SAN ANTONIO – Willie Hall was coaching in Bay City when he packed his bags in the summer of 1983 and headed for San Antonio, looking to catch on as a player with the city’s new United States Football League franchise.
Hall, a former safety at Eastern New Mexico, never played for the San Antonio Gunslingers. But he never returned to coach at Bay City, either. Hall met then-SAISD athletic director Hensley Sapenter during a workout at Alamo Stadium that summer 33 years ago, and landed a job at Brackenridge High School as an assistant coach under Lyman Davis soon thereafter.
Hall has coached at Brack ever since, serving an assistant coach for 12 years before being promoted in 1995, when Diz Reeves resigned as the Eagles’ head coach to become athletic director of the San Antonio ISD. Hall, 60, is in his 34th year at Brack and 22nd as head coach
“I can’t imagine him coaching anywhere else,” Eagles senior cornerback William Hall, the coach’s oldest of two sons, said Thursday. “He’ll always be an Eagle.”
Brack, 6-3 overall and 6-1 in District 28-5A, heads into Friday night’s regular-season finale against Highlands tied with the Owls and Lanier atop the league standings. A victory would give the Eagles, who beat Lanier last week, at least a share of the 28-5A title, and a No. 1 seed in the Division I playoffs.
“We’re excited,” Coach Hall said. “I feel good about the way we’ve jelled in district. I think we’re peaking at the right time. Our defense has carried us all season, but our offense has gotten a little better each week. Highlands has a real good ballclub, so we know they’re going to be ready.”
Coached by Juan Morales, the Owls are also 6-3. Brack edged Highlands 27-26 in last year’s regular-season finale, but finished 4-6 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The Eagles have gone 125-108 and made the playoffs 12 times under Hall, a native of Roswell, N.M. Brack has won three district titles and shared another with Hall at the helm.
The Eagles started this season 0-2, losing to Somerset (20-19) and Devine (49-39) before squeaking by Kennedy 13-12 in Week 3. They have won six of seven games since being 0-2, with the only loss during that span coming against Edison (31-17) on Oct. 17.
“Teams like Somerset and Devine get you ready for the district race,” Hall said. “Those were two pretty tough opponents to start out against, but it paid off because they made our kids understand what they had to do to get better. After playing Somerset and Devine, I felt like we were ready to take on the challenge in district. I’m proud of these kids.
“They’ve worked hard to get to this point. They’re playing well together. They feed off each other. We’ve been leaning on the defense. They’ve made some big stops, and the offense has managed to score when it’s needed to.”
William Hall, a two-year starter, is the Eagles’ shutdown cornerback. He and senior strong safety Luis Lopez lead a secondary that also includes free safety Vincent Gonzalez, who also starts at quarterback. Some of the other stalwarts on defense are senior linebacker Rodney Johnson and linemen Zeke Lopez, John Naranjo and Matt Rios. Naranjo and Rios are seniors and Lopez is a junior.
“Our defense is pretty close,” William Hall said. “It’s like a brotherhood. We look out for each other and keep each other up.”
Senior running back Fred Jones, whose father played for Hall at Brack, has fueled the offense with 925 yards and 10 touchdowns on 160 carries. Gonzalez has passed for 898 yards and 10 TDs, but has been picked off eight times in nine games.
“Jones is a strong kid,” Coach Hall said. “He catches the ball well, too.”
Hall has coached the dads of two other players on this season’s team, Lopez and freshman Jade Rios.
William Hall said he’s enjoyed playing for his father, although it’s been “a lot of pressure” at times.
“He stays on me pretty good,” Hall said. “He’s going to be harder on me than he would another player, just because I’m his son. He wants me to do extra, but I’m used to it.”
Hall attended middle school in the Northside ISD, but has been enrolled at Brack since his freshman year. The Hall family lives in the Clark attendance zone.
“I can’t get over how fast these last four years have gone,” Hall said. “It’s insane.”
Hall grew up watching Brack games, first from the stands with his mother and then from the sideline as a ballboy. On Saturdays, he tagged along with his father and hung out with the coaches as they broke down film on the previous night’s game and started putting in the game plan for the next week.
“I always wanted to be an Eagle,” Hall said. “The earliest memory I have of going to a game was when I was kindergarten.”
Coach Hall chuckled when he recalled how William shadowed him when he was a little kid.
“He did it all,” Hall said.
(© 2016 KENS)