Port Arthur’s Aaron Babino finds championship success at DeSoto

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Aaron Babino said he and his defensive staff prepared the DeSoto High Eagles “pretty good” going into their state championship game Dec. 16.

That might be the understatement of the football year.

The Eagles (15-0) defeated Summer Creek 74-14 to capture the 6A Division 2 crown.

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Babino, in his fifth year at the school, serves as the DeSoto defensive coordinator.

According to various reports, the Eagles scored the second-most points in a Texas 11-man state title game and had the largest margin of victory in a UIL championship contest.

Babino, of Port Arthur, said his Eagles were ready to play, adding head coach Claude Mathis always says once his team gets to the title game, “we are not losing.”

“They were definitely motivated,” Babino said. “A lot of those seniors were ready to play. It was a greatly executed game plan.”

Babino credits DeSoto’s “District of Doom” and tough schedule for the team’s ability to perform so well in the state playoffs.

In 2023, the Eagles defeated South Oak Cliff, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, Waxahachie and Allen.

“And we won state last year, so we have already been on the big stage,” Babino said. “It wasn’t like a deer in headlights. We are used to it. Our kids handle adversity really well. We put them in tough situations in practice, where we go good-on-good with our 1s-on-1s. We use team tempo and team blitz. It’s iron sharpens iron.”

Football roots

Babino’s dad, Anthony Bryant, played football in Port Arthur and at the University of Oklahoma with Joe Washington Jr.

Babino said he played football in Port Arthur at Stephen F. Austin High School and Lincoln High School.

“I played football since I was 4 years old, probably,” Babino recalls. “I was always playing in the neighborhood. It has always been part of my family. Back then, it was smash mouth football. It was fullbacks, isolation power football and option football. Today’s it’s more spread open. You have to be a little bit more athletic, making tackles in space. Back then it was all about hard work. It was instilled in me from a very young age, you have to work harder than your opponent. You can’t just be talented. You have to sharpen your skills.”

Babino jokes that as a youth sports participant, everybody was good in Port Arthur.

He noted there are plenty of NBA players and NFL players who came from the Golden Triangle. Neighborhood pickup games in all sports featured talented athletes.

Those games were competitive, tough and prepared Babino to play football for the University of Texas.

“As a coach now, I try to instill in those kids what I learned as a young athlete in Port Arthur,” he said. “You have to take your academics serious. Everybody wants to go off to camps and there is NIL money, but if you don’t have the books, that dream will never happen. Something in my family household, from my mom and my dad, was grades. You have to have something to fall back on. That is something I always tell those kids.”

He knows one poor decision can mess up a young athlete’s whole life, driving more importance to education and becoming “a student of the game.”

As far as a coaching and philosophy, Babino stresses you can’t just show up and play. You must always know your opponent.

“If you don’t know your opponent, you can’t play fast,” he said. “I like to take the thinking away from the kids. I want my kids to line up and play football. I want them to feel like practice is harder than the game, and for the most part (at DeSoto) it has been that way all year.”