High School Sports

This tiny Texas town is headed to the boys hoops playoffs for first time in 58 years

There is an abundance of enthusiasm around town as the Perrin-Whitt Pirates, the boys basketball team at the local high school, are in the postseason for the first time in a long time.
There is an abundance of enthusiasm around town as the Perrin-Whitt Pirates, the boys basketball team at the local high school, are in the postseason for the first time in a long time. Tammy Lynne Reynolds

Go to the opening night of any popular movie and you’re likely to find more people in attendance than live in the entire town of Perrin, Texas.

The last census listed the population at 398.

There is, however, an abundance of enthusiasm around town as the Perrin-Whitt Pirates, the boys basketball team at the local high school, are in the postseason for the first time in a long time.

So long, in fact, that no one seems to remember for certain the last time. It has been at least 58 years, with the team losing in bi-district, 43-39, to Lipan, according to a newspaper clipping that surfaced.

Or it could have been 1946, when the Pirates advanced to the Class B state championship game, losing to Stratford, 29-18.

“Whether it’s 58 years or 73 years, either way it’s been a long time and these boys have done something special,” said Pirates head coach Max Hefner, who is in his second year at the helm.

An attempt to reach the University Interscholastic League and confirm which season was the last was unsuccessful at press time.

The Pirates (13-14 overall) finished second in District 21-A with an 8-2 record this season, both losses to district champion Graford, ranked No. 3 in the state. They will face Midway in bi-district Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Jacksboro.

In 1961 the average income was just over $5,300, the cost of a new car was under $2,900, and the price of putting gas in that car was around 27 cents.

In 1946, a new home could be purchased for under $6,000 and a dozen doughnuts cost about 15 cents.

“His great grandparents wouldn’t even remember the last playoff team, probably,” said Callie Mason, whose son Anthony is a junior on the current team. “I mean, think about how long ago that was.”

Perrin has one blinking light and it’s 20 minutes from the nearest “big city,” either Jacksboro or Mineral Wells.

The town has about as many churches as businesses, a handful of each. And if you want to stay up on what is going on in town, visit the main hangout, Perrin Grocery, the lone convenience store.

Asia Fritts, a senior at the high school, works at Perrin Grocery and plays volleyball for the Lady Pirates. They won their first playoff match since 1997 this most recent season.

“Maybe we set the tone for a great sports year,” she said with a smile. “Everybody is cheering them on, it’s so exciting.”

The Pirates got some help when last year’s UIL realignment moved them down to Class A.

“It gave these kids a chance to compete. We don’t have the 6-7, 6-5 players or even the 6-2 point guard who’s going to go play D-I,” Hefner said. “It really makes a difference having schools closer to our size.”

Still, Hefner stuck with a tough pre-district schedule. Despite a slow start, it paid off when the Pirates got to league play.

“Every team we played in non-district, except one, made it to the playoffs,” Hefner said. “I did that so we’d be where we are now.”

Stephen Mock drives a bus for the school district. He also prides himself on being one of the biggest fans of every program.

“You name it, I go to it at the school. The cool thing about this is there’s one senior on the squad. It’s a young team, so this is just the beginning,” he said.

That lone senior is Chance Tessman, who said the feeling of breaking the drought is surreal.

“It’s awesome to be able to make history like this, but we’re not thinking about district anymore,” he said. “The emotion is high, and we really want to play for a while longer.”

Keaton Burke is a sophomore on the squad. He said getting to the playoffs was a regular subject of discussion during the season.

“We talked about it every day. We knew we were getting better and better and we could see we were becoming a pretty good team,” he said.

Courtney Davis, a senior, said excitement is at a fever pitch in the school.

“Everybody is scrambling to get their T-shirts for the playoffs,” she said. “People have been waiting on this a long time.”

To which Jena Kovar, a 2006 graduate who is now an elementary aide in the district, agreed.

“This is good for our community. We’re a close-knit community where everybody knows everybody,” she said. “We have high hopes for baseball, softball and track in the spring.”

Among the most excited is junior Jacob Kinder, who played for the Pirates as a freshman, transferred to Mineral Wells, and returned this season.

“I came back at the right time,” he said with a chuckle. “I missed my friends. People I grew up with, they’re a part of this, and it’s special to be here with them.”

Tessman plans to attend the University of Texas-Arlington in the fall. He said his competitive basketball days are over, acknowledging once more the specialty of the moment.

“When guys grow old they sometimes miss what could have been,” he said. “I’m going to miss what happened.”

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Sports editor William Wilkerson is back for his second stint with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He first worked at the paper after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. He most recently was the Executive Editor of College-Team Sites for CBS Interactive/247Sports and has also worked at ESPN, Scout.com and the Austin American-Statesman.