LA MARQUE, Texas — There are two La Marques. One La Marque has a feuding city council that saw two of its members ousted from office.
The remaining members can’t even get together for a legal meeting, while segments of the community either want the city manager fired or the mayor out of office. It’s the same La Marque where the school board bickers over dropping enrollment and budget woes.
The other La Marque rallies around its legendary high school football team. Cougar Nation unites under the colors of blue, gold and white as the team travels to the state finals for the 10th time and vies for its sixth state title.
It’s the La Marque where fans talk about touchdowns and sacks instead of politics, recalls and special elections. It’s the La Marque that’s revered across the state for its success rather than ridiculed for its failures.
Cougars As An Example
Many residents, who are sick of the community’s ills, believe the football team can provide a cure.
"The city should learn from this football team," longtime La Marque resident Patsi Johnson said. "Look how those kids have bonded and come together to succeed. The city can do that, too."
La Marque resident Ramon Goff agrees. He was at home Monday night watching the cable public access channel and saw yet another city council meeting deteriorate into a blame game. Enough was enough.
He drove to city hall and walked up to the podium.
"This is totally embarrassing," Goff said. "I love La Marque. We have a championship (football) team. We have a lot to be proud of."
La Marque quarterback Emanuell Williams jokes that adversity always seems to find the Cougars. It’s easy to laugh, now.
Since March, the football team has weathered setbacks. The school almost dropped to a lower division because of declining enrollment. The team was spared, but it means La Marque, with its 999 students, is one of the smallest schools in 4A. The varsity roster is smaller now because of the decreased enrollment.
Coach Darrell Jordan, after missing the playoffs his first two years, has been under fire. Fans threatened to show up with a U-Haul at Jordan’s house. Others solicited the coaching job, though Jordan still occupied it.
The players weren’t spared. They heard from parents and community members who said this group would never win. The rumors about failure — how La Marque football would never be the same — circulated.
The Cougars used the criticism as motivation.
"I think we all took it pretty hard at first," Williams said. "But we were able to rally around it. We took it as us against the world and how we were going to prove everyone wrong."
That type of mentality — the ability to solve problems and to work together — is something many hope La Marque’s civic leaders can adopt. Residents want the fights and strife to be put aside for a common goal: making La Marque great.
Some civic leaders recognized the achievement but stopped short of making resolutions or bringing in sports to political issues but subtly took shots at one another even as they praised the team.
"I am inspired that this team didn’t listen to the nasty things said about them and still prevailed to take state," Mayor Geraldine Sam said.
Sam’s fiercest adversary on the city council borrowed from a popular sports catch phrase to make a point as well.
"Teamwork proves to be successful when all players understand one position is just as vital as the rest," Councilwoman Connie Trube said. "There isn’t any ‘me’ or ‘I’ in teamwork. All players must keep in mind one common goal."
Superintendent Ecomet Burley is no stranger to challenges during his tenure as head of the school district that’s had layoffs and cut programs because of budget woes resulting from declining enrollment. He sees a lesson to be learned from the football team’s story.
"These kids have exemplified what teamwork is about," Burley said. "When you face problems, see them as challenges and don’t turn on each other and devour each other by being critical but continue to hope, work hard and things will turn out well."
Miracle Not Needed
Despite all the Hollywood movies that show towns overcoming obstacles from the example of a sports team, the question remains: What exactly can the Cougars provide?
A football team doesn’t create jobs or bring in business. It certainly can’t solve budget deficits.
Yet that’s not what some residents are asking. They don’t want miracles. Instead, they want people who are willing to dig down and work hard so La Marque can prosper.
It’s what the football team did.
"The football team is not the only answer," La Marque resident Mae Ferguson said. "But it shows what can happen when people work together for a great cause."
This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com’s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.