A Family Face-Off Under the Friday Night Lights

Last September, Frisco High School hosted Texarkana Pleasant Grove, a game the Raccoons won 42-16. But this wasn’t your average Friday night high school football game, since it pitted Pleasant Grove head coach, Josh Gibson, and his brother and offensive coordinator, Justin Gibson, against their father, Vance Gibson, the longtime coach at Frisco High.

Tomorrow, these teams will meet again, this time at Toyota Stadium, and Texarkana Pleasant Grove, 2-0 and ranked fifth by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football in Class 4A Division II, hopes to remain unbeaten against the 0-3 Raccoons.

But, this is a game about so much more than wins and losses.

It’s, without a doubt, a special opportunity for both me and my brother,” Josh Gibson said. “For both of us to have the opportunity to come down and coach in a game against our dad, somebody that we look up to (is incredible). He’s our hero. We’ve watched him our whole, entire lives and tried to emulate him.”

Josh and Justin Gibson both not only played for their father at Frisco High School, but they also worked on his coaching staff for nine seasons before Josh got the job in Texarkana prior to the 2014 season.

And for Vance Gibson, who has coached the Raccoons since 2005, making him Frisco’s longest-tenured head coach, facing his sons again is an opportunity he’s blessed to have.

Yeah, it’s neat to have a family affair in that everyone involved has a vested interest in the game, it’s unique in that,” Vance Gibson said. “Somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose, so that part of it’s not good. But I take a lot of pride in it because I see the job those guys have done there at Pleasant Grove. As a dad, I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished there. Seeing that from a distance and then being able to be actively engaged in it on gameday is pretty cool.”

Getting the rare opportunity to coach against his dad, who has been coaching for 43 years, is the biggest plus associated with Josh Gibson’s Hawks trekking nearly three hours from Texarkana to Frisco, but Gibson also likes his team getting to play in two outstanding facilities.

Last season’s game was played in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, and this year’s contest is at Toyota Stadium, home to the new Frisco Bowl in December and the Division I Football Championship Game in early January.

And the younger Gibson knows opportunities to play in such outstanding venues are great experiences for his players and opportunities he must capitalize on whenever they present themselves.

The venues that Frisco has are state-of-the-art. They’re better than anywhere in the nation for a high school team,” Josh Gibson said. “And for our kids in East Texas to have the opportunity to play in those venues is extremely special for them and our community. We’re the only school from East Texas these last two years that is coming out there and playing in the regular season. We know we’re extremely blessed to be able to do this. It’s a fun night for our program.”

During the nine seasons that Josh was an assistant with the Raccoons, Vance Gibson had no doubt that his son would one day become a head coach and lead his own program.

Of course, the elder Gibson admits he never envisioned facing his son’s new team, another nice bonus.

I felt very strongly that he would become a head coach someday. I didn’t really picture competing against him though,” Vance Gibson said. “That wasn’t in my thoughts. I’m extremely proud of both those guys and what they’ve done with those kids and in that community.”

Last September, the Raccoons defeated the Hawks, a result Josh Gibson would like to reverse this fall if possible.

And even though he and his team returned home last fall with a loss, repeating the experience of facing his dad again is something Josh Gibson wouldn’t trade for anything.

I really tried to sit back and just enjoy the whole deal. Dad’s been coaching for 43 years and I don’t know how much longer (he will coach),” Josh Gibson said. “Obviously, there are going to be few of these opportunities, so I just wanted to enjoy the moment in its purest form. Frisco kicked our tail last year. They put it on us. They were really good and they hammered us. We weren’t playing well early on, but I guess I enjoyed that loss more than any other just because of the underlying factors.”

Like any coach, Josh would like to leave town with a win this Friday and take his team to 3-0, but even if the Hawks fall short, he knows the game will be another positive experience for everyone involved.

It’s not about winning a football game. It’s more enjoying the evening and handling ourselves the right way and enjoying the opportunity to play in a great venue and against a great man,” Josh Gibson said. “The biggest thing I want to do as a kid is I want my dad to look across and see the way that our football team, it makes him proud, the way our kids carry themselves and the product that we’re putting on the field.”

Besides getting to coach against his father last fall, another positive of the trip to The Star was the strong impression his players and staff left on the facilities people at Ford Center, a sure sign that Josh Gibson’s goal of making his players both solid players and solid citizens.

I think the Cowboys facilities people said they were some of the most respectful kids that have come through there and thankful, the whole nine yards, and there’s a lot more to the program than what’s on that scoreboard at the end of the day,” Josh Gibson said.

Vance Gibson also likes this game because it’s a fantastic opportunity for the entire Gibson family to come together to cheer everyone on.

Well, it just makes it unique. The family’s going to be there-kids, grandkids, everybody involved, so it’s an opportunity to gather a lot of people together at one time, and that makes it nice,” Vance Gibson said. “I think the respect everybody involved has for everybody involved, I think that makes it (even more meaningful).”

However, Josh feels he’s extra blessed because like he did with Frisco, he has again worked alongside his brother, Justin, ever since he took the job in Texarkana.

Yeah, we’re very blessed to be able to do that,” Josh Gibson said. “We both coached with our dad and not a lot of people get to coach for their fathers, much less get to coach with their father and their brother. Me and my brother are extremely close, we’re two years apart. We’ve kind of grown up on each other’s hips our whole life, so it is special.”

And when Josh Gibson, now in his fourth season at Pleasant Grove, took his current job, he knew he wanted to run his program like his father had run Frisco High over the years.

When we came to Pleasant Grove, they were struggling bad. I think they were 2-8, 1-9 and we’ve made the playoffs our first three years here,” Josh Gibson said. “Each year, we get better and take a step. In a big way, we do this because of our dad and did it in a way that we feel will honor him, will honor God and did it the right way. We’re proud to come to Frisco and show that off, and hopefully we do better than we did last year.”