It's been a decade since Cleburne last qualified for the playoffs in football and 14 years since the program won a postseason game.
Last week's thrilling 43-42 overtime upset over District 8-4A favorite Waco High may have signaled a return to prominence for the Yellow Jackets.
With Cleburne trailing 42-41 in extra time, quarterback Quade Coward, who threw for 387 yards, three touchdowns and ran for 76 and three scores, hit receiver Khalil Hall in the flat for the game-winning 2-point conversion.
"It was definitely the craziest game I've ever been a part of," Coward said. "When Coach said we were going for two I knew it was all or nothing, and it was right there waiting for us to take it, so I was psyched."
Cleburne first-year coach Jeff Merket said the decision to go for two was more out of necessity than reckless abandon.
"We had some injuries, had a lot of kids playing both ways," Merket said. "We felt like we could make it, and we didn't want to continue to play further into the game because of the injuries."
Last Friday's instant classic could be remembered as the watershed moment for the Yellow Jackets' program, but the hiring of Merket in February may be the true cause of the revival.
Merket has a sparkling pedigree that includes 11 years as an assistant under Art Briles at Stephenville, where they won four state titles. He has also worked for Bob Shipley at Burnet, Coppell and most recently Brownwood as offensive coordinator.
Though Merket's arrival gave Cleburne hope, he knows nothing rallies a community like success.
"It was a huge win for us. Waco High was picked to win the district," Merket said. "It's a program builder. It's got the town excited, we're getting better each week and hopefully we can carry this on, get into the playoffs or win a district championship and play into November."
Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager said recently that senior Matt Waller is a perfect example for future Warriors to follow.
Waller is a 4.0 student, a three-year starter and has been an integral part of Martin's most successful football teams in the school's 30-year history.
"He's in the top 10 percent of his class, he's a tough guy and he really cares about the success of this team," Wager said.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior was an honorable mention all-district safety as a sophomore, a first-teamer last year after leading Martin in tackles and has pulled double duty, intermittently lining up at running back and at receiver during his career. He also plays on every special teams unit for the Warriors.
"There are a select group of guys that I firmly believe, if they make the investment in preparation for the season, can play every snap," Wager said.
Last week, with only a week of preparation, Waller lined up at quarterback for the first time since he was a freshman. He finished with 98 rushing yards and on defense recorded five tackles and an interception in a 38-28 victory over Arlington.
"It was a huge win. They are always a big rival for us," Waller said of the District 3-5A opener. "They got us pretty good last year and we felt like we owed them one this year."
First-year program Saginaw Chisholm Trail, composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores, won its first football game in school history last week, 20-13 over Fort Worth North Side.
Quarterback Austin Rayburn threw a couple touchdown passes to Brad Pippi and rushed for another to lead the Rangers (1-4, 1-2 District 6-4A) to the historic victory.
Chisholm Trail will attempt to pick up its first win at home Friday when it hosts district foe Fort Worth Eastern Hills (1-3, 1-1).
Play of the week
White Settlement Brewer running back C.J. Washington connected with Skyler Howard on a quarterback throwback pass for 64 yards inside the 10-yard line with under three minutes to play. Washington punched it in two plays later to win 27-23 over Wichita Falls and push the Bears' record to 4-0.
"We've been practicing that for about two weeks, so that was our trick play for this game," Washington said. "Skyler had a little mismatch because the corner was shorter than him. I just threw it up there where he could go get it."
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