Whitesboro hasn't changed much since Gregg Hickman grew up here in the late 70's and early 80's. As we walked down Main Street with his son Garrett, Gregg pointed at the stoplight at Main and Union. "We got another red light. You know this used to be the only one."
The small town's charm is part of what attracted head football coach Eddie Gill to Whitesboro in 2006. "I had a daughter that was fixin' to go into high school, had a son that was in middle school. This is ..." And here Gill pauses for a second, then chuckles. "This is Mayberry."
But Mayberry was missing something. In the 100 years since the school opened, the Bearcats had never gone to the playoffs. Not until this year.
"I still honestly don't think it's hit this community how big of a deal it is to make the playoffs, for everybody in the town," said Garrett, who plays wide receiver and defensive back for Whitesboro's football team. "I mean, 100 years is a long time."
"I've gotten e-mails from different coaches across the state that said they graduated from Whitesboro in the 70's and in the 80's, and so on and so forth," said Gill. "And those are pretty special."
A few teams have gotten close. The 2007 team began the season 6-0. Back in 1960, with Larry Riddle at quarterback, Whitesboro won the school's only co-district championship They finished tied for first, but Honey Grove went to the playoffs because they had beaten Whitesboro. Until 1982, only one team from each district advanced to the playoffs.
"After we got beat for the championship in '60, we just knew that next year we'd be champions," said Riddle.
No one knew that "next year" wouldn't come until 51 years later. In between, there has been a lot of losing. Gregg Hickman said that his teams in the 1980's won five games while he was in high school. His son's team has won seven times so far in 2011.
"They won more games in one season than we did in four years," said the elder Hickman, chuckling.
His oldest son is one of 16 seniors on this year's team, and their goal has always been to be the first team to break through and make the playoffs.
"It's been a core group that really worked hard," said Garrett. "I mean we've all dedicated so much time and committed so much effort to one single goal, which was making the playoffs and being that one team that came through here and changed everything."
His father has been watching his son's class for a long time. "These kids have never been the type that you have to beat them up to say, Hey do this, do that. They just go do it. Back when I played, it was easy to just keep losing."
But the losing is over, and coach Gill hopes his program has turned a corner.
"Let's put it this way," said Gill, "I hope it's not another 100 years before we do it again."
Follow Ted on twitter: @tedmadden