Getting the MOJO back
New Odessa Permian coach Blake Feldt attempts to return Panthers to former glory.
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to walk in the footsteps of another person’s legacy. While some fold under the pressure of high expectations, others bask in the difficult hand they’re dealt and are able to move a program forward. Blake Feldt handles pressure well. Or at least that’s what we at DCTF have noticed.
At his most recent high school stints, Feldt followed in the limelight of several prolific coaches. G.A. Moore had a stellar career at Pilot Point, where he recorded 404 career wins, but after a controversial final season, Moore resigned. Who stepped up to the plate to replace the all-time winningest coach in Texas high school football history? Blake Feldt.
And who led the Pilot Point Bearcats to a 2009 state championship berth? You’ve got it - Feldt.
Bob Shelton coached at Buda Hays for 43 years - if you think that lengthy gig might be intimidating, consider the fact that Shelton was the first and only head coach in Hays football history, and holds the record for the longest tenure of any coach at a single school in Texas high school football history. As if Hays High School wasn’t daunting enough, the stadium itself was named in the coach’s honor. That didn’t scare Feldt, though; he accepted the head coaching position after Shelton retired in 2010 (with a 313-187-7 career record, I might add) and immediately led the Rebels to back-to-back district championships - something that had never been accomplished at Hays. If the Buda community was ever unsure of the new transfer from Pilot Point, Feldt earned respect quickly.
So when the head coaching gig at Permian opened up this January, it came as no surprise that Blake Feldt was the man for the job.
Odessa Permian’s recent seasons have been marginally successful, and the Panthers have only seen one playoff win in the last four years. There’s something to be said about the legacy that looms over Permian’s new coaching staff headed by Feldt, though: previous head coach Gary Gaines returned to Permian to man the MOJO for his final four years as a coach.
Yes, that Gary Gaines. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, cue images of Billy Bob Thornton pacing the sidelines as Gaines in the movie adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights.
Gaines’ final years at Permian weren’t as prolific as his famous bout in 1988, but to say he’s the most recognized high school coach in history might be an understatement.
Now it’s Blake Feldt’s turn to restore the mojo that MOJO has been missing.
Today marks the start of the high school football season. Talk of contradictory preseason rankings and strong returning classes across the state is the norm during “Week 1” of football, but of all the high school hype we’ve heard, Blake Feldt and his Permian Panthers deserve a good chunk of attention. Coaching changes are exciting, but Blake Feldt is bringing excitement were excitement is long overdue. If there’s anything to be said about Feldt’s coaching prowess, it’s that he is not phased by high expectations. History has shown that he lives up to his predecessors’ standard - demanding standards, to say the least - and the Permian standard is the most daunting yet. The Panthers that Texas high school football fans know and love have experienced a drought that maybe only Blake Feldt can revive. Only time will tell.
Odessa Permian kicks off their highly anticipated season against El Paso Montwood 7 p.m. this Friday at home.
Samantha Emerson is a special contributor to Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.