State Voyage

Countdown to State: Kirk Martin’s journey from Quitaque to a State Championship game

Coach Kirk Martin of Manvel on the sideline. Vype

Originally appeared on Vype.com.

HOUSTON – Kirk Martin’s love for Texas high school football started in the small West Texas town of Quitaque.

With a population of 601 and just down the road from Turkey, Texas, in between the two towns was Valley High School—a Class 1A program, which Martin watched and helped out with while growing up and eventually played for from 1985-1988.

“I was a football junkie,” Martin said. “I was a football manager when I was in the fifth grade. I rode the yellow dogs and all that stuff. I had an older brother; he was a manager in seventh grade so I was in fifth grade. I went to all the games; I’ve seen so many great games.”

The chase for a state championship from his childhood has carried over into his career.

Martin’s journey has taken him to almost every corner of Texas, including stops in El Paso, Alvin, Odessa—at Permian working for T.J. Mills—Giddings, Alpine—his first head coaching job in 2004—and then Manvel.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” wife of 23 years Caren said about being on this journey with Kirk. “When we first got married he was teaching at a junior high and coaching at a high school. Then we got to move all over Texas. He was an assistant for a while, a coordinator.

“Before we moved to Manvel the longest we lived anywhere was four years and that’s when he was at Alvin High School. The shortest we lived anywhere was eight months. He was the offensive coordinator at Giddings and then he got his first head coaching job at Alpine. We loved living in Alpine. It was in the middle of nowhere but we had so much fun being out there and it was a great place to raise kids. I thought we’d stay there but the job came open and we prayed (about it).”

Along the way there was always success.

At Alvin, Martin was the offensive coordinator when the program last won a District Championship in 1996. At Giddings, Martin helped guide the team to a win against La Grange for the first time in 12 years.

With all of this on his resume, Martin got a chance to build a program from the ground up with Manvel opening.

Since starting to compete in 2008, Manvel has made the playoffs in eight of 10 years, had 10-plus win seasons for eight-straight seasons and made it to the state quarterfinals seven times.

In 2011, the Mavericks made a run to the 5A Division II State Championship game against Aledo. This was Martin’s first chance to capture that title.

Aledo won the game 49-28.

“We’ve been there before and I didn’t know if I’d ever be back again,” Martin said. “Our oldest son (Koda) was a sophomore when we went in 2011 and we didn’t win it. Everybody kept telling me don’t forget to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment, savor the flavor and all that stuff and there was so many different community pep rallies and hoopla stuff and I don’t know if we were as focused as we needed to be. I think the bigness of it really affected us.

“We played tight in the first quarter and for the first half. Offensively we weren’t ourselves. We dropped a bunch of balls and did some things that were uncharacteristic of our football team. I’ve always said if we get to do it again I’m going to make sure our kids are really focused and aren’t worried about the moment.”

That chance for Manvel and Martin comes on Friday against defending state champion Highland Park at AT&T Stadium.

A day after clinching the spot in the title game with a 35-10 win against Angleton, Martin was at home getting ready for the day when something happened that brought him to tears.

“My son (London Harris) that’s at Texas State won state in track and he’s got a state ring,” Martin said. “It was underneath a towel by my sink and Saturday morning I got up early, took a shower and I went over was brushing my teeth and I picked that hand towel up and there was that state ring with that Manvel ‘M’ on the front of it.

“Honestly I just started crying. I was just like it was almost like it was put there for me I just started balling. I was like this thing may actually happen.”

If it does happen it will mark the first-ever football state championship for Manvel High School.

On top of that it would fulfill the dream of the kid from Quintaque, Texas who has lived and breathed Texas high school football.

“I’m so focused right now,” Martin said. “We’ve got to do this.”

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome