Sunday, July 21, 2024

Jeb Dixon named Coach of the Year


The Oglesby High School football team had its best season in school history last year.

The Tigers finished as undefeated district champions and advanced all the way to the state championship game before coming up short against Benjamin.

Several factors have contributed to the Tigers' success in recent years, not the least of which is the leadership of head coach Jeb Dixon, a man with local ties and a penchant for 6-man football.

"I played 11-man, but I watched a ton of 6-man football growing up," Dixon said. "There are two things I love about the 6-man game. One is the speed. The 6-man is a wide-open game. It's like basketball on turf. I love that element of it. The other thing is that I believe the little man can still play in 6-man football. The little guy gets taken out of 11-man, but the little guy can play in 6-man football. I love that it doesn't take any kids out of consideration because of size or anything."

Dixon, 48, grew up in Gatesville and played tight end on the Hornets football team.

He walked on at Howard Payne University before getting injured and served as defensive coordinator at Jonesboro High School and head coach at Gorman, both 6-man schools, before coming to Oglesby, a city less than 16 miles from his hometown.

That, for Dixon, was a big part of the appeal.

"It got me back closer to home," Dixon said. "My uncle actually coached at Oglesby in the late 70s and early 80s, so I knew some of the people from the area. I just felt like it was where I was called to be. The school board is great. The administration is great, so it's been a really good run here."

Oglesby went 13-1 this past season with its only loss coming in the state title game, and Dixon said his players' tenacity and perseverance are probably what impressed him most.

"I'm proud of our kids," Dixon said. "They really did a great job on and off the field. It's something we've been trying to grow over here for a long time. I think it's our reward for doing things the right way. Watching them play through injuries and adversity— it's something that as a coach you really want to see."

The Tigers certainly took their fair share of lumps, losing one of their best defensive players, middle linebacker Cash Lee, to a torn ACL in the third game of the season against Covington. Another player sustained a shoulder injury yet continued to compete all the way through the playoffs. Multiple players fought through ankle injuries and played hurt, but never gave up.

"We had some guys that were pretty beat up," Dixon said. "It was a lot. In a season that long, there are going to be some bumps and bruises, but we had a player with an ankle injury in week three who never missed a beat and never came out of the game. There was just a toughness and determination about this team that was pretty cool."

Apparently, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame felt the same way. Oglesby's grit and resilience were acknowledged when the team was honored with the Gordon Wood Award for their efforts in the 2023 season, a gesture that meant a lot to the team and community.

"It's big," Dixon said. "That award is not just about winning games, it's about your actions on the field and being good teammates and role models on the field; so, that was a big thing for us. It's something that shows that the program is doing the right thing and heading in the right direction, and something I'm really proud of. We have great kids here, and the way they act on and off the field has been exemplary... but this award really speaks for our school district and the whole community."

The Gordon Wood Award is given to the “team that displayed good sportsmanship, the ability to overcome challenges, had the support of the community and achieved success on the field,” according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football.

The Tigers have won four straight district championships with Dixon at the helm, and the Oglesby coach was quick to share the praise for the team's success. "It's the community support and it's the administration giving us what we need to be successful,” Dixon said. “The teachers over here are phenomenal. We work hand-in-hand daily together to help these kids get to where they need to be. Without a good admin, a good staff, and a strong community, the struggle is real, so when you have all of that set up it makes it much easier for success."

Dixon got a late start to coaching at the high school level, opting to help grow youth sports in Gatesville for several years before making the jump. He helped to start a tackle football league in the city of Gatesville before making the move to the high school game, and Dixon has always coached 6-man football, even with its most unique challenges from 11-man football.

"Depth is the biggest thing," Dixon said. "You've really got to have some depth to be able to sustain a season. Then there's the fact that our kids are playing every facet of the game, so just trying to find those guys that can go in and take some snaps here and there and not miss a beat. Making sure you've got the numbers and the kids who can play the right positions when needed can be tough."

Dixon comes from a family of athletes, with his wife Tara being a former all-state basketball player at Gatesville High School. The Dixon's three children were also in sports, with son, Cannon, playing football, daughter, Laney, playing basketball, and daughter, Matti, who will be playing college golf for McLennan Community College. Cannon and Laney were both all-state selections in their respective sports.

Dixon, who helped lead Jonesboro to an appearance in the state championship game as a defensive coordinator and won multiple playoff games as the head coach at Gorman, said his philosophy toward coaching goes far beyond what his players can accomplish on the football field. "For me, we try to instill good values and high character," Dixon said. "We want them to be good adults. We want them to be good husbands and fathers. We want them to be good members of society. My biggest thing, and we talk about this all the time, is that this is hard work. One of the things we say is that you can have bad plays and bad games, but you can always put out maximum effort even during those times. We want our guys to come out of here and be good people."