocked myself.”

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The source of such pleasant surprise has been the Sabine Pass High football team. The Sharks (5-1, 1-0 in 12-2A Division II) have won five straight and established their biggest win total in 33 years with four games remaining. Sabine Pass went 9-2 in 1983, one of only two district championship seasons in school history, and haven’t won more than four games since. (The program was discontinued from 1988-2005, according to Texas high school football records.)

A customer at the gas station named Jason, who didn’t want to give his last name, said this is his first year to watch the Sharks play.
“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “I think the coach is awesome. I’ve seen them running up and down the sideline. It was [a blowout score], and the coaches were still running up and down the field and yelling like: ‘You ain’t stopping yet! We’re not done. We have another quarter to go.’”

Sabine Pass had lost 18 straight games from 2014 through the first week of this season, when Pasadena First Baptist edged the Sharks 12-6. The win streak started Sept. 2 in dramatic fashion when they edged Galveston O’Connell 16-14.

Senior running back D’Coven Turner said the Sharks feel like they accomplished something when he hears positive talk about them around the community.

“Last year, everybody was like against us. This year, we’re winning. Everybody’s with us.”

“It feels good to set a new tradition,” said quarterback Dominique Wilson, who scored the winning touchdown last Friday in a 34-26 triple-overtime win at Burkeville. “Hopefully, everyone in our footsteps can follow and go even higher.”

Jason Thibodeaux, who began his second stint as the Sharks’ head coach after Trey Harvey left for an assistant principal position at Bridge City, said he feels more pressure to win than his team does.
“We still have a lot of doubters out there,” Thibodeaux said. “I tell them not to worry about all that’s on [a local sports website] that they haven’t played anybody. Don’t pay any attention to that because we have played people. We’ve played people that are stronger than us, people that are faster than us and bigger than us, and we beat those people.”

In fact, three of the Sharks’ wins this season have been decided by eight or fewer points, with the past two games totaling four overtime periods. Sabine Pass beat West Hardin 20-14 in single overtime Sept. 23.

The Sharks’ success in the clutch earned them the honor of being Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine’s 2A team of the week.

“Overtime is about the hardest thing a football team can go against,” Sharks senior wide receiver Glenndell Walker said. “It’s to show who is truly a man in that situation and will come out on top. It’s to look adversity in the face, whether you crawl over and cry like a baby or stand up like a man and fight through it. And I can truly say we fought through it like men.”

Sabine Pass routed Lafayette, La.-based Acadiana Christian School 42-6 and the Cypress Christian junior varsity 54-14 before the West Hardin game.

The Sharks’ newfound success has bolstered school pride in recent weeks. Just after lunch Thursday, Thibodeaux said, students chanted “Let’s go, Sharks!” as the players left the lunchroom headed to their next classes.

He’s never heard such a chant in the Sabine Pass halls.

“As a school, we are extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of our football team, win or lose,” said Ashleigh Deslatte, the high school journalism and varsity cheer coach at Sabine Pass. “Day after day our boys show up to practice and fight through blood, sweat and tears to prepare for their upcoming challenge. While we support our boys regardless of what the scoreboard says, it is certainly nice to get to celebrate when the clock says 0:00.”

Deslatte also noticed a difference in the Sharks’ mental approach from past seasons, which Thibodeaux has preached from preseason camp, when he barely had enough to field a team with 14 players. The Sharks now have 27.

Now, they’re about to face a big test in Iola (3-3, 1-0), Thibodeaux thinks. The Bulldogs have finished in the top four in district play each of the past four years and won the district title two seasons ago, finishing 11-1.

“They’ve always been fast,” Thibodeaux said. “They’re big up front. They’re coached real well. They’re probably the most technique team we’ve seen all year, so if we don’t play a flawless game, it’s going to be a big challenge.”

Not that the Sharks haven’t already endured one with the four overtime periods.

Around the community, the sentiments on Sabine Pass football today are a total 180 degrees from last year, and the Sharks want to keep it that way.

“They [Sabine Pass citizens] were like, ‘Bum-bum, all bummed out,’” Vocale said. “’They lost again, no big deal.’ This year, they’re real happy.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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