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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
While six-man football programs around the state began two-a-day practices on Monday, the Harrold Hornets weren't one of them.
Fresh off national exposure from an ESPN documentary and accompanying longform story, the Hornets aren't likely to field a football team for the 2017 season.
Harrold coach Craig Templeton said Tuesday there's only three varsity boys plus senior volleyball player Olivia Perez, who suited up last season so that the Hornets could compete.
Barring two unexpected football-playing transfers once school starts, the Hornets won't be fielding a team this year for the first time since 1938.
"Right now, we're focusing on cross-country and getting ready for basketball," Templeton said. "I've messaged all of the coaches to tell them to find another game if they can get one.
"If something happens and we get some transfers, we'll try to play some games if they're still open."
The absence is expected to be for only one season because Harrold will be fielding a junior high team with 10-11 boys. Templeton said he'd be able to spend more time coaching them up this fall.
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Harrold made headlines last season when Perez joined the team, allowing her friend Brady Blakley to play his senior year in honor of his father, who'd passed away due to cancer.
That's why ESPN spent a week last season in Harrold conducting interviews, filming practices and Harrold's 59-0 loss against Moran. Templeton said he was looking forward to the documentary, which first aired Sunday afternoon, but was still a little hesitant.
"You never know, we were mic'd up for about a week. You have no idea how much stupid stuff you said," Templeton said. "I thought it depicted all of the situations well. You were able to understand about each little community.
"We've gotten lots of positive feedback from it. I knew it was coming out, set it on my DVR and went to church. My phone was blowing up in my pocket. I finally opened it and people had sent all these pictures and videos."
A couple days before the documentary debuted, ESPN published Elizabeth Merrill's more than 4,000-word longform story that took an in-depth look at Perez, Blakley, the events surrounding last season and what has happened in their lives since.
In fact, for a few hours Sunday, Merrill's story was the featured item on ESPN's homepage, a location usually meant for the latest NFL, MLB or other professional/college sports news of the day.
Templeton said he liked the documentary better but knows both projects took lots of man-hours to complete.
"(Merrill) came down on graduation day and multiple times during the summer," Templeton said. "She called a few times, even when I was on vacation. Then I started getting emails from someone else fact-checking."
Scott Harves produced the hour-long "6-Man" piece that included other Class A Division II football teams like Richland Springs, Balmorhea and Calvert. Templeton said Harves told him before the documentary aired that he hoped he didn't make Harrold look bad since most of the other schools previewed were state title contenders.
"The truth is last year was hard. We did struggle," Templeton said. "But I told him that two seasons prior, we made the playoffs and only had six kids then."
Templeton's Hornets will have dreams of getting back to the playoffs soon.
It just won't be this year.
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