JJ Resendez, the head football coach at South Hills has a certain distinction that represents a select few in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in his position, but simultaneously speaks to a large community in the city of Fort Worth in being a Latino head coach.
Located off of I-20 in the southwest area of Fort Worth is South Hills High School, a school with a predominant Hispanic and African-American student makeup, which prior to Resendez’ arrival in 2010, had a football program that produced a 1-17 record and two consecutive seasons of finishing last in their district. Needless to say, not much was expected from their football team as teams would line up for what the time was considered an easy victory. Resendez came into the program looking to implement a culture that would contribute to a successful program not only with football but with an athletics department as a whole that the school could be proud of.
“When I first got here and stepped on campus and reported to the athletic period in that March, there were 14 kids in the athletic period for football so we had to redo that. We had to get the kids in athletics that weren’t in athletics and were wherever, so that the was the first thing we needed to get done,” said Resendez.
“What we wanted to do was create a base of hard work. When we got here in 2010, the structure was not conducive of having success. We had to restructure the athletic periods, we had to restructure the school day, we had to restructure basically everything with not just football but every athletic program. The culture of the football program before was more of an intramural type set up, it wasn’t conducive to working hard and being accountable for grades and behavior. We had to start from the ground up.”
Starting from the ground up in any aspect is a difficult task. Factors such as having the right environment, appropriate and sufficient equipment, the right type of people and having people buy into a certain premise or philosophy can be a daunting task even for the most successful of leaders.
Resendez, whose nature it is to enjoy a good challenge, rolled up his sleeves and immediately went to work as he attempted to lead the South Hills Scorpions from the bottom of the 7-5A district to the top. Fast forward a few years later to last Thursday and South Hills found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they faced district rival O.D. Wyatt. Heading into the half with a 20-0 lead over Wyatt, South Hills was one half away from accomplishing a major feat in the school’s history. South Hills was now on the verge of capping off the regular season undefeated and claiming its first district title.
Though unfamiliar to the boys in silver and black, Coach Resendez knew the sense of pride that comes with being a district champion.
“When I was a junior in high school we won district at Haltom… I remember that feeling I had when we were the district champions and there was a sense of pride..I remember that feeling that I had and I wanted the boys to feel that.”
And capture that feeling they would as South Hills came out on top with a 34-7 victory, finishing with their first 10-0 record and proudly hoisting the District 7-5A title for the first time
“I think it’s huge that these boys felt that feeling of being a champion. Should we be fortunate enough to win another game every victory from here on out is another gold ball. We won one and now we want to try and win another and again do something the school has never done before… We have a heavy Hispanic population and they were saying every week, ‘balón de oro’ and it became something that we would breakout to in every practice because that’s what they wanted.”
Now with a tangible object that reflects all the hard work that was not only put in this season by the Scorpions, but also by Coach Resendez and his staff dating back to 2010, it can be viewed as a testament to how the culture and structure of the program at South Hills has changed dramatically since Coach Resendez first came to the school. South Hills was a program that not only had to be uprooted as a whole but that also had to change the nature of the students-athletes that took part in the program.
“I think it’s the nature of every program as it evolves that when you fix one thing another thing rears its head. There’s always things to work on. I think we needed to get the structure implemented but then we needed to make sure that the boys were behaving, they’re making their grades, they’re going to class, they’re not in in-house or OCI (suspension). They’re doing the things that are conducive to having success out on the field because if they are doing things that are keeping them from on the field then that’s not contributing to success. That’s going to lose games and we wanted to make it to where the teachers enjoyed having my kids and those boys. We wanted them to be good people, we wanted them to act right, we wanted them to be accountable for their grades, their mistakes and attendance.”
Of course, some of the students in the beginning did not buy into the philosophies and structure of Coach Resendez and his staff. Little by little though, as the seasons improved and the victories began to add up, the student-athletes began to see the vision that Coach Resendez and his staff had and that has now come to fruition as South Hills prepares for its Class 5A Division I bi-district playoff game against Richland this Friday.
It’s not their first playoff appearance, but it is their first as district champions, and Coach Resendez credits the hard work of the boys and the senior leadership of this year’s team that has led them so far in this historic season.
“We finally had a group of seniors that led the right way and it started with that foundation in the off season. They knew what they wanted to do and we have a bunch of seniors that said how they wanted a gold ball… they wanted to accomplish something no South Hills team had ever accomplished. South Hills has never won a district championship in football and they wanted to accomplish that and set that as a goal,” said Resendez.
Now with one page of history in the books for South Hills, they hope to write another chapter as they begin with what they hope to be a substantial playoff run that prior to the beginning of the season, not many would have expected. As the years have gone by and other Fort Worth schools have exchanged district titles, Resendez knows how this year is something special and what it represents to the surrounding South Hills’ community as he exclaims, “For the school, the southside of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth ISD, I think it has been great because it kind of upsets the balance of power. We’re not Southwest, we’re not Heights, we’re not Paschal and I think its a credit to the other schools who now probably think that if South Hills can do it, then we can do it too!”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Friday in Saginaw’s Roughrider Stadium.