SALADO — Brent Graham knows he walked into a golden opportunity — one with pretty lofty standards.
Standing in front of nearly 400 revelers, the first-year Salado head football coach soaked in the scene inside the Salado High School gym as the school was honored as the 2A recipient of the prestigious Lone Star Cup during the Meet the Eagles ceremony Saturday evening.
“It’s certainly a great tribute to the Salado community,” Graham said, crediting a community that “really embrace and back up what we’re telling them in the classroom or on the playing field.”
“It’s nice to have that support within our community and everyone joining arms together for one common goal, and it’s just neat to be one of five high schools to be presented with (the) award.”
It’s the second time in the last five years that Salado was named the top program in 2A, also winning in 2008. Salado is one of only three 2A programs to earn multiple Lone Star Cups since its inception in 1998, joining Holliday and Brock.
“To me I feel like we’re second to none and our expectations are to win it every year … and we’re going to do our best to achieve that goal year-in and year-out,” Graham said.
Salado beat out 240 other 2A programs for the award, presented by the University Interscholastic League to the best overall athletic and academic program in each of the five classifications.
The Eagles pulled ahead of runner-up Brock thanks to several late postseason runs, including those by the baseball team, the softball team, One-Act Play and sweeping the state mathematics competition. Brock led Salado 50-40 in the May standings, but the Eagles racked up 42 points in the last month of competition to win 82-72.
At the ceremony, Salado received the UIL Lone Star Cup trophy and a $1,000 scholarship. Other 2012-13 winners of the cup were Southlake Carroll (5A), Cedar Park (4A), Argyle (3A) and Weimar (1A).
The success started in the fall, when the boys cross country team placed second at the state meet, followed by playoff appearances for the girls and boys basketball teams, the latter advancing to the regional semifinals.
In the spring, both golf teams took home gold when the girls golf team won its sixth 2A state championship with individual silver medalist Meredith Ward and the boys finished third behind an individual state champion in junior Dane Hankamer.
But the Lone Star Cup is an all-encompassing award, and Salado’s win was strengthened by an academic state championship and a third-place finish in UIL’s One-Act Play. The award was clinched by the baseball team’s deep playoff run and its second state semifinal appearance.
“That’s when (academics and One-Act Play) come into play, and I think it’s kind of unique because we’re constantly preaching to our kids on the athletic end that you’re a student first and an athlete second,” Graham said. “What’s really neat to see is that we were behind and we came back because of the things we instill in our kids every day, and that (happens) inside the (classrooms). … It’s not just the sponsors or the coaches, it’s everyone inside of our building that help mold and shape young minds every day.”