Walk into any of
the five Southlake elementary schools on a Carroll game day, and the faculty
and students are wearing green, and the walls are adorned with go dragons!
signs. "It makes your arms tingle," says new Carroll coach Hal Wasson,
who was an assistant under Dodge in 2001 and '02. "The idea that 'I want to
be a Dragon' is embedded in these kids from the time they are in grammar
If their parents
were lucky enough to snag Carroll season tickets--which cost $75 on top of the
$50 required for the right to buy the tickets--those same kids will be flocking
to the $15.3 million, 11,000-seat Dragon Stadium, a six-year-old facility.
Because the stadium is four miles off-campus, the team uses a $6 million
on-campus indoor practice facility that's so state-of-the-art, the Dallas
Cowboys borrowed it a few times in 2001.
Riley and Todd
still occasionally use the facility to play catch, something they've done since
Riley was 12 years old and Todd started teaching him the footwork and throwing
motion that served him so well in his own youth. "If you looked at a tape
of him throwing at Texas and watched me at Carroll, we're very similar,"
A few weeks ago
they were playing catch while Dragons senior receiver Blake Cantu watched from
the sideline. When Cantu spotted a sports drink on a nearby stool, he went to
reach for the bottle--but before he could get his hand around it, Dodge père
threw a perfect spiral from 40 yards that knocked the bottle off the stool.
"Blake just looked at him and said, 'Oh. My. God,' " says Riley with
Being the coach's
son wasn't always fun, of course. Though Riley grew up serving as a ball boy
for his father's teams, Todd had never coached him until spring practice of his
freshman year at Carroll. It took Todd a while to get the hang of it. When
Riley didn't perform to his father's expectations, Todd lit into him to the
point where Riley's teammates started to defend him. "I was being really
unfair to him," says Todd. "It was a typical parent thing; you get way
too involved in their successes and failures, you take it too personally."
A good coaching friend gave him a piece of advice. "He told me, 'When you
are a coach and a dad, you are the two most important people in that child's
life. Don't rob him of either one of them,' " Todd recalls. "I started
treating him differently. I started treating him fairly."
The last two years
were "very smooth and a lot of fun," says Riley. "When we are on
the field, we turn the light switch on to coach; when we are off the field, we
turn it off."
Todd says he now
has a great friendship with and an enormous respect for his son. "To play
quarterback at Southlake Carroll is very high pressure; the town has a lot of
expectations," Todd says. "Prior to the 2006 season, the past four 5A
players of the year had all been Carroll quarterbacks. They had all led their
teams to a state championship. Now here comes the coach's kid. Coaches' kids
always hear, 'Oh, he's only playing because he's the coach's son.' He played
through a lot of tough stuff last year."
This year Riley
will face new challenges, the most obvious being calling signals for a coach
other than his father. Wasson was a high school head coach for 16 years before
moving to Carroll to coach running backs during the 2001 and '02 seasons, when
his own son, Chase, was a running back and receiver, then the quarterback. He
then became head coach at nearby Fossil Ridge, where he installed a version of
Todd's offense. "I think it might have been hard [for me] had the new coach
been anyone but him," says Riley. "Coach Wasson knows the system, and
he isn't changing anything. We'll have the exact same plays, the same signals.
He has said, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.' "
That includes the
Dragons' motto, Protect the Tradition, which can be found on everything from
the T-shirts the players wear under their jerseys to beverage mugs sold in the
stadium gift shop. "We want to adapt to the tradition and things that have
been done here," says Wasson, who brought three new assistants to the
Carroll staff. "The main thing I've told the coaches that I've brought in
is, These kids are going to bring their A game every day, and as a coach you
better bring your A game. [The players'] expectations are high, the community's
expectations are high."
Wasson says he
does not find those expectations overwhelming, "because I know it's not
about me. I sleep every night, and I don't wake up in a sweat, because I know I
am just a very small part of this."