Coperas Cove High School basketball coach Billy White knows he always needs to look for the advantage when coaching his basketball team. The eternal educator didn’t hesitate to use the history of his hometown to motivate his small but powerful team of boys.
“I come from Gonzalez. This is my hometown where the ‘Come and Take It’ flag originated. During my 15th class reunion, I realized how important my town’s history is in what I do today as a teacher,” White said.
He said his basketball team is not a big team — not in numbers, size or height. He tells his team when they step out on to the court, they have to dominate.
“I use the story of how 18 people in Gonzalez fought off 100 people and no matter how small you are, you can defend what you believe in,” White said.
The Battle of Gonzales was the first military skirmish of the Texas Revolution. It was fought in White’s hometown on Oct. 2, 1835, between settlers of the community and a detachment of Mexican army troops.
In 1831, the settlers of Gonzales were given a small cannon from Mexican authorities to help protect them from frequent Comanche Indian raids. The political situation worsened in Mexico over the next four years resulting in several states, included Texas, revolting in 1835. As the discontentment with Mexico spread throughout the state, commanders demanded that the residents of Gonzalez return of the cannon. Gonzalez residents refused.
The Mexican commander sent in 100 soldiers to take back the cannon from the small settlement, but Gonzalez residents defended their community and received assistance from neighboring towns ultimately pushing back the Mexican dragoons until they withdrew. Gonzalez ultimately maintained possession of the cannon and the engagement is considered the start of the Texas Revolution.
As White prepares his boys for another successful season and hopefully another trip to the state playoffs, he reminds them to believe in themselves.
“I take great pride in history and lessons learned, and my kids can relate to this story when nine out of 10 times, we are the smaller team,” White said. “It is a great educational lesson that also builds character.”
White is also relying on the lessons learned in that story as he attempts to organize the Copperas Cove Independent School District’s first high school boys’ basketball winter tournament. The booster club is selling shirts with the Gonzalez slogan, ”Come and Take It,” which he hopes will not only continue to inspire his team but also its fans as well as students schoolwide. Shirts are $10 and may be purchased at the CCISD Athletic Annex, 400 S. 25th St.
Several schools including Texas A&M and others now use the “Come and Take It” slogan as a sign to opponents that they will defend their turf in athletic matchups.