MIDLOTHIAN — Crandall may have sealed it, but the win against Sanger made it that much sweeter.
It may have been pure coincidence the Jaguars' statement win came on the eve of Head Coach Lee Wiginton's keystone victory and the presence of his father Ken Wiginton, a former high school football coach.
Or maybe not.
When Midlothian Heritage High School paved the way to a 45-19 win against Sanger High School Friday, the road pointed directly toward a new century and the establishment of the Jaguars as a new power in Ellis County.
And it was all courtesy of wins No. 100 and No. 101.
"Going into the game, we didn't know about it possibly being his 100th win," Jaguar running back Raja Banks said. "We actually didn't find out until the next Thursday before the game against Sanger. He's a really humble guy and I think he tries to make it about us rather than him."
"I wish someone had told us before that game," added Jack Ellis, a middle linebacker at MHHS. "It would've been pretty motivational, though. Even though we're taking each game one at a time right now, it's pretty sweet to get that win [for him] on a winning streak."
The win — unlikely because of the propensity for new programs to struggle in their fledgling years — marks not only a bucking of a historical trend, but also a career built on a truth that's stranger than fiction.
According to MaxPreps statistics and standings database, Krum, Frisco Reedy and Benbrook High Schools — three of the newest football programs in Texas — have combined 8-10 overall records. Alvarado and Sunnyvale, established 6A and 4A teams, were a combined 4-14 in 2004 and 2008 — the earliest record of full varsity play by MaxPreps.
Alvarado is ranked seventh in Dave Campbell's Texas Football and Sunnyvale is undefeated in 4A. Midlothian Heritage is 4-1 in their inaugural varsity season.
"I should have known something was up when I saw my dad and Coach (Steve) Keasler show up to the game early," Lee said with a chuckle, clutching a small brown and white ball with the words, "100 wins, Midlothian Heritage vs. Crandall" inscribed on it. "It was a nice gesture and I'm honored, but I never want to make it about me. It's about the hard work they put in on a daily basis and how much they've earned every scrap of recognition they have gotten. It's a great group of kids that amazes me every day how much they love each other and make this program more of a family than an organized sport."
Humility aside, Wiginton has done much for the programs he's coached for — whether it was as a wide receivers coach at San Angelo State University, an assistant coach in his hometown of Lampasas or head coach at Bosqueville High School — in more than 22 years of service in the state of Texas.
Before accepting the head coaching position at Midlothian Heritage High School on Jan. 19, he made stops at Bastrop, Comfort, Mexia and Midlothian High Schools. In 17 years as a head coach, Wiginton’s teams have made the playoffs nine times and he was named district coach or co-coach of the year six times.
While some of his love for coaching, Lee said, derived from a realization of his personal limitations, most came from his father, a man once quoted by the Lampasas Dispatch Record as saying, "I think I probably was in the birth canal, and I knew I was gonna be a coach.”
Ken, a former head coach at Lampasas, Bastrop and Athens High Schools, coached for more than 18 years before suffering a stroke in 2000.
"My dad coached and I was around it forever," Lee continued, his face hardening to block away tears of pride. "He literally coached until he couldn't. I spent a lot of time on the sideline next to him, watching and learning what it means to be a good coach. It was really probably about the middle of my collegiate career that I realized I was never going to play and decided to give it up. When I did, those coaches asked me if I'd be willing to coach their receivers.
"At first I thought, 'I don't know if I want to mess with that." Once I though about it a little longer, though, I took the position and never looked back. It's all downhill from there. I've loved everywhere I've been and never really wanted to leave any of them. I've been here [in Midlothian] for seven years and I'll be here for as long as they let me stay. I'd like to be here forever."
He said in many ways, coaches are measured not by wins and losses, but how their student-athletes grow and progress through life and how many fires they've collectively been thrown into and survived.
In his 23rd coaching year, he has a newly formed Midlothian Heritage football program separating itself from the 4A pack, but also from the city rivalry with Midlothian High School.
Lee, with the help of staffers like Nick Junior, Chris Terry, Justin Blackwell, Andy Slye, Gerald Slovacek, Ryan Bolland, Cooper Crowell and David Gaskamp, has molded one of the top 4A offenses this year.
Senior running back Nathan Gaskamp is among the class' rushing leaders and sophomore quarterback Landon Ledbetter spearheads the 4A's passing leaders with more than 1,100 yards in only five games.
Lee's impact, however, goes much deeper than the lessons and schemes he teaches and enacts on the field, Ledbetter said.
"He always tells us he believes in us and is proud of us, but never lets us become satisfied with a win," Ledbetter continued. "He always pushed for the next and never focusing on the last and always challenged us to get better. He never questioned us struggling in the first year of varsity. It didn't even come up. He let us know that we are here to play and that we have it in us. He kept us focused and prepared as if we are going to feast on Thanksgiving. That is our team goal — to be playing on Thanksgiving.
"He has impacted the whole team in a tremendous way and impacted my life in a big way also. It has been a great experience knowing and learning from him. We respect him so much as a coach and know that he knows so much about the game. He always coaches me and the others like we have the potential to be great."