By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Aymond is careful to point out that his players come from a variety of circumstances -- ranging from comfortably middle class to those with greater economic needs. What he offers them is a personal story of going from humble means to a master's degree in education.
"[My parents] were illiterate. Both of mine. My parents couldn't sign their name to anything, couldn't read anything," says Aymond. "I remember tryin' to teach my mother to read when I was a kid."
If anything, Aymond's experience growing up runs contrary to the notion that success requires money. At a time when the wealthiest schools in the nation are racking up a majority of sports titles, that might make him the perfect fit for the North Shore Mustangs, 2003 champions for the state of Texas.
But this is where it ends: on the soggy turf of a dark afternoon at Leonard George Stadium in Spring. In this second round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs, the North Shore Mustangs face Westfield High School. The visitor grandstands are packed to capacity -- a sea of red spilling over with signs sporting slogans like "East Side Powerhouse." But as their boys slink into the locker room at halftime, dejected faces look toward a scoreboard that has Westfield on top 21-7.
For many, this will be their last 24 minutes in a North Shore uniform. But David Aymond isn't finished yet. He jumps on a bench, standing above the shoulder pads and helmets in the crowded locker room, and lights the fuse.
"Hey, men! Last time, if you didn't check, we are the state champions right here!" He draws a chorus of wild cheers. "You're still state champions! You understand? This game ain't over! They don't know what it's like to piss you off!" The players lather up in a frenzy of hoots and hollers.
"We're not gonna be pushed around!" Aymond booms. "This is a new game! This is the champion you, right here!" A bulky lineman breathlessly reads off a prayer from memory. The chant that breaks the huddle is the chant that breaks all the huddles, the team motto: "One, two, three -- it'smylife!" The words come out as one syllable.
The second half gets uglier. North Shore goes three and out, and Westfield follows up with a long, steady drive that eats up clock like a cow chewing cud. A fumble leads to another Westfield score, and pretty soon it's a 56-7 deficit with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter. A cheerleader is grousing, "Only a miracle'll help y'all out."
The band plays on, even as the players cross the field to shake hands. Aymond gathers his team at the 40-yard line. Each of the young men takes a knee.
"Men," he begins, a show of tenderness returning to his voice, "you got to where you are because you got great class I know you aren't happy. Hell, I'm hurt," he says. "You had a great championship run. You walk off this field with your heads up."
One player steps forward, his eyes glassy. He asks the coach if he can say something.
"I had a good-ass run." His voice chokes up. "If it was gonna be with anybody, it was gonna be with y'all."
Aymond jumps right in: "That's a man that said that." His voice is firm. "Get in here and touch somebody you love." They place their arms on one another's shoulders and pray.
The lights have come on in the stadium. The stands have thinned out. From here, the team will dissolve into history.
Just this week, Dajleon Farr committed to LSU. On the sidelines, a coach wishes him good luck, and he replies with an inadvertently fitting comment on this era of sports economics: "Nice doin' business with you, coach."