He gives his head a shake. "Ready."
It was his father, Jimmy Ray Kostiha, a teammate of Campbell's on the '67 championship team, who once said, "Jim Ed's always been a good kid, but then he went and grew his hair out long. Some little girl told him he looked like James Dean, and you know what it did? It ruined him."
In the eyes of his schoolmates Jim Ed is anything but ruined, and the cheers that find him are meant to prove that. Boys are boys until they strap it on come Friday night. Then they become heroes, every one.
"Y'all make sure to wear long pants to the game tonight," Stacie tells a couple of visitors as she leaves the gym. "Mosquitoes'll eat you alive if you don't."
When Stacie's not leading cheers or running cross-country or playing basketball, she likes to ride her horse, Duke. Except when she goes off to college, she plans never to live anywhere but in Gordon. One day she wants to have babies and send them to Gordon High, and she wants her girls to cheer and her boys to play six-man.
"I'm mainly just a cowgirl," she says. "I wear pants and boots and a cowboy hat everywhere I go. I couldn't live in a big city. In big cities they beat you up if you don't wear the right clothes. What do you think they'd do to me, wearing what I wear?"
The pep rally ends, and everybody but the coaches goes home. The coaches head out to the field and hit the fire-ant mounds with another lick of spray. Before the ant and mosquito problem, there were armadillos to contend with. Seems they liked to root around in the soft earth of the end zone. Campbell and his assistants finally ran them off. "When those fire ants bite you, they leave a little blister," Campbell says, showing what one did to his finger. "I guess they should be a concern, but I don't think when the boys fall on the ground they'll be staying down very long."
Gordon's field, called Longhorn Stadium, might be the finest six-man facility in all the world. It has metal bleachers with enough room to seat 2,000 and a field house under construction (it will be completed soon after the Zephyr game) that promises to be as good as any at small-town schools that play 11-man. The current field house is a little metal building divided into two spaces: The varsity dressing room, the weight room, the laundry room and the showers occupy one area, and the smaller jayvee dressing room occupies the other. Campbell himself made the lockers and now says, "You can see I'm not much of a carpenter. But it's better than when I played here. When I played here they had hooks on the wall for your clothes."
Visiting teams suit up in the jayvee room, and that's where the Zephyr boys congregate upon arriving at Gordon. The wall separating the two dressing rooms ends with a panel of chicken wire up by the ceiling, and one side can hear everything said on the other. So everyone speaks in hushed tones and makes sure to self-edit when discussing the game plan.
During the jayvee game the boys on the Zephyr varsity sit on benches and in the grass in front of the field house. Not five feet away stand Leven and Tijerina and other members of the Gordon team, but neither side speaks to the other. The players do, however, share whispered observations with teammates.