A High School Billiard Story – “Rattling the Nine”
With the completion of its ninth year of high school billiards the 2010 BEF Texas High School Billiards Championship finals was exciting to the very end. It was the final match of the season going into the last game with the score tied 27-27, and only the last ball on the table…. the 9-ball.
It’s your shot with the match on the line and the 9-ball is all that stands in the way of you and your team being crowned the champions. You take a big deep nervous breath and exhale loudly. Slowly you chalk your cue while aligning the shot totally ignoring the dozens of pairs of spectators, teammates, and competitors eyes that are watching your every move. Your complete focus is on the 9-ball. It’s a long shot, a tough shot, but it can be made. It has to be made… for the team.
That very scenario was played out for the parents, students, friends, and teachers during the May 18th, 2010 finals match between the South Garland High School Colonels and the composite team of Richardson ISD consisting of players from the Berkner H.S. Rams, JJ Pearce H.S. Mustangs, and the Richardson H.S. Eagles. By far this was the most exciting finals match in our nine-year high school billiards history here in Dallas, Texas. Those that were in attendance that night will talk about that match for a long time.
Before we get to what happened lets give some background info on high school billiards this year and how we got here…
Both teams got to the finals because they were very well coached throughout the season by veterans of the BETTER High School Billiard Program directed by Earl Munson that started in the fall of 2001. In fact, both head coaches of the finals match were part of the high school billiard program since it’s pioneering days. It’s ironic that not only would they have to coach their high school teams, they would have to actively participate and compete in the finals match against one another. NO other sport in high school does this. This is a truly lead by example! Respect is not only gained by what you SAY but also how you PLAY!
Sam Jolly, a technology teacher at the Berkner H.S., was this year’s head coach for the Richardson ISD squad. Mr. Jolly is the first high school billiard team sponsor in the history of U.S. billiards. Mr. Jolly started out with his first billiards team in 2001 clearly seeing the benefits of high school students participating in a new after-school program. In 2005, Mr. Jolly won his first high school billiard championship with a well-disciplined squad of players in which several went on to compete at the 2005 BCA Junior Nationals at the University of Arizona. His co-sponsors Christina Savage (Berkner) and Michael Hill (Richardson) were also instrumental in motivating and coaching the students. Both Ms. Savage and Mr. Hill played side-by-side with their student teammates during regular season play.
Mr. Jolly’s rival this year in the finals was head coach Sean Duffey from the South Garland H.S. Colonels. Mr. Duffey is no stranger to the high school billiards program, as he too was a participating student player in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Mr. Duffey was a pioneer high school billiard student with the Rockwall H.S. Yellowjackets when the pilot program first started. Not only did Mr. Duffey participate as a student, he also dominated the high school league taking 1st place as the best billiard student in BOTH years he played as a junior and senior. His skills earned him the right to compete at the 2003 BCA Junior Nationals held at the University of Michigan.
Mr. Duffey took his love of billiards with him as he enrolled in college and completed a four-year degree majoring in Education. It was not long before Mr. Duffey took the reins of coach for the billiard team at his new South Garland High School in which he was hired to teach English. He gained quick respect with his students by handily winning the 2009 and this years #1 teacher player award. The South Garland team was ALWAYS the first to arrive for competition doing their drills and getting ready for their up-coming match. Ms. Natalie Martin, the co-sponsor, was an excellent team administrator/scorekeeper and kept the team organized and ready to play.
Both the Richardson ISD (8-4) and South Garland H.S. (6-6) teams had to earn their way to get to the play-offs. Richardson ISD solidly locked up their Division #2 title with 1st place in the regular season going into the play-offs against the #2 seed Wylie H.S Pirates (8-4). With strong play from Caitlyn Shuping, Binh Nguyen, and Cameron Goehl the Richardson ISD narrowly defeated the Pirates in a closely contested match 29-26 in which they warily advanced to the finals. They would be facing an opponent that showed heart and determination ALL the way to the end…the South Garland Colonels.
For the South Garland Colonels the road was a little bumpier for them to advance to the play-offs. The defending 2009 champions and six time winners of the Texas state title, the Rowlett Eagles, stood in their way to advance. The Colonels HAD to win their final two matches to enter the play-offs. In week #13 they played the mighty Eagles taking them hill-hill in a brutal seesaw match that kept everyone on edge. First year student Michael Wesson, a junior with the Colonels, found himself in the hot seat against one of the Eagles tough players Trevor Campbell. A bad shot by Campbell gave a winning 9-ball shot to Wesson in which the room went crazy. Although it was Wesson’s only win that night it was the win that put him on his teammates shoulders as they marched him around the room in celebration. They had defeated the stunned Eagles 28-27! Although with the loss the Eagles (9-3 record) secured their 1st place in division #1 ensuring them a spot in the play-offs. The Colonels would charge on!
In week #14 it was also a must win for the Colonels against the Sachse H.S. Mustangs and the leagues number one student player Jacob Fisher. The Colonels contained Fisher at (6-5) with the rest of the Mustangs unable to slow down the determined Colonel players of Fabian Fortune (8-3) and Mason Morris (9-2). The Colonels walloped the Mustangs 34-21 to advance to the play-offs to ONCE again face the Eagles. The play-offs between the Colonels and Eagles proved again it would go to the last round but with the Colonels in a much better position after trouncing the Eagles in the first 3 rounds of play. The Eagles came back to put a scare in the Colonels players but were unable to finish with a score of Colonels- 30 and the Rowlett Eagles- 25. The Colonels were now marching to the finals.
