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The Son Also Shines
Kelli Anderson
August 27, 2007
Todd Dodge left Southlake Carroll with a 48-game win streak, but his boy Riley, the quarterback who led the team to its third straight Texas 5A title last year, is entrusted with keeping the dynasty alive
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August 27, 2007

The Son Also Shines

Todd Dodge left Southlake Carroll with a 48-game win streak, but his boy Riley, the quarterback who led the team to its third straight Texas 5A title last year, is entrusted with keeping the dynasty alive

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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 school."

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," says Riley.

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 pride.

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."

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