Longtime area resident and current Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant couldn’t help but smile Friday when he and many Dripping Springs High alumni were honored for their on-the-field success.
After all, it was 50 years ago this season that Whisenant and 22 of his teammates helped the Dripping Springs Tigers football program secure its first district title in 11-man football.
On Nov. 2, the 1968 Dripping Springs High football team was honored for its district title during halftime of the Tigers’ 44-0 win over the Reagan Raiders at new Tiger Stadium.
During the ceremony, surviving members of the 1968 squad honored teammates whose lives had been lost in the years since.
For many of the alumni, the event helped them to look back on the days when the school’s entire senior class made up their 11-man football team.
At that time, Dripping Springs was considered a small town, even by 1968 standards. The Tiger football team played at what is the 1A classification in the University Interscholastic League.
As they were honored, players got to know each other all over again.
Former head coach Oran Rippy said he couldn’t recognize half of his players, some of whom he hadn’t seen since they graduated, but was glad to see everyone still laughing as usual.
“Back then, we played to play,” Rippy said. “We won, sure, but we were also just having a lot of fun. There wasn’t much else for the players to get into besides football.”
Following that district title-winning season, Rippy retired from football to coach girls basketball and operate a ranch, which he still does to this day when he’s not returning to Tiger Stadium to catch another winning game.
Carl Waits, Rippy’s former assistant coach, took over the reins and still keeps up with the Tigers. Waits said he’s proud to see how well the team is playing these days and is rooting for them to get some stiffer competition.
“They need to be playing some more competitive teams,” Waits said. “We really had to fight for it before, and that’s where the fun is.”
Whisenant played for the team throughout high school leading up to the big win. Whisenant said the key to their success was the team’s bond.
“Most of us grew up together so when we played, it wasn’t against each other, it was with each other,” Whisenant said. “A good football team is doing it for fun, and for their teammates. I still keep up with most of these guys today.”
Roy Gaye, former Tiger player and linebacker, said he still comes to games as his grandson plays for the freshman team.
“I tell him to play because you love the game,” Gaye said “That’s the best advice because it’s hard work and you can get hurt, so you should play because you love it.”