Justin Del Bosque is not the first head football coach at Lingleville ISD, and the 2010 Cardinals are not the first team to represent the small, rural community on the high school gridiron.
Lingleville has played football before, though the program lasted only two seasons in the 1960s.
Larry Aldridge was in his second year as the only coach at Lingleville in 1965, when Superintendent Garner E. Rice called him into his office.
"He just called me in one day and said 'Hey, we're going to start football next year,'" Aldridge said in a telephone interview from his home in Abernathy where he has been retired for more than a decade. "The first thing I thought of was, 'Oh my, that's going to take them out of the gym for a while.'"
That was a huge concern for everyone in Lingleville, which was quite the basketball power at that time, and even then was jockeying every year with arch-rival Huckabay.
But none of that mattered to Rice. He had come to Lingleville from Gorman, where football was a big success.
"(Rice) said, 'What do you think, can we do it?'" Aldridge recalled. "I said, 'Sure we can, and you can coach them.' (Rice) said, 'No, you're going to coach them.'"
And so Aldridge became a football coach in addition to his other duties, and a team was soon formed.
Nowadays, if a school starts sponsoring football, it spends a couple years competing only at the junior varsity and junior high levels, allowing time to build a program before being thrown in the fire with other varsity teams. Lingleville is playing a varsity schedule this year, and will have junior high football, but the Cardinals are an "outlaw" team that is not competing in a district and won't be contending for a playoff spot.
But in 1966, that wasn't the case. New teams were thrown directly into districts with schools that had played for years. And in Lingleville, the sport wasn't played at the junior high level. The Cardinals didn't even have their own stadium.
"We didn't really know how long it was going to last," says Randy Parks, who was a freshman in Lingleville's first season. "They weren't playing in junior high, and to build a program you have to start them young. On top of that, we had to play our home games in Dublin."
Parks, now the head girls basketball coach at Dublin, recalls many memories from his days as a six-man football player.
"We didn't have any grass to practice on," Parks said. "I remember them bringing loads of blow sand from a peanut field and dumping it. They were trying to grow grass on it, but there was no way to water (the field). So the first year we practiced on sand, and the second year we had grass burrs. It's tough getting tackled on grass burrs."
Parks also remembers being clueless when it came to six-man football.
"None of us had ever seen a six-man game before," he said. "We had all been to Stephenville or Dublin to watch 11-man, and we had seen 11-man on TV, but we had never seen six-man."
Parks says Lingleville's ag teacher rigged up a set of 15-yard (standard in six-man) first-down chains, and the Cardinals were allowed to use Dublin's down box. Dublin didn't allow Lingleville to paint the field, so the ag teacher made a long strip to mark the Cardinals' sideline.
Still, Parks says, by playing at Dublin, the Cardinals hosted games at one of the best six-man stadiums around.
"It was one of the best fields we ever played on," he said. "Back then most six-man fields didn't have scoreboards or clocks. At Dublin we had both."
Parks and Aldridge have many memories, but the most significant ones are of the people.
"I loved Lingleville. I loved the people there," Aldridge said. "If I hadn't fallen in love and gotten married (he and Bitsy were wed in 1967 and are still happily married 43 years later) I might still be coaching in Lingleville today."
Parks can still readily identify all his teammates and coaches in old black and white team photos that now serve as priceless momentos.
The 1966 team included Parks, Jimmy Don Pack, Gary Dempsey, Ray Gabhart, Larry Gardner, Jim Beyer, Danny Cantrell, Tommy Roberson, Phillip Elliot and Johnny Don Lucas. Parks says there were a few others, but they are not in the photo.
"I know Mike Bays played, but he's not in the picture. I don't know where he was that day, but I think he skipped a lot of school back then," Parks said with a chuckle.
The 1967 Cardinals featured returning lettermen in Parks, Dempsey, Pack, Gabhart, Lucas, Beyer, and Cantrell, along with brothers Steve and Kenny Phillips, Pat Bays, Larry Bostick, Nickie Sims and Glen Mays. E.V. McCarty was the head coach that season with Dennis Pack serving as his assistant.
Beyer is part of the family that owns and operates Erath County Dairy Sales. Dempsey's nephew, Kyle Dempsey played on Stephenville's 1994 state championship football team, and Parks' son Craig was on both the 1998 and 1999 title teams. Pat Bays is the owner of a successful construction company. A few others are also still in the area, according to Parks.
Aldridge wasn't around for the 1967 season. He was offered a job in Elgin working for Bill Bryant, who years later was the head coach at Dublin.
