The football team is well fed, both at a special training table where roast beef and steaks are served on the afternoon before a game, and at Coach Smith's house. Early Saturday morning the players storm his home, eat his wife's cookies and cake, drink milk and play the previous night's game over again. If Coach Smith is still asleep when they arrive they tear him out of bed.
The student body hangs out at a soda-hamburger dispensary called "The Pirates' Den" because the La Vega team's nickname is "The Pirates." The proprietor sets up free malts for every touchdown.
The school principal, Carroll Wood, is an old football coach. He is a big, florid man with a deep voice which he uses to see to it that between-class periods are filled with football spirit. As the students are changing classes, Wood grabs a mike, and public address system speakers throughout the building sound his bellow: "Who we going to beat Friday?" The kids roar back the name of the next victim and march into class chanting "Beat Mexia" (bitter neighborhood rival) or Rosebud, or Marlin, McGregor or whoever the next opponent may be.
"You can see the windows rattle," Coach Smith says. "You can hear 'em for a mile."
"You can hear 'em for a mile," Principal Wood repeats. "It creates enthusiasm."
Armed with another team's program, Wood will go up to one of the La Vega players and show him a picture of a rival.
"Look at him, son," he tells the player. "That's your boy. You take care of him Friday. Take care of him good. I'll be watching you."
Coach Smith, a short, stocky, pleasant man who played fullback at Texas Christian U. in the late '30s, works in the knowledge that La Vega has an unbroken string of District Double A (250 to 500 students) championships running back to 1948. He is in the tall clover. Just so he keeps on winning. He got off to a good start this season, beating Gatesville 34-0 at Gatesville, Mexia 7-0 in the home opener and last week Rosebud 45-0.
Overemphasis? Why, the word hasn't got to La Vega yet.