HOUSTON - As you make the walk from your car towards the Second Baptist School football field, it has a small-town feel in the heart of the Memorial area of Houston on a Friday night.
Children running around throwing a football, parents behind a table selling Second Baptist Eagles gear, burgers being grilled while the football team is warming up just behind them.
It's this small-town feel and culture that Terry Pirtle believes is something that pays off once those kids running around behind the field becomes the eventual young men running around on the big field as members of the football team.
"It's a great feeling to watch these kids grow from sixth graders and go through their growth spurts and go through basically the changes of life with them," Pirtle said. "They go from small to big, heavy to skinny, we see all the changes in one kid. You just tell them to keep working on their skillset and keep buying into the program as they go through the program. It's amazing how they transform and when they finally mature into their body, they've got our program DNA entrenched in them and they're ready to play. It's really cool to stay somewhere long enough and see that transformation with kids."
This formula has worked.
In fact, it has worked so well that Second Baptist School football just wrapped up the program's seventh-straight district championship and the first undefeated regular season since 1999.
"I think it's special," Pirtle said. "Anytime you can go undefeated in the regular season you've got to be doing something correctly. We haven't been injured we've made it through with all kinds of issues that you normally have unscathed. I think our kids did a really good job that we were taking care of our business every week and being prepared every Friday night to try and go 1-0 on that night. If you do that every week and just play for that week and don't look ahead this is the benefit from it."
Winning seven-straight district crowns is impressive, especially the way the Eagles have done it the past four years.
To find the last time the Second Baptist School lost a district game you have to flip in the record books back to the 2015 season. The Eagles lost the district opener that year, falling to Lutheran South Academy 49-42.
Since then, the Eagles haven't lost a district contest, winning 24-straight, including going 5-0 this year.
"It's just been a combination of kids buying into the program and our coordinators of doing a really good job of putting our kids in the right spot and having the ability to have a kicking game that's pretty good as well with David Nunez doing a good job the last two years punting and kicking for us," Pirtle said. "They don't want to be the senior class that doesn't come through.
"It's kind of a pride thing for us at this point to play well in district and continue the tradition of playing well in district and making sure that when district is finished that we're part of the championship every year."
The winning and filling the trophy case in the halls of the field house at Second Baptist School is great but for Pirtle this culture goes beyond just that.
"At Second Baptist School you have the ability to go beyond the field with your coaching style," Pirtle said. "You can develop deep relationships with the kids through Christ, which is something that you can do wherever you are but it's something here that we take special pride in building relationships with the kids knowing that there's a Christ model in what we do. That's been special for us. Just having the ability to get into kids lives and dig deep into it and have relationships off the field with these guys."
HOUSTON – Josh Johnson had been told all year to limit his running.
The senior quarterback was told by coaches to keep his eyes downfield, not to scramble as much and throw it away if nothing was available. A year after running 178 times for 1,137 yards during the season, the Second Baptist School coach Terry Pirtle wanted to save his legs for a potential playoff run.
In the season finale against Lutheran South, the Second Baptist School coaching staff started to open up his run plays.
Against Brentwood Christian – Johnson was fully unleashed throwing for 210 yards and three scores and rushing for another 298 yards and three scores on the way to a 43-29 opening-round victory.
"Friday night I think he showed how explosive he can be as a dual-threat quarterback," Pirtle said. "That's another weapon we're going to have in the playoffs that teams have not seen this year from him."
After watching him run wild last season, Pirtle knew what a Josh Johnson incredible run looks like.
On the opening play of the playoff game last week, Johnson busted loose, avoiding a few defenders and never broke stride on the way to an 82-yard touchdown scamper.
When he got over to the sidelines, Pirtle jokingly asked him if he was a little tired because he hadn't run as much this year as in year's past. Johnson replied – a little bit.
"We've got to get him back into running shape," Pirtle said. "Last year he ran 178 times on the season and going into the playoffs he had only run the ball 30 times … We've got to get his stamina built up."
Not running the ball as much this season opened up his passing game, where Johnson has thrown 35 touchdowns in 2019 and also forced the running backs to step up.
Eli Smith and Everett Skillern did just that to help him stay in the pocket more and not have to run as much.
"It made us develop our running game through our running backs," Pirtle said. "Eli Smith has done a tremendous job this year running. So, we've found a running back in him and Everett Skillern has done a great job as well. Last year we were running Josh most of the time, not trusting our running back game as much but now that's allowed us to develop our running back to go with Josh.
"We feel really good going in now that Josh can run the ball but Everett and Smith can run it now too."
Now, in the playoffs, Smith and Skillern will still be used but then sprinkle in a fresh Johnson makes their rushing attack even that more dynamic.
Opening up the running portion of his game, Johnson has enjoyed that, especially since his legs feel extremely fresh heading into the second week of the playoffs.
"It feels pretty good to be running more frequently because coming into the regular season I was focusing primarily on being a better passer since teams knew I could run because of what I did last year," Johnson said. "So, since I have been passing pretty well this year and I have been running less, my legs are fresh and are ready to go for this state championship run we are about to make."
Last year, Johnson finished with 1,481 yards passing and 1,137 yards rushing. The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for a lot more yards than rushed this year but showed Friday night just how dynamic he can be.
So, are colleges taking notice?
Pirtle believes things will pick up for Johnson on the recruiting front the next few weeks with some college teams' seasons winding down and if he was in their position would take Johnson in a heartbeat.
"After knowing him for two years, I'll take him at whatever level I'm coaching in college for sure," Pirtle said. "He's a special kid that works and works extra. He studies the game and has a passion for it. He's improved so much at throwing the ball in the year we've had him. That young man can do special things … He's definitely a guy that I can see walking on and making a big squad and working his way onto the depth chart."