CORRIGAN, TX (KTRE) – Corrigan, Texas has a population of 1,633 and is home to the Corrigan Bulldogs where football reigns supreme.
The Bulldogs are coached by Seven Armstrong.
Armstrong arrived on the scene in 1994. His mission was to build a franchise, instead he has built a legend. His team has made it to post season every year since 1997.
Corrigan is picked to make it to the playoffs again this year, along with New Waverly and San Augustine. It will be no easy feat, but when you play for a coach like Armstrong the bar is already set high.
Just ask Victor Villarreal. Victor is a senior starting at left tackle and defensive end. He wears number 51 on his jersey.
"Well it's pretty tough I have to say you have to come out here and work hard every single day he doesn't accept nothing less than you give it your all that's all he wants every day nothing less," said Villarreal.
You know he's a legend right? (reporter)
"Oh yeah, we all know that (smile) (Villarreal)."
And if you do not know it, you will soon find out. Just watching Armstrong during practice he appears to be the steady guiding hand. One minute he is perched low to get a good angle at how the players are lined up, the next minute he is checking notes and then without warning he is running drills.
Corrigan started morning workouts during the second week of August. They played a scrimmage game on Saturday and were back on the practice field in pads this week. They are always conscious of the bull's eye on them. Winning does not make it any easier.
"Nall, we've always got a bull's eye on our back around here nothing gets easy nothing ever gets easier you just have to go out and play," said Armstrong. He says it is too early to tell just how good this team will be. Last season is no real indication when you consider they started off 1 and 4, then went 5-0 in district, won the district title and advanced three games deep into the playoffs.
Lucky Seven? Some folks think so, however, Armstrong knows true grit is what fuels his team, past and present. "Same way we got there before. To get to the playoffs you've got to come out here and work every single day and make sure you're getting better as a football team. And even though we weren't successful last year early, one thing I told them kids last year I was proud of how they fought back. They won district, they went to the playoffs and we played a couple of rounds so we just got to start that process all over again," said Armstrong.
Offense starts with the quarterback. Corrigan has Patrick Parker starting in that position. "He played it last year he knows what's going on and you're just got to keep getting better. We've got to get better throwing the football a little bit that was a big weakness of ours last year. Everybody knows we're not a team that's going to sit there and throw the football a whole bunch. We're going to run the football, but if we can throw it a little bit better, that's just going to make us better," said Armstrong.
"I was quarterback last year, but I was second string and I had to, well, first string quarterback got hurt so I had to work my way up first string be a leader. Now this year I'm going to be a bigger leader, play a bigger role on the team," said Parker.
The district title game against Groveton last year is still fresh on Parker's mind. He remembers the crowd, the excitement of the players and coaches, the intensity. "I probably remember best the last drive of the game our defense trying to stop them from scoring that game winning touchdown," said Parker.
Corrigan stopped them and with the win came the district title. Parker knows he is expected to help get his team back there this season. "Make the playoffs, win state just have fun with the team you know last year give it all I got," said Parker.
That is just what the Corrigan football community wants to hear. "You know, people think different things about different teams and this team's gotta set what they want to be thought of as. They're not big. We're not overly strong. We're pretty fast, but people in town have high expectations, it's a football town there's no doubt about it. And, so, they've got to set their own standard this team's got to reach that standard," said Armstrong.
Armstrong calls the plays on offense, but there is no doubt he is a 'defense first' kind of coach. "Defense. We played pretty good during the scrimmage we gave up one touchdown in the scrimmage and it was a coaching error as much as anything. They caught us with something that we hadn't even gone over yet and it was the first thing we worked on today. So ,I'm a big defense first guy. In fact, we came out here today first thing we worked was defense, so, even though I call the plays defense is very important in Corrigan," said Armstrong.
"Last year we kinda lacked leadership this year we're trying to work on it a lot, just trying to boost up the young guys boost up the older guys that's trying to take the leadership guys in our hands," mused Villareal.
How good can this team be? (reporter)
"As good as we can make it just work hard come out here every day to do our thing relax just work as hard as we can every day we have the potential to be great but potential ain't nothing." (Villareal)
Goals for yourself (reporter)
"Be a better athlete. Be a better man, win state (smile)" (Villareal)
The upcoming schedule, like last year, is no walk in the park. Corrigan's first game is against Woodville, then Diboll comes to town. Next, they take on Newton and Hearne and then Crockett. Crockett should be a big rivalry game, followed by New Waverly and San Augustine, both of those two are expected to go to the playoffs along with Corrigan.
Hemphill, Deweyville and Groveton are the last three games of the regular season. "Just getting ready to jump in the fire cause that's what I'm fixing to jump into There's no rest there's no week off there's no day off we just got to get ready to roll," said Armstrong.
"We run the football quite a bit. We're going to have a one two punch in the backfield at tailback with Derrick Petty and Kendrick Horace. We got two fullbacks rotating with Charlie Cooper and (Carlos) Inguonzo and so we're going to get the ball in a lot of kids' hands. What we try to do basically in the backfield we keep our kids rested 'cause they're probably starting on defense somewhere. And, like I said, we've got to be able to play defense. I am a defense first guy, so, we're going to start 'em on defense, take care of them on offense, and, like I said, they're going to be a lot of kids touching the football," according to Armstrong.
Corrigan's last state championship was in 2002. Armstrong would love to get back there this season. "It's always in our mind. That's the ultimate goal. If you're not here to win it all, why are you here? That's what we set out to do each and every year and that's our ultimate goal, but that's on down the road. We really don't even talk that goal until once playoffs start but we got to get there first."