victory bowl 2012 ra1
Tribune-Herald file photo

When Ben Johnson first organized the Super Centex Victory Bowl, he had a paid staff of two. And that was including himself.

Eight years later the Heart of Texas Fellowship of Christian Athletes has expanded its staff to eight, and the Victory Bowl provided the source for such growth.

Johnson said that 60 percent of the Heart of Texas FCA’s annual funding comes from monthly gifts. The other 40 percent is generated through one-time gifts and fundraising events like the Grant Teaff Golf Tournament and the Super Centex Victory Bowl.

“It’s allowed us to grow our salaries, to add staff,” Johnson said. “We’ve been able to add up to eight people on staff, which has solidified our mission and what we’re able to do.”

It’s no longer just an all-star football game. It’s grown to encompass four sports, as the volleyball all-star contest enters its third year while baseball and softball join the fray for the first time this year. Those two games will be played at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Seth Chambliss, the south area director for Heart of Texas FCA in the Temple-Belton area, said that having the existing Victory Bowl model in place has helped aid the implementation of the softball and baseball games.

“Watching and working with Ben, being his teammate over these last seven years, we had a sketch of what elements to piece together,” Chambliss said. “Now, culturally baseball and softball are different than football. We’ve already learned that we’ll have to tweak some things next year. There are things football needs that baseball and softball doesn’t. But in the big picture, we had an amazing model in place.”

Mart coach Jordan Williams, formerly Vannatta, was still a teenaged softball player for Baylor when the first Victory Bowl football game was played. When Johnson approached her last fall about coaching in the inaugural softball contest, she couldn’t say yes fast enough.

“Ben contacted me pretty early in the school year,” Williams said. “It’s just a blessing to get this chance. For the first time having it, it’s been running so well. Everything so far has gone very smoothly.”

Williams certainly wouldn’t mind having this kind of talent at her disposal on a regular basis. She’s coaching the red all-star team, and after two practices she marveled at the powerful pitching she has to throw into the circle. It includes the likes of Belton’s Sidney Holman, Moody’s Paige McNeely and Crawford’s Ashton Chambers.

Of course, her opponents on the blue team aren’t exactly hurting for talent. Robinson’s Hannah Wolfe and Bosqueville’s Lizzie Donaldson give blue coach Clint Zander of Bosqueville a loaded deck of aces, too.

“It’s going to be fun for these kids to try to hit off a very talented group of pitchers,” Williams said. “A lot of the players are going on to play college ball, so this will be good experience for them.”

West baseball coach Cory Beckham helped oversee the Central Texas Baseball Coaches Association all-star game for several years before Johnson approached him about bringing that event under the FCA’s umbrella. “I told him we didn’t want to do anything that would compete, but we were certainly open to running it,” Johnson said. “He was elated.”

Of course, it’s been a busy week for Beckham. His West Trojans won their second straight Class 3A state title Thursday, and then he’ll turn around and coach the red baseball squad in Friday’s inaugural Victory Bowl game.

He’s not complaining.

“Maybe our team will win tomorrow, I don’t know,” Beckham said. “I’ll get to coach (West shortstop) Griffin Paxton one more time tomorrow, so that’ll be cool.”