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Reicher Relishes Opportunity To Play Local Public School

Sept. 9, 2010

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When the Reicher Cougars practiced on their own field yesterday for tonight's game, it was the first time they'd been out there in a few days. They don't have fancy turf that drains quickly, so the rains that hit the area made them practice nomads, forced to find an open gym or pavilion for tonight's matchup at McGregor. Now, it's not uncommon for small schools to deal with these issues. But it's particularly a way of life when you're a small private school. At 220 students, Reicher fits that bill.

That's head coach Mark Waggoner. But his team is not your typical underdog. Reicher is the three time defending state champions in TAPPS, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. But even that presents its issues. Because no matter what they do says Coach Waggoner, there's always that disclaimer.

While the people who talk about them may be well-meaning, it always comes across as a back-handed compliment to the athletes who believe they're just as good as those at the public schools. So where do they prove that? Well, in a game like tonight, against the 2A McGregor Bulldogs. Senior Garlin Gonzalez has never not won a state title in his high school career. He's carried off a trophy all three seasons. And he knows something about competing with public school athletes, as he is the powerlifting champion in the entire state of Texas. You heard his coach say the private school kids play with a chip on their shoulders. You get that sense talking to Gonzalez.

There's another aspect that adds drama to tonight's game for Reicher. They get to play their neighbors. Waco, University, and Midway are all in the same district. So are schools like China Spring, Robinson, and LaVega. But as a TAPPS school, Reicher is always firing up the bus to head to Houston, DFW, or Austin. Senior Keton Schulte says his team relishes the chance to actually play someone from just down the road. So they get to play neighbors, and measure themselves against the public schools. This must be a huge game for you, right Keton?

Wait, all that build-up and it's just another game? That can't be right. Of course, kids like Schulte have played for three straight titles, so they know something about big games. And this game against McGregor is a non-district contest with no bearing on the playoffs. Still, if their own coach acknowledges there's a chip on the shoulder, there must be someone who feels it adds a little extra juice. So Garlin Gonzalez steps in, offering his thoughts simply and unfiltered. What's funny is that many coaches shy away from statements like that. But Coach Waggoner knows his players, and seems to enjoy watching them rise to the challenge, one they'll face against a school with 100 more students and even more resources. So will Mark Waggoner, who's motivated 3 straight classes to a championship, use the underdog role to motivate them tonight? He's coy.

Reicher and McGregor play tonight at 7:30 at Bulldog Stadium, their closest remaining road game by 90 miles. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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