The Cougars coaches have been deeply involved in helping the kids living in the Las Vegas Trail area, which has drawn new focus after a Star-Telegram special series. bgosset@star-telegram.com Brian Gosset
The Cougars coaches have been deeply involved in helping the kids living in the Las Vegas Trail area, which has drawn new focus after a Star-Telegram special series. bgosset@star-telegram.com Brian Gosset

High School Football

Western Hills community is more than football to its high school coaches

By Brian Gosset

bgosset@star-telegram.com

August 30, 2017 06:08 PM

UPDATED August 30, 2017 09:22 PM

Las Vegas Trail, a strapped-for-cash stretch on the west side of Fort Worth, has become a focal point for city officials who are taking steps to restore an area shunned by many.

Decaying for the past two decades, “The Trail” has seen increases in poverty, violent crime, unemployment, substance abuse and low-income apartment complexes.

Half a mile east of the street sits Western Hills Elementary, a mile southwest is Leonard Middle School, and less than two miles south is Western Hills High School.

Our kids aren’t bad kids; they just need some mentoring and guidance.

Western Hills head football coach Blake Moilan

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Adjacent to the elementary is Western Hills Primary School, where on Aug. 16, the Star-Telegram hosted a community forum. Residents of the Las Vegas Trail area were invited to join the conversation.

Also in attendance were Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Councilman Brian Byrd and Fort Worth police Lt. Kirk Driver, the architect of The Leveraging Project, which is designed to bring social services directly to the people who need them most.

That’s where coach Blake Moilan enters.

Moilan is the Western Hills Cougars head football coach — beginning his fourth year with the team — and although he’s only won six games in that time, it’s his accomplishments off the field that are most notable.

“We do as many things in the community as possible,” Moilan said. “It’s an all-day and every-week thing, even when the season isn’t going. Winning football games is great, but we want to make better men out of these guys.”

With the help of his coaching staff and fellow teachers, Moilan is doing anything to help the kids of The Trail become better people, and this all began when he arrived at the school.

“I think it’s important because it keeps the kids out of trouble. We know where they are and it keeps them busy,” Moilan said of the football program. “It’s also an outlet and something to be proud of to help the community.”

Coach Moilan has had a pretty big impact with the focus on the kids not being just athletes, but being students and young men so they can graduate and have a future.

Western Hills assistant coach Bill Rock

Moilan opens the football field to youngsters; he goes to Leonard and builds a relationship with the middle school students; and last Christmas, he and his team went to a local Wal-Mart and rang a Salvation Army bell to collect donations.

“Those guys at Western Hills are doing a wonderful job getting involved with the community. It really helps those kids who are from that area and the ones that aren’t, it’s opening their eyes to seeing what their teammates have gone through,” FWISD Assistant Director of Athletics Dean Pritchett said. “The coaches are putting in the effort in making that situation better.”

Moilan has also seen an increase in participation numbers. Last year, Western Hills had 104 players, up from 78 in 2011.

Meanwhile at Leonard Middle School, only 49 seventh- and eighth-graders participated in 2016. That number was 70 in 2011. Obviously, the coaches still face many challenges.

“Coach Moilan cares about the kids,” said Lisa Langston, director of athletics for Fort Worth ISD. “He wants them to grow into productive adults, and I can see that in some of the policies that he has in place for his program. He wants his kids to be respectful and ultimately, successful at anything in life.”

Keri Flores has been the principal at Western Hills for less than a year, but she’s already seeing the impact made by Moilan and his staff.

“What I’m impressed with the most is that the coaches are mentors first to those kids,” Flores said. “Winning football games, that’s great, that’s a byproduct of what’s he’s doing, but in my brief time getting to know coach Moilan, what sticks out is he’s a mentor to those young gentlemen. He’ll sit down with them, help them and counsel them, and he has a great group of coaches.”

104 Football players at Western Hills High School in 2016 — up from 78 in 2011.

Flores is also willing to help out. She, Moilan and some of the football players have plans to share their mentoring influence with other deserving children of The Trail.

“I’m hoping by getting them involved that they learn it doesn’t matter where you come from, there’s always room to give back to the community,” Flores said.

Football assistant coach Bill Rock has been at the school for 10 years. He and his family live just off Las Vegas Trail. His daughter goes to Western Hills.

“This is our community. We have great kids here. They come from hard homes, but they come to school and work hard and want an education,” he said. “We have good people; we just need some programs to help these people out. These kids need an extra hand and someone to care for them — keep them active and off the streets. The more positive influence we have here, the better it is.”

Moilan and his staff still have a message they want the city to know.

“We want to help as much as we can; use us as a resource. We take a lot of time to get out to the community — we probably need to do a better job at that,” he said. “Biggest thing is to be available. A lot of kids live in single-parent houses and in houses that are broken down. Our kids aren’t bad kids; they just need some mentoring and guidance.”

Gosset’s weekly picks

Thursday

Birdville vs. Keller Central

Chisholm Trail vs. YMLA

Richland vs. Nolan Catholic

Marcus vs. Bowie

Hebron vs. Plano

Granbury vs. Western Hills

Eaton vs. Braswell

Maypearl vs. Diamond Hill-Jarvis

Guyer vs. Lake Ridge

Life Waxahachie vs. Tyler Grace Community

Friday

Grand Prairie vs. Haltom

Abilene Cooper vs. Keller

Fossil Ridge vs. Lamar

Weatherford vs. Arlington Heights

South Grand Prairie vs. Arlington

Mansfield vs. Summit

Martin vs. Skyline

The Colony vs. North Crowley

Coppell vs. L.D. Bell

Nelson vs. Sachse

North Mesquite vs. Sam Houston

Carroll vs. Broken Arrow (Okla.)

Trinity vs. Tulsa Union (Okla.)

Flower Mound vs. Dallas White

Lewisville vs. Rowlett

Colleyville Heritage vs. Aledo

Azle vs. Grapevine

Boswell vs. Burleson Centennial

Brewer vs. Georgetown

Alvarado vs. Northwest

Burleson vs. Saginaw

Creekview vs. Wyatt

North Side vs. Jefferson

Seagoville vs. South Hills

Southwest vs. Joshua

Cleburne vs. Stephenville

Timberview vs. Everman

Seguin vs. West Mesquite

Lancaster vs. Ryan

Rider vs. Legacy

Midlothian vs. Poteet

Red Oak vs. Corsicana

Lakeview Centennial vs. Waxahachie

Castleberry vs. Ranchview

Kennedale vs. Terrell

Boyd vs. Lake Worth

Bridgeport vs. Mineral Wells

Springtown vs. Decatur

Sunnyvale vs. Midlothian Heritage

Whitney vs. Godley

Benbrook vs. Ponder

All Saints vs. Prestonwood Christian

Glen Rose vs. Grandview

Brock vs. Stamford

Fort Worth Christian vs. Country Day

Grace Prep vs. Oakridge

Trinity Valley vs. Southwest Christian

Dallas Shelton vs. Pantego Christian

Colleyville Covenant vs. Cistercian Prep

Saturday

Crowley vs. Dunbar

Pinkston vs. Eastern Hills

Carter-Riverside vs. Trimble Tech

Adamson vs. Polytechnic

Nimitz vs. Timber Creek

Irving vs. Paschal

Record for 2016: 406-142 – winning percentage of 74.1