25 Days of Champions -- 1998 Trinidad



In the popular talk of greatest players to play six-man football in Texas, the name Damien Jackson usually pops up. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine for the first time picked a coverboy for their six-man section in 1998 and it was Jackson. He had rushed for over 3,000 yards in 1997 and was the talk of the six-man world in 1998.

Head Coach Kevin Ray’s Trojans entered the season ranked #3 in the state. He had 12 lettermen returning, and eight of his 12 starters back from a team that lost to Panther Creek, 36-32, in the semifinals in 1997. (Editor’s note – that was a cold game at Glen Rose that many remember)

Trinidad won their first three games of the 1998 schedule by a combined score of 142-6, then played a tough and highly-ranked Grandfalls-Royalty team in Paint Rock, winning a nail-bitter, 44-32. The Trojans then won their next five games via the mercy rule before defeated Coolidge, 76-47, in the final game of the regular season, to finish the regular season 10-0.

Coach Ray’s squad trimmed Calvert, 58-12 in bi-district, Mullin, 52-6, in the second round, and 45-ed a solid Gordon team, 66-20, in the quarterfinals. For the semifinals, Trinidad would face off with Strawn, a team they had beaten in the second round of the 1997 playoffs by a score of 94-80.

This time Trinidad was more in control. While they did allow the Greyhounds, led by star player Shane Mallory, to put up 40 points on them, the Trojans scored 88 themselves, en route to a 45-point mercy rule victory. Jackson ran for 354 yards and six touchdowns in the victory, leading the Trojans to their first-ever state championship game, to take on the defending champion Borden County Coyotes.

Borden County, under head coach Bobby Avery, entered the state game with a 13-1 record, having suffered a district loss to Sands, 35-34. Returning 1st team all-state quarterback Colt McCook was an excellent passer and running back Fernando Baeza was a key component on both sides of the ball for the Coyotes. Returning 1st team all-state defensive lineman Ryan Grant was a big player for their defense as well. Borden County had big victories over Whitharral, 36-33, Highland, 56-6, and Balmorhea, 57-24, in their non-district schedule. Each of these were quality opponents that were playoff contenders. In the playoffs, they defeated Wellman-Union, 46-0 in bi-district, Grandfalls-Royalty, 44-12, in the second round, Groom, 52-6, in the quarterfinals and Balmorhea, 70-24, in the semifinals.

State Championship Game – Saturday Dec. 12th 3:00pm in Glen Rose
Borden County received the kickoff to start the game and after a nice return, started near midfield at their own 37. After an incomplete pass on their first play, Baeza took a pitch on a sweep out of a spread formation and ran between a few defenders untouched for a 43-yard touchdown. Colt McCook’s kick was good and the Coyotes led 8-0, with 9:33 left in the first.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Coyotes kicked it deep and the ball bounded to the one yard line where it was scooped up and the tackle immediately made, pinning the Trojans down at their two-yard line to begin their opening drive. After some small gains on three straight run plays, Trinidad elected to punt on fourth-and-short, but the kick was blocked by Ed Rodriguez and the ball rolled backwards and out of the end zone for a safety. Borden County now had a surprising 10-0 lead, with 7:29 left in the first.

Another good return on the free kick gave Borden County the ball in Trinidad territory and they quickly moved the ball down inside the five-yard line. A big tackle stopped Baeza at the four on first down, and another one stopped the Coyote runner at the goal line on 2nd down. Baeza was then tackled in the backfield for a loss on third down. On fourth-and-goal, Baeza, looking to pass on an option was hit in the backfield, fumbling the ball out of bounds and the Trojans would take over at the 12.

Would that be the break Trinidad needed to get their offense going?

Trinidad, faced a fourth down situation on their side of the field early in the possession. Jackson was able to gain great yardage on a sweep thanks to some excellent down field blocks, giving the Trojans a first-and-goal at the 13. More runs by Jackson moved the ball down to the four-yard line, but Trinidad turned the ball over on an interception in the end zone that was returned to the Coyote nine-yard line.

That would bring the first quarter to an close with Borden County with the ball and lead, 10-0.

In a tight formation, Baeza took the pitch on a sweep for the first play of the second quarter and rushed 26-yards downfield. Adding a facemask at the end of the run moved the ball into Trojan territory. However, the Trojans would come up with a sack for about a 13-yard loss on the next play, and ultimately forced Borden County to punt.

From his own 18, Jackson got loose, moving the Trojans down to the Coyote 30. Four plays later Jackson would end the Trojan scoring drought, racing in for a score from 15 yards out. Aaron Thornburg’s PAT was good and with 6:43 left in the second, the score was now 10-8.

