Ex-SHS coach, son go for first state title

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

Rex Whitfield — a former Sweetwater High School assistant coach under both Tom Ritchey and Hank Dowell during the late 1980s and 1990s, one of the greatest eras in school history — and his quarterback son Jett hope Thursday to help New Deal make history by winning the school’s first-ever state championship in football.
The Lions’ 11 a.m. game at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium against Mason to decide the champion of Class 2A, Division I is Rex Whitfield’s first appearance in a state title game in his 41 years of coaching, even though his 12 years at Sweetwater included a trip to the semifinals in 1991 — when Ritchey’s son David was the Mustangs’ quarterback.
Back then, Rex Whitfield, whose relationship with Tom Ritchey went back to his days as a player at Fort Stockton in the early ‘70s, coached defensive ends and later running backs. He now coaches running backs and rovers at New Deal, which is taking a flawless 15-0 record into the title game after beating San Saba 35-6 in the semifinals, played at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.
Mason — also 15-0 — is in the title game after a 52-8 win over San Augustine in its semifinal.
Coach Whitfield’s other assistant coaching stops in addition to Sweetwater have been at Idalou, Seminole, McCamey, Colorado City, Lubbock Estacado and Texas Tech as a graduate assistant. He was also head football coach at Fort Stockton during the 2009 and 2010 seasons before coming to New Deal.
If the Lions win the Class 2A Division I championship, Jett Whitfield is likely to be a big reason. The senior, who also is a safety on defense, ran for four touchdowns against San Saba and in the quarterfinals against Stinnett West Texas, he ac-counted for six TDs — five passing and one rushing — in a 57-6 win. Jett Whitfield has over 4,000 all-purpose yards for the Lions this year despite rarely playing a full game, as New Deal has had many blowouts. The Lions, ranked No. 5 in 2A by the Associated Press at the end of the regular season, have gained even more steam in the playoffs.
They beat Sunray 48-0 in bi-district, Stamford 64-6 in the area round and Panhandle 67-49 in regionals before reaching the finals with their dominant wins against Stinnett West Texas and San Saba.
Rex Whitfield has said he has no intention of slowing down, as Jett’s two sisters will be in high school after he graduates with hopes of continuing his athletic career in college.