Texas Fifth Quarter Tradition Holds Strong for Mason Punchers

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It may be hot and sizzling this summer in the Hill Country, but just wait until football season kicks off in Mason, Texas. Sure, the Mason Punchers, with coach Kade Burns and 12 returning starters, are predicted to keep their undefeated streak at home and make it to the state championship again.

But it will be Corky Mueller who will bring the real heat and sizzle to the “Fifth Quarter.” As a Texan, you may be familiar with the Fifth Quarter tradition where football teams celebrate by gathering for a meal after the game, whether it’s a win or loss.

Texas Fifth Quarter Tradition Holds Strong for Mason Punchers

Photo: One of the Mason Punchers’ favorite Fifth Quarter meals is Mueller’s smoked tri-tip.

When the Friday night lights go out at the Puncherdome, the students, players, cheerleaders, and band members race to the Mason Church of Christ for one of their favorite barbecue dinners.  If it’s smoked tri-tip – Mueller’s favorite – you can bet he has spent some 16 hours getting ready to serve up dinner during the Fifth Quarter.

“When we started this in 1969, we decided we wanted to have a place for the kids to come after the game,” says Fifth Quarter founder and long-time Mason resident Mary Hemphill.

Texas Fifth Quarter Tradition Holds Strong for Mason Punchers

Photo: Corky Mueller is one of several Mason Church of Christ members who serves up Fifth Quarter dinners after Mason Punchers home games.

Mueller and several other members of the church congregation have been at the helm of this after-game ritual for many years, smoking his famous tri-tip, along with other favorites including fajitas, sloppy joes, brisket, and hamburgers to re-fuel the players and other students after hard-fought wins. He honed his cooking chops from George Cooper, founder of Cooper’s Original Pit Bar-B-Q. Mueller opened the first barbecue place in Burnet in 1971, called Corky’s Cowboy BBQ.

“By the time home games are over, local restaurants are closed,” said Mueller. “The Fifth Quarter gives kids a place to be on Friday night, where they can get together and celebrate with a great meal.”

Born and raised in Mason, Mueller spent 24 years with the Arizona Highway Patrol, retiring in 2000. He and his wife Brenda returned to Mason, and Corky says cooking for the Fifth Quarter is his way of giving back to the community.

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“To me, there’s no better way to pay back than with good food to the Punchers and to help these kids as much as I can,” Mueller added.

The Mason Punchers, one of the heavyweights in Class 2A football, kick off their home season on September 7 when they meet the Johnson City Eagles on the field. Who knows who will win, but one thing is for sure – the Fifth Quarter will carry on in Mason and other small towns as a Texas tradition of football, friends, family, and food.