Borden County would answer on their next possession behind McCook’s arm. The Coyotes moved the ball downfield easily this time and McCook would connect with Pinkerton for a 15-yard touchdown. The kick failed and the score was 16-8, with 5:37 left in the first half.

That would be the last time the Coyotes would score.

On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson took it the distance, 72 yards, for a touchdown, and completely shifting momentum in favor of the Trojans for the first time in the game. The PAT was good and Trinidad had tied the game at 16, with 5:22 left in the half.

A few plays into Borden County’s next drive, the Coyote’s turned the ball over after a fumble. Five plays later De’Mond Smith, made them pay, diving in from the two-yard line for another Trojan touchdown. The PAT was good and with 2:15 still on the clock before half, Trinidad led, 24-16.

With some excellent pass coverage, the Trojan defense held Borden County to a quick three-and-out, forcing a punt.

A holding penalty on their first play of the drive moved the Trojans back a little, but this would only add more yardage to Jackson’s personal stats. On the very next play, he took the pitch on a sweep, high-stepped out of one tackle, avoided another then split two defenders, as he ran 55-yards for the Trojans’ fourth touchdown of the quarter. The PAT again was good and the score was now 32-16 with 37 seconds left in the first half.

Pass defense again prevented big plays from happening for the Coyotes and the half ended with the score, 32-16, in Trinidad’s favor.

Trinidad would receive the kickoff to start the second half and after a nice return on an onside kick attempt, started their drive at the Coyote 35. Five plays later Jackson would score from five yards out for his fourth touchdown of the game. Thornburg’s kick was good and Trinidad led 40-16, less than two minutes into the second half.

Starting at their own 17 after the kickoff, Borden County would give the ball back to the Trojans just two plays later when they fumbled at their own 32.

Trinidad immediately took advantage with quarterback Dustin Tart taking a quick, three-step drop and launching a high-arching bomb down the sideline for James Cherry, who ran under the ball and caught it, falling into the end zone with a defender for another Trojan touchdown. With the added PAT, Trinidad extended their lead to 48-16, with 7:07 left in the third.

Borden County was forced into a fourth-and-short situation and their draw play was stopped just short of the first down marker turning the ball back over to Trinidad at the Coyote 37.

Once again, it was Jackson, breaking loose for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Trojans, it was called back for holding, setting up a second-and-long at the Trinidad 37. A run by Roderick Polk moved them to the BC 32, then two plays later Jackson was stopped short of the first down stick on fourth-and-short turning the ball back over to the Coyotes.

Excellent pursuit by Trojan defenders snuffed out Coyote runs and forced another fourth down as the fourth quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth, a long pass from McCook was broken up by Polk, handing the ball back to Trinidad.

On their first play Trinidad ran a draw to Jackson, who ran up the middle untouched 32 yards for the score. Again, the PAT was good and the score was now 56-16, only 16 seconds into the fourth.

A nice return on the kickoff resulted in Borden County starting at the Trinidad 39. A big sack on third down negated some yardage the Coyotes gained on their first three plays. Facing a fourth-and-17, Borden County turned the ball over on downs when McCook’s bomb to the end zone was deflected incomplete.

With some substitutes getting some playing time for the Trojans, they gained some yardage, but turned the ball over on downs going a quick four-and-out.

Borden Count moved the ball and was threating to score, but facing a second-and-short at the Trojan 13, McCook, under pressure and getting dragged down, tried to throw the ball, only to have it hit De’Mond Smith in the gut. Smith caught the ball and ran uncontested 65-yards for the mercy rule-inflicting pick six, with 4:38 left on the game clock.

Trinidad outgained Borden County, 342-214. The Trojans rushed for 295 yards to the Coyotes’ 127. Damien Jackson accounted for 259 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Aaron Thornburg was a perfect 7-for-7 kicking PATs and had several touchbacks on kickoffs that helped pin Borden County back in their own territory throughout the game.

The big second quarter is what really got Trinidad rolling, as they outscored BC 32-6, with the Coyote Turnovers proving too costly. This allowed Trinidad to keep their momentum and run up the score. Borden County committed three turnovers to Trinidad’s one. One of the main reasons for this was the play of the Trojan secondary in coverage, allowing the line to get pressure on McCook and Baeza in the backfield.

-I used the box score from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal for this writeup and watched the game film.
-Damien Jackson would rush for 3,132 yards in 1998.
-1998 was the first year Fox Sports recognized a Six-man Player of the Year and Jackson won the honor.
-Jackson would go on to play football at Tarleton State as a wide receiver.
-I did not go to the state game, the first I missed since 1995, because it was way far away and everyone knew that it was likely to end early via the mercy rule…Trinidad was that good.
-Colt McCook’s dad, Charles, played for Abilene High and scored the first-ever touchdown in Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.