DON GONYEA, HOST:
It's been a rough spell for the Scarborough High School football team in Houston. Very rough, actually. The Spartans are on a 46-game losing streak, the longest in Texas. Their last win was in September 2009. That means this afternoon's game against the Washington High School Eagles is the last chance for this year's seniors to earn a victory.
We're joined now by Scarborough head coach Jayson Merren. Welcome.
COACH JAYSON MERREN: How are you doing?
GONYEA: Good. And by senior defensive lineman Justin Steward. Hi Justin.
JUSTIN STEWARD: How are you doing?
GONYEA: So coach, we should start by saying that you guys are sort of punching above your weight with your schedule. Could you give us a sense of how you stack up against most of the teams you play? Are you facing bigger schools, schools with larger programs, more money?
MERREN: Oh yeah, no doubt. Every night when we get on the field, we're outnumbered - at minimum - by about 15 to 16 kids, sometimes 30 to 40. It's kind of tough when 90 percent of my kids go both ways for four quarters.
GONYEA: So your guys are playing both ways. They're playing offense, and then when you turn the ball over or punt, then they're going on the defense; and they're basically on the field the whole time?
MERREN: Exactly. I've got six or seven kids that hardly ever come off the field and a lot of times, I've got to call a timeout because I might want to talk about offense while a kid is on defense.
GONYEA: Well, in sports they always say you have to believe you have a chance to win. So Justin, I wonder, do you feel like you're going to win when you go into a game facing these long odds?
STEWARD: No doubt. I never doubt my team. The other team just always bigger than us. But we just take on the competition.
GONYEA: So coach, motivation is obviously a big thing in football. It's got to be a special challenge to keep your guys motivated, week after week. I'm wondering what your pregame speech is like.
MERREN: It comes down to, especially when the numbers get small, this is all we've got - 16 or 17 young men that are here every single day, just giving their all - and heart. A lot of them have tough home lives. Some of them may not have supper on the table when they get home. And I always kind of bring it back to them and say, the other guys in that locker room, they probably don't face that. So why not go out there and show that you've got heart just as much as them, and you're battling all the other adversity off the field.
GONYEA: And Justin, losing is hard. It just is. What keeps you going, and are you finding fun?
STEWARD: Oh, yeah. I find it fun. I mean, I never had a win in my high school career, but I cherish every game.
GONYEA: I don't want to jinx you guys, but have you thought about what you'll do if you break this losing streak against Washington High? Coach?
MERREN: I thought about that a lot, and it's a long to-do list. The thing I would like to do is every player that had ever played for me, I'm giving you a phone call. Hey, you helped them get this win - and then probably relax and go home for a little bit.
GONYEA: And start thinking about the next one.
MERREN: Yeah. I give myself about 10 minutes, and we start thinking about the next one.
GONYEA: Coach Jayson Merren and senior Justin Steward, of the Scarborough High School football team in Houston, Texas. They joined us from KUHF in Houston. Thanks, guys.
MERREN: Thank you.
STEWARD: Thank you.
GONYEA: And go Spartans. This is NPR News.
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