Before the finals match began the Richardson ISD coach remarked that he was worried about the South Garland squad consisting of Mason Morris, Fabian Fortune, Brian Emrick, Michael Wesson, Chase Riggins, Taylor Burford, Christian Torres, and their head coach Sean Duffey. It was understandable why he worried; the Colonels play until the end and will not give up. That has always been the reputation of the scrappy Colonels for several years now. Mr. Jolly told his Richardson ISD team they would have to play hard to earn a victory against the Colonels. He was spot on…
The 2010 BEF Texas State H.S. Billiards Championships finals began with the teams huddled in their corners giving last minute instructions and encouragement. To start the finals, player’s names were called out and the match was on….
The Colonels jumped out 3-2 in the first round. The second round was a little cause for concern as the Richardson ISD coach Mr. Jolly defeated the #1 player in the league and coach of the Colonels, Mr. Duffey. The second round split 5-5 giving a slight edge to the Colonels by only one game. After the third and fourth rounds it looked like serious trouble for the Richardson ISD squad as Colonel after Colonel player reported in with a win giving the Colonels a 21-14 advantage with only 20 games left to go in the match. Only 28 games are needed to secure a win for the match out of 55 games total played. The Colonels struggled on the final fifth and sixth rounds and to their amazement allowed the Richardson ISD team to tie the match 27-27. The room turned very quiet, as the momentum had shifted.
As the tables cleared and ONLY one table remained actively playing in the match it was clear to all that this would be a nail biter. This match was going to the last game. The match came down with Michael Wesson the HERO Colonels player a few weeks ago versus Cameron Goehl from the Berkner Rams of the Richardson ISD team. Interestingly both players were familiar with this situation being 27-27 and their teams depending on them to secure the victory. However, Cameron Goehl was on the losing side of his hill-hill battle a few weeks ago in a deflating loss that shook his confidence. In the middle of this finals game Goehl became aware of the rooms silence and approached his coach and nervously asked if the match was tied? The coach told him this game would decide it. Instantly you could see the pressure and memories of the last outcome floating in Goehl’s head when he realized the situation. Oh no not again!
But, both players took their time to make sure each ball would be pocketed hoping the other player would make the fatal mistake to give them the chance to win. Goehl made the first and maybe game-ending mistake by scratching on the 7-ball to give ball-in-hand to Wesson with only the 8 and 9 ball left on the table. Placing the cue ball Wesson pocketed the 8-ball in the corner but leaving a tough shot on the 9-ball. After what seemed like an eternity of measuring the shot, deep breaths, and chalking of the cue Wesson got down to take the game winning shot… and stroked…. a good hit…. the nine ball is going to the corner… and it is…. rattled…. the ohhhs shook the room!
It is the tough shots in life that we most remember. Some people will visibly break down under pressure. Not Michael Wesson, although he had the stunned look of missing the shot. He displayed steadfast courage to everyone in the room to at least give it his all. And he did! Goehl his opponent looked at me after the rattled shot on the nine and remarked that he didn’t deserve to win as the 9-ball was dead in the opening of the corner pocket with the cue ball less than two feet away. Yes, Cameron you deserve to win too, and that he did giving the come from behind win for the Richardson ISD team heartbreakingly defeating the South Garland Colonels 28-27 to be crowned the 2010 BEF Texas State High School Billiard Champions. In my eyes both teams were winners that night!
To the new 2010 BEF Texas H.S. Billiard Champions the Richardson ISD players consisting of Cameron Goehl (Berkner), Thien Nguyen (Berkner), Binh Nguyen (Berkner), Caitlyn Supping (JJ Pearce), Kohl Neal (Richardson), Sam Jolly (Berkner), Christina Savage (Berkner) and Michael Hill (Richardson) we congratulate you and look forward to next year and our 10th anniversary of high school billiards. And to the South Garland H.S. Colonels you have earned everyone’s respect again this year and we know you will be back!
The high school billiard program teachers here in Dallas deserve a huge recognition again this year for their efforts in helping billiards gain a more respectful reputation. They played a vital role in their teams success this year not only during competitions but also in the classroom. With a pass-to-play requirement for the students the teachers are always actively ensuring that the students focus and excel in the classroom so that they could participate with their team. These teachers i.e. Sam Jolly and Christina Savage from Berkner H.S., Michael Hill from Richardson H.S., and Sean Duffey and Natalie Martin from South Garland H.S., Nicole Redmond from Rockwall H.S., Patrick Englert from Wylie H.S., Garrison Reid from Sachse H.S., Jeffrey Pilcher from the Rowlett H.S., Suellen Bogan, Caryn Teeling and John Looney Sr. from North Garland H.S. have ensured that their students have had the best experience possible through the billiards program. I have thoroughly enjoyed their friendships over the years and admire them for the extra they do as proud teachers. Thank you!
Many thanks go to our BCA Instructor staff Earl Munson, Bill Suden, Nolan Shaw and Carl Oswald for their knowledge and time.
If you have an interest in starting a school billiards program please contact Earl Munson at email@example.com or Laura Smith at the Billiard Education Foundation at www.billiardeducation.org. Thank you and please support the BEF for all its hard work promoting youth billiards programs in school. The industry truly needs more schools to participate.