Days of searing, triple-digit heat turned the surface of Jones Field into a dirt patch. Only sparse blades of grass grown and dust flies up at the slightest movement.
The hardened surface seems ill-fitting for much to grow. But it’s here where Doug Sessums is hoping to find fertile soil for a high-school football team without a traditional home to spring to life.
Sessums, an over-the-road truck driver by day, is bringing together home-school boys from across the region to form the Wise County Christian Homeschool Warriors.
“My goal is just to give them the opportunity to play like I had,” said Sessums, whose son, Edward, plays on the team. “I went to public school and played sports. I know they get down seeing other kids doing sports and want the same chance.”
The Warriors are members of T-Cal, the Texas Christian Athletic League. They will play in the six-man Division II District 3 against schools and other groups with 40 or fewer players.
Sessums previously coached another six-man team with a local school that has since closed.
“The school shut its doors, and the kids still wanted to play,” he said. “We wanted to give the homeschoolers a chance to still play.”
As the team prepares for its Gold/Purple scrimmage Friday at Jones Field, it currently has nine players. He’s waiting for a 10th to possibly join before the team’s first game Aug. 27 at Watauga Harvest. He is still hoping to grow the team to 12 or 15 players.
Not all the Warriors come from Wise County. Some players drive in from Bowie, Denton, Keller and even as far as Graham. Luke Renfro, a junior from Graham, makes the hour and 10 minute trip to practice a couple of times per week.
“I love football,” Renfro said. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play football. It’s great. I love all the guys. It’s a great team.”
Most of the Warriors have been part of other teams. Tyler Farver, a senior from Boyd, is in his fifth season. He previously played with Sessums at Oak Christian Academy.
“There’s no other team like it,” Farver said. “It’s different. It’s interesting trying to get the new players to hit and get plays down. I’ve been really surprised how the players have picked things up. We still have a lot to work on.”
Standing at 6-2 and 205, Bobby Baldwin of Denton is the team’s starting quarterback and perhaps its most experienced player. Baldwin, a 16-year-old senior, played at Denton High School and also at Denton Calvary before joining the Warriors this year.
He prefers the six-man game and the smaller team to what he had at Denton.
“It was fun, but every player was there for himself,” Baldwin said. “There was no team unity at the big 4A school. Here everyone has to like each other and play together. It makes you look forward to coming to practice and being with the guys. Football is just an added bonus.”
Unlike players at public schools, the Warriors bought a majority of their own equipment. At practice many players wore different jerseys from past teams.
“Most of the kids picked it up themselves,” Sessums said. “We did get some through a company in Wichita Falls.”
The students might not attend classes at traditional high schools, but academics still come first to the student athletes. They must maintain passing grades or sit out three weeks, the same as University Interscholastic League rules.
The Warriors will play five home games at Jones Field.
While the team is new and small, it’s not stopping them from dreaming big.
“I want to win state,” Baldwin said. “This is my last chance to win state.”
Baldwin’s remarks show this barren soil is truly fertile.