In wildfires' aftermath, Bastrop football team offers a helping hand

This aerial image shows a row of homes destroyed by a wildfire in Bastrop, Texas. Eleven Bastrop football players and two coaches lost their homes in the wildfires. Eric Gay/AP Photo

Dillon Becker never imagined he would ask the question he did when he approached a 70-year old man last week in the Bastrop High School gym.

Although it was a little embarrassing, the senior quarterback knew he had to ask it – “Boxers, or briefs?”

“He came into the shelter where I was volunteering and said he needed a pair of underwear because he lost everything in the fire,” Becker said. “So I went to the store and bought him a brand new pack. You could tell he was thrilled just to get a pair of underwear. It made us both smile a little.”

After a week of what the Bastrop community had just endured, smiles were hard to come by after wildfires spread faster than a quick screen pass, destroying more than 1,500 homes and hundreds of acres of land in Central Texas.

Bastrop was hit the hardest and the disaster led to the cancellation of classes and all sporting events, including Bastrop’s Friday night tilt with Akins.

“Football was the last thing on our minds,” head coach Gerald Perry said. “We were concerned about our families, our community.”

Senior Parker Poe was one of 11 football players who lost his home in the flames. Two Bastrop coaches also lost their homes and many students and community members still don’t know the full amount of damage on their homes.

“To be honest, I feel sorry about the things me and my family lost,” Poe said. “But really, all that stuff doesn’t matter. I still have my family. I still have my teammates. That’s what matters.”

What also mattered to him was helping the community. He didn’t sulk. He didn’t complain. He went right to work in community shelters along with many of his teammates and other student-athletes.

They stacked clothing, took donations and helped displaced families with all their needs.

“We came together as a team to help,” Poe said. “That’s what teams do. I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch. I wanted to help. I know a lot of people who lost more than me.”

Becker said football wasn’t a concern for him last week. Help is all he had on his mind.

“It wasn’t an obligation for us,” he said. “We are small town boys and we just know helping people is the right thing to do. It comes natural to us.”

Becker still wishes he could have done more. He, along with a few of his teammates watched the fire and wished they could fight it.

“We were sitting on the front porch and we could hear the explosions and see the flames 70 feet high,” he said. “We wanted to go fight those fires. We knew we wouldn’t be allowed to, but I bet you half our team would’ve been out there if we could.”

Instead, they will fight again on the football field when they return to action on Thursday night with a home game against San Marcos.

A sell-out crowd is expected as the community plans to honor all the first responders and firefighters during a halftime ceremony.

“It’s going to be an emotional game for everyone,” Perry said. “We have great fan support here. That’s why as a team we wanted to give back to them and help as much as we could. We will be focused and ready to go.”

The population of Bastrop is about the same size as the seating capacity of Bastrop Memorial Stadium which fits 9,000 people.

“It’s going to be packed,” Becker said. “This is going to be more than just a game in September. We are playing for Bastrop. We are going to show the community that we have no quit just like them.”

The outlook on the season is undoubtedly changed, Becker said, because playing every week will be more about community than school.

“We are going to have extra motivation every week,” he said. “We will have more of an edge because we have more to play for than just a W. The community is all fighting strong. We will too. We are playing for the city.”

Poe agreed.

“We feel like we are playing more for Bastrop than ever before,” he said. “We are really representing Bastrop; we want to put on a show. We are focused. Lack of concentration is not an issue.”

But even if Bastrop can’t pull off a victory every week, that will be OK with Perry and the rest of his coaching staff.

“We know they will be ready to play because they have played in big games before,” he said. “We sure would like the victory on Thursday. But if you look back at this week, we already have had plenty of bigger victories.”

Just ask the man with the boxers or briefs.

How you can help?

Donations have been coming in bundles since the Central Texas fires ravaged through Bastrop last week.

People from all of the state have contributed countless numbers of clothing and school supplies.

“We have been overwhelmed with donations,” senior quarterback Dillon Becker said. “People have brought in everything you can imagine. The fire happened so quickly so a lot of people lost a lot of valuable things. So it was great to see the donations.”

Donald Williams, who is Bastrop Independent School District Executive Director of Community Services, said monetary donations can be made through First National Bank to the BISD Employee Relief Fund. The account number is 18-570-2. The address to First National Bank is PO Drawer F, Bastrop, TX 78602. Please make sure to notate that your donation is for the BISD Employee Relief Fund.

They also welcome gift cards. All of these items can be sent to Donald Williams’ attention or to his assistant, Blanche Underwood, at the Central Administrative Offices at 906 Farm Street, Bastrop, TX 78602.