It’s a truism in high school football — the bigger the school, the better the team. More players means a deeper pool of talent to draw from — as long as kids are playing, that is.
So think about this one: What if Mansfield had only one (or more likely two, given realistic enrollment figures) high school — how good would that football team be?
“We’ve got five [teams] that are really good,” Legacy coach Chris Melson said. “If you just had one or two schools, well, you’d be Allen. Maybe better than Allen.”
Allen is, of course, the poster child for the mega-school. With the state’s largest enrollment at almost 6,400 students, it’s a Class 6A giant with a football pedigree that was almost inevitable.
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Other cities around the state also try to maintain their one-school-town status. Perhaps Southlake comes to mind in this area, though at an enrollment under 2,700 students, it still pales in comparison to the size of Allen.
With a total enrollment of a little over 10,000 across its five schools at the last UIL redistricting, keeping Mansfield a one-school town would be pretty far-fetched. But remember, we’re just playing hypothetical here.
“From a purely win-at-all-cost standpoint, Mansfield would be a dominant team because of the athletes we have,” Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said. “I think it would dominate and win multiple state championships.”
It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?
Consider this from last season: the four Mansfield schools in District 10-5A produced 22 first-team all-district selections. Mansfield high added another 12 from District 6-4A.
“There’s a lot of talent here. A lot of talent,” Mansfield High coach Dan Maberry said. “I think you’d be talking about us like you do Allen and those schools. There’s no doubt you’d have that success.”
“It’s hard for a district to have five schools and they’re all very, very competitive, make-a-run-in-the-playoffs caliber teams,” Melson added. “You’d be sitting on a Katy High and Allen in one district. That’s the kind of talent and coaches you have.”
Mansfield was a one-school town for over a century. The original school opened in 1909. Then, in a period between 2002 and 2012, that number mushroomed to five. Summit was first to come, in 2002, followed by Timberview in 2004, Legacy in 2007 and Lake Ridge in 2012.
And while the coaches in town agree that success would be almost inevitable with just one or two schools, to a man they say it’s better the way it is.
“From a true ‘why we coach’ and ‘what we are’ standpoint, you learn so many lessons in the game of football by competing and being resilient and learning how to fight through and have a positive attitude when things go bad, and working with your teammates,” Thor said. “Having just one team would cause a lot of kids to not get that experience. At the end of the day, we want to develop future leaders. The more we have a chance to develop more kids, the better off we’re going to be in our future. I think having five schools gives more kids the opportunity to compete at a high level and learn lessons to make them successful in life outside of football.”
Melson expresses similar sentiment, noting that the process kids go through over the course of their high school athletic career is important.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that don’t really get to play until they’re seniors, and seniors have been really good for us,” he said. “We might lose a lot of kids because they get frustrated or might get behind and don’t have time to catch up. But with the size we are now, we’ve got a chance to really see kids grow and develop and be contributors. I’d hate to see that go away.”
There’s also another hidden challenge in the idea of having one or two Mansfield mega-schools: choosing a roster.
“It would be really tough because you’d have so much competition,” Thor said. “I think it would be tough to keep everyone happy. I think at the end of the day you would lose more kids than you’d gain — kids that need to be a part of your program. A lot of people probably say, ‘Oh, it would great,’ but I think it would be a lot of headaches.”
“It would pose some challenges to get kids playing time and keeping them involved and wanting to be a part of something,” Maberry added. “But like anything else in coaching, you would find a way to make it work because that’s what we do. But it would pose new challenges, absolutely.”
So what is it about Mansfield that produces so many quality athletes? A special potion secretly spiked into the water supply? The coaches have a different explanation.
“It starts at the top of your district with the superintendent and athletic director,” Melson said. “They hire quality people because they care about kids and want to be the best. You get those kind of people with good athletes and programs that develop them. If it’s important, and it is important in this community, you’ve got a chance to be successful.”
“I think Mansfield is an awesome community to be a part of, and when you’re in a great place and a great community, there’s going to be more people who want to move here and be a part of the schools,” Maberry added. “I think we have some of the best schools in the state of Texas and I think that’s a big draw for families. I think it starts with the community.”
Thor, like Maberry, has been a part of the community for a long time, including a coaching role at Mansfield High and a stint in the Mansfield ISD athletics office.
“I think Mansfield is a great place to raise your kids and send your kids to school,” he said. “I think when you have an attractive school district and good leadership in that district, people want to put their kids in a place they can be successful in every area — fine arts, athletics or academics. I think because Mansfield ISD has done such a great job of making an attractive place to have your kids, people want to move here. People who have talented kids want to be here.”