“If you’re not moving forward, you’re getting passed by somebody.”
Those are words Granbury Pirate football coach Scotty Pugh lives by, and he’s proud to say his team has taken steps forward in each of his seasons at the helm.
For a third straight season the Pirates (7-3) played in a bidistrict game last night when they tangled with Crowley (9-1). Only one other time in Granbury history have the Pirates made more consecutive playoff appearances, 1965-68.
But then, Pugh hasn’t done much standing still in his career, either as a player or coach. It’s a career that, dating back to high school at Abilene Cooper, saw him earn all-state status in both baseball and football. Later he went to be an All-American baseball player at the University of Texas and played professional baseball from 1991-96 in the minor leagues of the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies.
He’s also been a successful high school baseball coach at Abilene Cooper and A&M Consolidated. And, before becoming a head coach, he was an assistant on several winning programs.
Then, when he came to Granbury five seasons ago, he went through a crash course in losing, dropping his first 18 games as coach before getting a 13-9 victory at Joshua.
That was also the night that Pugh, with only one victory in hand – his first as a head football coach – knew things were about to change for the Pirates.
“That first win at Joshua was so special. You could feel the momentum shifting,” Pugh said.
And sure enough, it did. The next season the Pirates broke a drought of more than three decades of futility, advancing to the bidistrict playoffs for the first time since 1977.
“We had pegged that senior class as the ones to end the drought,” Pugh said. “They dreamed about, and then they went out and made it happen.”
Then came a repeat appearance in 2011, only this time the Pirates were third in district and the No. 1 Division I seed. Just like 2010 against Waco Midway, it ended with a bidistrict loss to Killeen, but progress had been made nonetheless.
“Getting back to the playoffs was important because it took us from just getting there to making it a regular thing,” said Pugh.
As for this season, there were question marks surrounding the Pirates. They had graduated 37 seniors and entered the season with a roster that featured a plethora of sophomores.
But the seniors exhibited leadership and the sophomores matured fast. The result was the best season yet for Pugh, 7-3, matching a mark done only twice previously in the past three decades (1981, 1998).
“Getting seven wins was huge, for the kids, the fans, the student body, everybody,” said Pugh.
“It shows even more progress.”
And, Pugh admits that the next logical step is to advance in the playoffs.
“The difference now is those first two seasons we still celebrated being in the playoffs, but now we won’t be celebrating after a loss in the playoffs,” Pugh said.
And, Pugh said, he still refers to those first couple of seasons to keep himself, the coaching staff and the team in check.
“We don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “Those first two years were rough, but they helped us develop to where we are today.”
IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE
And where they are today, Pugh said, is attributed to more than just his own handiwork. He’s always quick to praise his coaching staff.
“The only thing I knew that separated me from others who had coached here was the staff I knew I could assemble,” said Pugh. “I wasn’t egotistical enough to think I could change it on my own.”
So Pugh brought in his brother, Jay, as offensive coordinator. Longtime friend Tommy Grace coordinated the defense. Others included the likes of Jodie Scott and John Contrucci.
Then came the job of selling the future to a group of youngsters who grew up seeing Pirate football as little more than a way to get through the fall.
“Our assistant coaches bought in, and they did a great job of getting the kids to buy in,” said Pugh.
“Nobody wants to dream about being 0-10.”
Pugh inherited a team that had gone 6-24 in the three seasons since 2004, when they narrowly missed reaching the 5A playoffs with a 6-4 record.
Pugh’s first season was a disastrous 0-10, woeful even by the standards of Pirate football at the time. They were outscored by an average of 44-6.
But the second season, though it had only one victory, saw an improved offense and a defense that improved by surrendering three fewer touchdowns per game. The future that had been promised could now be seen coming into view.
More than 200 players turned out for the program in each of those first two seasons, and the number of participants has been steady ever since. The freshmen won district in 2011, and the junior varsity played for the district championship this season.
“Those coaches put a completely different spin on things. They made it fun, no matter what the record was,” said Pugh. “Those kids from those first two teams come back and talk about what a good time they had, and they know they laid the foundation for what we have today.”
EVEN MORE EXPECTED
Pugh said he envisions the greatness Granbury has long dreamed of in the coming years, advancing deep in the playoffs, winning district titles, perhaps even competing for the ultimate championship.
And yes, he realizes his team got a reality check late in this season when it lost 63-0 to Aledo. But even that, he said, contained a positive.
“Every time Aledo did something positive that night, our kids realized more and more that’s where we want to get,” said Pugh.
With such progress comes chances for assistants to move into head coaching jobs, and Pugh expects that.
“That’s what you want for your assistants, to use this as a springboard,” he said. “These guys would make some great head coaches.”
As for himself? He’s been looked at for jobs before, and he anticipates more opportunities will come.
So will he still be around if/when the Pirates fulfill his predictions?
“It’s always nice to be recognized, and you do the professional thing and hear people out,” Pugh said. “You weigh options, and you never close doors.
“But here in Granbury there are some great things going on.”
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