Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

June 4, 2014

Phillips: Hold onto that rope, Dawson

ROUND ROCK — Hang onto that rope.

Yes, I’m talking to you Dawson.

All of Dawson, every single Bulldog and Bulldog fan, every mom and dad, sister, brother, teacher, coach and coach’s wife — and every good-old-fashion fan was part of this team’s wonderful journey, a joyride of a lifetime that ended in tears and a 9-0 loss Wednesday morning in the state semifinals, one step away from a state title game.

Forget that score. It had little to do with this game. Your Bulldogs were a hit away all morning, one breakthrough hit from smashing the dam and opening the floodgates. They know it. I know it, and you can bet no one knows it better than Douglass.

They held onto the rope all season, taking the idea of counting on one another to a new level, to a place in their hearts that will always be there.

It became a chant, a slogan and a way of life for the Dawson “Hold the Rope” kids, who watched a town fall in love with this team.

The kids at school — led by Demi Dotson and Kaylee Martinez (two of the best softball players in the Golden Circle) — hung rope on the walls in the hallways at Dawson, and they hung rope on the bus that brought the team to Round Rock. Some Dawson fans who made the trip to Dell Diamond for the game held pieces of rope in the stands.

Fans even chanted “Hold the Rope! Hold the Rope” in Saginaw when Dawson won the Region II-1A title over Trenton. Dawson Coach Chris Sexton said when he heard the crowd chanting in Saginaw that it gave him “goosebumps.”

It was a goosebump-filled run for Dawson.

Even after the loss, there was some rope holding. When I talked to the players after the loss they were all hurting, all broken hearted over falling just short of the title game, but they handled it like they handled the season — with class and dignity.

Just listen to Dalton Long, one of the three  seniors who helped lead this team on and off the field.

“If we had to lose to a team, I would rather lose to a team like Douglass (32-1). They play the game right,” Long said.

The kids handled the loss, but they broke down when they talked about the team.

“The thing I’ll remember is the friendships, the camaraderie — the brotherhood we have as a team,’’ Long said. “That’s what I will remember the most.’’

 That’s what holding the rope is all about, and the Dawson kids know that better than anyone. You fans know it, too. You know what it meant to this team that just out-hustled and out-played every one on the road to state — a history-making road.

There’s nothing like being the first team to get to state. They can never take that away from these kids — never.

After the game, Dawson AD Larry Prince met with the kids at home plate and told them they all were champions, and that everyone got the Bulldogs to state.

“You are all part of it,” Prince said. “It doesn’t matter if you were the bullpen catcher or the ace of the staff. You’re all part of it.’’

In a touching moment, as the kids were lined up getting their medals, Sexton walked down the line, and put his hands on each kids shoulder and leaned in and said something to every player. What he said was private and it won’t be written here, but he touched every kid on this team in a frozen moment — one that will last a lifetime.

He just had to hold that rope with his kids one last time on the diamond.

It was a pinch-me-I-can’t-believe-it season for Sexton, who came to Dawson with his wife Alicia, who coaches the volleyball team, for his first job as a head baseball coach. After his kids won the Region II-1A title to get to state, Sexton said. “In a million years I never would have believed I would have a team get to state in my first year as a head coach, not in a million years.’’

On Wednesday, Sexton, who preached baseball and trust and the belief in each other in the same breath, talked about his first year.

“As a first year coach to have kids like this is awesome,’’ he said. “I could coach 30 years and not get kids with the mentality like this. They never quit and they worked their tails off to get to where we are.’’

Sexton will always cherish this team.

But he’s ready to do it again.

He walked off the diamond Wednesday, after just falling short of the state title game, after taking a team that started the season with more doubt and questions than bats and balls, after watching his kids defy the odds and beat the some of the best Class 1A teams in Texas to get here, with a positive thought.

“We’re coming back next year,’’ he said.    

He meant it.

“We have a chance to come back,’’ he said. “We’re losing three huge seniors in Trent Underwood, Brandon Cehand and Dalton Long, and we will need guys to step up, but we’ve got a young team and we’ve got some eighth graders coming up next year as freshman. I’m planning on coming back.’’

Sexton had three freshman on the diamond at the end. He brought in second baseman Justin Gray, who had a monster season playing like a senior, to pitch and finish the sixth, and put freshman Reece Walker at second to replace Gray. Conner McEntire, a freshman who started in right field and had a stellar season, is also back next year.

One of Dawson’s top hitters is centerfielder Lane Dotson, a sophomore who hits ropes and covers a pasture in center field, and Dotson has a brother in eighth grade who will be on the varsity next year. Third baseman Seth Lachney is only a sophomore and catcher Mason Burleson, who stepped in and made a big impact on the team this season, is a junior. Then there’s Jared Gray, a junior at shortstop who was one of the leaders of the “Hold the Rope” Dawson kids.

“I’ve got next year,’’ said Jared, who was heartbroken over the loss. “If we put everything together and hold the rope for each other I think we can make it. It’s a long journey. It’s one I’ll never forget. It was fun getting here. I know we will work hard to get a chance to do it again.’’

Hang on to that rope, Dawson …

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