Editor’s note: Three images above courtesy of the UMHB Athletics Department, Bottom right corner courtesy of CoachesInsider.com
Former UMHB student/graduate assistant Kris Johnson recently said, “You come to UMHB to learn how to be a coach.”
In just 21 years, legendary UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg’s coaching tree has become widespread across the state of Texas, at both the college and high school levels, from small towns like China Spring, to large 6A powerhouses such as Westlake and Southlake Carroll. It is a testament to Fredenburg’s program, that so many players and former graduate assistants have gone on to represent UMHB in a state where football reigns as king.
That will noticeable on Saturday evening in Arlington, where the UIL 6A D1 State Championship will be contested between Westlake (Austin), and Southlake Carroll (Southlake).
On the sidelines for the Chaparrals of Westlake will be defensive coordinator Tony Salazar, a former free safety for the Cru, and Matthew Cody, who played linebacker at UMHB and later served as a graduate assistant. A three-time All-ASC selection, Cody ranks in the top ten in program history in all-time tackles.
On the other sideline, the Dragons of Southlake Carroll boast two former Cru defensive stars of their own. Southlake’s defensive coordinator, Lee Munn, not only played for UMHB early on, but also coached for the Cru for several seasons. In fact, he was a graduate assistant when Brian Sides, now the Dragons’ secondary coach, started his freshman year at UMHB in 2012. Munn also served as head coach in Southlake’s semifinal victory last Saturday, with head coach Riley Dodge out due to Covid-19 protocols.
“I think it’s really cool,” said Sides in a phone interview recently. “I know Coach Salazar and Coach Cody really, really well. I actually played with Matt Cody my senior year. He was a junior. And actually, when he came on a recruiting visit, I was his host. That is pretty cool I think. Coach Salazar is incredible, and his known for great defenses. It’s just awesome to see the Crusaders being really successful.”
“It’s cool, but more than anything, it’s scary,” said Cody. “We all kind of talk the same lingo, so they have a good idea of what we do and we have a good idea of what they do. So it’s cool that [UMHB] is having such great representation, but it’s also scary because they know more than most other coaches do.”
All four coaches coach their respective teams on the defensive side of the ball. And looking at it from a statistics standpoint, a defensive battle looks to emerge on Saturday evening.
Behind the leadership of Salazar, Westlake ranks No. 5 in 6A this season in total tackles, with 970 on the season. Not to mention the Chaps lead all 6A programs this season in total sacks, with 62.0. Southlake Carroll, with Munn as defensive coordinator, is not far behind, with its 802 total tackles ranked at No. 21.
“We take tremendous pride in our defense,” said Cody. “That’s just taking tremendous pride in our work as coaches, which was instilled by several great UMHB coaches before, people like Jack Johnson, Larry Harmon, and some others who laid that foundation where defense is what we do and we take great pride in it.”
@CoachTSalazar The guys have so much love and admiration for ya coach!! They love bragging on ya!! They are playing their hearts out for you and the coaching staff!! This is a heckuva group thats playing inspired football for ya!! This defense is really fun to watch! pic.twitter.com/MRYn184wrT— Anthony Geronimo (@ATXANT10) January 15, 2021
The idea of four UMHB alums meeting in the state title game, and better yet, a father-son coaching duel with Todd and Riley Dodge, was in the back of both teams’ coaches’ minds well before the semifinal games were even won last week.
“Oh yeah,” said Sides when asked if the idea of going up against Westlake was thought of before the state championship game was finalized. “We were successful in the playoffs, making it through round after round, and we saw the other side of the bracket, with Westlake on the other side. We thought, ‘Man, that’d be really cool if we could make it happen’. And sure enough, we did.”
Entering a game like this one often brings about mixed feelings from coaches who are friends. Especially because this is not a regular season game. It is one of the highest level state championship games of the year, and only one team will leave as winners. Leading up to the game, your opponent, even if you’ve hardly played them before, becomes a bitter rival. For Sides and Cody, they may not be “friends” for 60 minutes on gameday, but once the final snap is taken, their strong friendship resumes.
“We don’t like them for this week, but once the game is over, we go back to being buddies again,” said Sides. “We just happy to be on the field together in a little bit of a different way this time. We’ll continue to have a great relationship.”
Asked if he is looking forward facing Sides, the first person he ever met at UMHB, Cody noted that this game will be “more personal” than other big games Westlake has played in.
“It’s just a little more personal this week,” said Cody. “At the end of the day, it’s just a football game, and we’re going to do what we do, and they’re going to do what they do. It’s a little bit more fun, though.”
That family aspect stems from the culture of UMHB. The camaraderie even amongst opposing coaches, stays strong, even when they find themselves on the opposing sideline.
“It is a testament to both Coach Fred and Coach Harmon,” said Sides. “Coach Harmon was the position coach for all four of us. He was the defensive coordinator and taught it all. It is a testament to those guys, of how well of a job they do teaching the Xs and Os and teaching the game of football. It has been able to translate into our coaching professions. They deserve the majority of the credit for where all four of us are right now.”
And where they will go too. Each of these four coaches has plenty of opportunity and success ahead, but they will never forget their roots. They’ll never forget who first set the example of how to be a successful coach.
“Learning how to be a good coach started with them teaching us how to be a great teammate,” said Sides. “How to teach our teammates. As upperclassmen, teaching the underclassmen the defense and how everything works. Then, being a great teammate taught us how to be a great coach.”
“I got to GA for a year and be around those coaches [at UMHB],” adds Cody. “What they do is they take tremendous pride in their work and trying to put kids in the best position to be successful. That goes from Coach Fred to Coach Harmon to Coach Jack Johnson, they want to make kids better. The biggest thing I’ve learned from them is to be passionate about the work that you do, enjoy the work that you do, and make sure you’re there for the right reasons, trying to help the kids. They are some of the top-tier guys that you can learn from. Being able to be around them and watch see how much effort they put into the film, how much effort they put itno talking to the kids to help them understand the why behind what we do I think is huge.”