"I knew Lingleville wouldn't be able to offer my wife a teaching job, so we had to leave," he said. "I hated leaving Lingleville because I loved the people, but also because I knew we had some talent coming up."
Aldridge wasn't out of the area long. After one year in Elgin, he was hired by Sam Taylor to serve as head boys basketball coach at Stephenville. That's when he talked Taylor into allowing him to hire an assistant - his cousin Mike Copeland. Aldridge worked at Stephenville from 1968-1971. Copeland stayed, and is still teaching and coaching at SHS today.
Copeland was a Tarleton student and roomed with Aldridge during Lingleville's first season on the gridiron.
"Mike would come over and help us," Aldridge said. "Even back then he was just great with kids."
Copeland has fond memories of that time, including his one season as a public address announcer.
"I remember helping Larry in Lingleville," Copeland said. "In fact, I announced their home games at Dublin."
Aldridge and the Cardinals didn't win a game in their first season, but they were competitive in a few.
"We were 45-point ruled in a few games, but usually we were competitive into the fourth quarter," Parks recalls.
Aldridge says the same.
"Mr. Rice told me nobody expected us to win any games our first year. He said we just needed to go out and compete," Aldridge said. "And we competed pretty well. About four times we were in the game until close to the end."
Parks specifically remembers keeping it close with Putnam (a small community west of Cisco along Interstate Highway 20) in the 1966 season opener.
"They beat us by a touchdown or two," Parks remembers. "Putnam was so small they closed the school the next year."
Aldridge says it's a shame the Lingleville players didn't have more experience or better coaching.
"A lot of them could have been great players if they played 11-man football and had some experience," Aldridge said. "That and they needed better coaching. It was my first year coaching football and starting from scratch isn't easy.
"I cannot remember all the details, but I know the kids got better as the year went on, and I think they all had fun. I would sure love to get together with all those 'kids' sometime."
Parks agrees the Cardinals certainly had some athletic talent.
"Jimmy Don (Pack) was six-foot-two and about 190 pounds, Gary Dempsey was 6-3, 180 and I was about 6-2, 190," Parks says. "That was great size back then. Athletically we could do anything (coaches) wanted us to, but blocking and tackling were foreign to us."
Aldridge doesn't recall losing any players to injuries for a significant amount of time in 1966, but the Cardinals weren't so lucky under McCarty in 1967.
The second season got off to an exciting start when the Cardinals defeated Rio Vista.
"It was their first year of football and we just beat the dog out of them," Parks said. "It was a pretty good feeling to win a game."
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
Pack, Dempsey and Parks all suffered knee injuries that kept them out for the rest of the football season and all of the 1967-68 basketball campaign. Locals in Lingleville still accuse the football injuries of costing the Cardinals a chance at winning a state title in basketball. Aldridge believes them.
"I don't doubt they would've had a chance," Aldridge said. "We had beaten Huckabay the year before and had plenty of talent."
Looking back, Parks isn't so sure.
"We were good, but I don't know if I would say we could've won state," Parks said. "Huckabay was really good too, and only one team from each district made the playoffs back then."
Still, the damage was done. The Lingleville faithful couldn't stand seeing a promising basketball season spoiled because of injuries suffered playing football.
The football gear was locked away, and decades passed before the school board considered bringing it back.
"It's a shame they didn't give it a couple more years because the school in Desdemona closed and five or six guys who had played football started going to school in Lingleville," Parks said. "If they had started playing in junior high and given it a couple more seasons, it might have caught on.
Forty-three years later - just a couple weeks ago, in fact - Parks pulled his pickup into the gravel parking lot at Lingleville High School. He got out and walked to the edge of the burn overlooking the abandoned Garner E. Rice baseball field that is now used as a practice field for the new era of Cardinals football.
"There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm in the community," Parks said. "I've talked to the superintendent (Dennis Hughes) and a school board member or two, and they seem excited. It helps that they have their own field and they're putting up goal posts and a scoreboard. Those are all signs that the administration is committed to the sport."
Parks says he may have to make the short drive to LHS again Friday, when the Cardinals kick off their first season in 43 years against Stephenville Faith, a first-year home school team.
"I might just have to drive over there and catch some of it," he said.
Aldridge didn't learn Lingleville was bringing back football until his loyal cousin Copeland informed him over the phone Thursday.
"It's hard to believe they are starting football again after all these years. I hope it works out better this time," Aldridge said. "Tell everyone in Lingleville I wish them the very best, and tell them I said good luck."