Ahead of this week’s matchup between the #1 Tulsa NOAH Jaguars and #3 Tomball Christian Warriors I had the opportunity to interview the Jaguars Head Coach, James Ballinger.
Ella: Tell me about your organization. How did y’all get started and how long have y’all been around?
Coach Ballinger: Our organization started in 1998 with just basketball and then I believe we got varsity football in 2006. I think there might have been a couple years of JV and junior high football before that. So it’s been around for a while and we have multiple sports. I know some of the homeschool football teams just have football but we have basketball, baseball, track, just pretty much any sport. If we’ve got a coach for it and kids interested in it we’ll put it together. I started coaching elementary when my kids were younger, probably 12 years ago now, so I’ve been a part of it for a while.
Ella: Tell me about your season so far.
Coach Ballinger: It’s been good. We’ve had a couple of real tough opponents that we’ve faced. We play a team called Metro Christian School here in town and they’ve won two of the last three state championships in their division, so we kind of keep them on the schedule just to have that really tough challenge. The last couple years we’ve been close with them until the third quarter and then they end up blowing us away. So we had them and then another team that’s a good team. Both those teams are still undefeated so our two losses come from teams that overall are 12-0 in their records. So it’s been a good challenge. Last week was the first homeschool opponent we played .We played HSAA and we haven’t played them in a while. This was the first time we’ve played them in a number of years and they have great athletes and good programs. So that was a good win for us. This week Tomball is definitely going to be the biggest game of the season for us by far. It’s going to be a huge challenge. That win over Lighthouse is probably the biggest win in homeschool football this season for sure so it should be a good game and a good challenge.
Ella: What are some of your team’s strengths?
Coach Ballinger: We have a really good, fast defense. A good, aggressive defense. Our defensive coordinator played football at the University of Oklahoma. He was a linebacker under Coach Venables who is now the head coach there. He has a really good defensive mind. We’ve got a kid that’s a D1 recruit getting multiple offers so he’s a big help on the defense. Overall I feel like this year especially we have really good chemistry, just good spirit on the team where everybody’s getting along and just staying kind of focused on our overall goal of trying to honor Christ and put Him first in what we do. The chemistry’s really good. And we’ve got some depth where we don’t have quite as many two way starters as we’ve had in the past, so people are getting to get some rest. We have the largest team we’ve maybe ever had with 60 players on the roster. It’s bigger than we’ve had in a long time. So that’s helpful.
Ella: What have the last few matchups against TCW been like?
Coach Ballinger: We’ve only played them twice in our history and both times Tomball beat us by I think double digits. And both times were years that we felt like we had a good team and a good chance. The games were in Florida; we’ve never played them in the regular season. We weren’t happy with our performance in either game but they were great teams so we have to give it to them. One of the things I’ve really noticed about playing them is that they just seem to be really tough, disciplined kids. They want to pound the ball and run it and just play tough and they don’t slow down. As the game goes along they keep playing hard so that’s definitely a testament to the coaches and even parents and the organization. They’re raising some good strong young men. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.
Ella: What mindset do you want your team to have going into this game?
Coach Ballinger: Just like every coach might say; kind of cliché but focus on what we know to do and eliminate errors and play our game. If we eliminate turnovers and penalties then we like our chances in any game we’re in. So just kind of playing hard; understand that it’ll be a game that likely comes down to the wire and so be prepared. If they get up on us, don’t give up, keep fighting our way back in. If we get up on them, don’t quit because they’re gonna try and fight their way back in. Just be prepared for the long haul regardless of what the scoreboard says and just keep focusing on doing what we’ve been practicing all season.
Ella: What do you expect to see from the Warriors in this game?
Coach Ballinger: A lot of what I mentioned that we’ve seen the last two times. That toughness and just kind of trying to be a physical, dominate the line of scrimmage type of team where they just want to pound the football, get three or four yards a run, and hope they break one at some point and just keep pounding the ball down the field. They’ll be physical for sure.
Ella: What are your keys to the game in order to get a win?
Coach Ballinger: I kind of touched on it; just eliminating errors like the turnovers and the penalties. Making sure that we’re just playing clean. Not getting in our emotions or anything like that if we get down or if we get up, either one we still just stay focused and just play football like we know how to play. Our motto for the program is “One job: Him first”. That’s our overall job. The one job we have to do is put Christ first in everything we do. If we put Christ first the rest will take care of it. Win or lose, we’ve done our job to where we can be happy with it. So if we keep that mindset that we’re there to play, do all things as unto Him, give maximum effort, go hard, try hard, and try to make sure we’re maintaining our testimony and character and all that, then I think at the end of the day we’ll be happy with the results.
The Jaguars will meet up with our Warriors this Friday in DeSoto, Tx. The game theme will be PINK OUT!
If you didn’t purchase the season ticket package, individual game tickets will be available online until Thursday at midnight. You can also purchase tickets on game day at the gate.