Local School Barbecue Team Preps During Preseason


Rockwall ISD barbecue team member Ethan Conaway bastes his chicken. | Image by Bryon Harris, WFAA

The Rockwall ISD barbecue team’s preseason is underway, and they hope to add further accolades and honors to their club.

Currently, there are more than 90 barbecue teams at high schools across Texas. Half of the Rockwall ISD club’s members belong to “Team Smoke” while the others are assigned to “Team Fire,” which promotes some healthy competition among their own team.

All food must be cooked on-site. The meat categories are chicken, ribs, and brisket, with brisket being the designated tie-breaker. Desserts and pinto beans are also categories. All food is cooked over a wood fire pit.

Rockwall ISD’s team, the Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy BBQ team, 205 Pitmasters, recently qualified for the 2022 State Championship after competing in the Graham Regional BBQ competition. Seven out of their 10 entries placed in the top 10. Hunter Kirk received first place for brisket, with Isaiah Gosnight placing second in chicken, and Ethan Conaway earning third for ribs.

The team is coached by Sean Hill, who is a business teacher at the Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy.

The students competed against 85 other teams from across Texas in the 2022 State Championship in April. Judges considered 425 entries of beans, chicken, ribs, and brisket before deciding the winners. Rockwall’s Team Fire finished fourth overall with a 27th place in chicken, 21st place in beans, sixth place in ribs, and a first-place finish in brisket. Rockwall-Heath High School senior Hunter Kirk received the first for brisket.

Rockwall’s barbecue team is prepping during this preseason by grilling at a Royse City BBQ joint called Smoke Sessions.

The team received coverage from a YouTube channel called Eat More Vegans, based in North Carolina. The Eat More Vegans’ crew is on a five-day tour of Texas as they cover grillmasters and pitmasters at both the professional and amateur levels.

“Hanging out with some friends while cooking was great,” Jonathan Chapa, a club member who graduated from Rockwall ISD last year, told WFAA. “And especially the coach, y’know. When you have a good mentor you will have a great time.”
Team coach Hill said that his “kids” learn a lot of other lessons from the experience, in addition to grilling and barbecue skills.
“A lot of it has to do with teamwork, and working together and being able to multitask,” Hill said. “Y’know, knowing that next man up, if we have somebody out, you can’t just say, ‘I’m only going to be a rib cook.’ You’ve got to be able to know how to do brisket and chicken or beans as well.”
Each of Rockwall’s 20 team members, four of them young women, chooses a specialty for barbecue competitions. The various categories offer the competitors a chance to practice many different recipes and culinary skills.

The team is excited to have been invited to compete in November’s ‘World Food Championships‘ in Dallas.

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Sharon yarbrough
Sharon yarbrough
2 months ago

I love this. My husband and I cooked bbq on the completion circuit for many years. While we no longer compete the friendships we made along the way are still with us. I am so glad a new generation is coming into the group.