Their games usually ended with a big loss, but the players at Saginaw Chisholm Trail and Mansfield Lake Ridge were laying the foundations for the first-year programs.
Because schools are allowed to join districts only in even-numbered years, Chisholm Trail faced a dilemma: play varsity football with freshmen and sophomores or play two years of a junior varsity schedule, which would give the sophomores just one year of varsity football.
"You look at that and you say that's not fair to those kids," Eagle Mountain-Saginaw athletic director Tim Daughtrey said. "We say, 'You're going to this school and, by the way, those of you that are good enough to play varsity as sophomores and juniors, you aren't going to get to do that."
Jumping right into a varsity schedule wouldn't have been the first choice if the team could have moved into a district mid-alignment, but the community and school board were made aware of the situation and growing pains that would result, Daughtrey said.
In August, Chisholm Trail (1-8, 1-6 in District 6-4A) opened its doors to just under 850 freshmen and sophomores, with the expectation of around 500 students entering as freshmen in the next two classes. The targeted enrollment for the school next year pushed the school into the 4A classification (1,005-2,089 students) with an enrollment in the 3A range (450-1,004 students) this season.
"We're just really trying to teach the foundation," Chisholm Trail coach Randall Hugg said. "We're still working on basic foundations of our system and it's been a slow process. That's been our focus, it's not where we are, we're trying to project down the road where we want to get to."
Chisholm Trail was outscored 434-111 this season, including 69-0 losses to district champion Birdville and rival Saginaw, and 62-14 to Saginaw Boswell in the season finale.
"They just weren't ready to play at that level of competition," Hugg said of his team.
In its first year as a varsity program, Mansfield Lake Ridge didn't experience the highs of a victory or close losses as did Chisholm Trail, which played Fort Worth schools.
Unlike the Rangers, Lake Ridge (0-9, 0-6 in District 15-4A) opened to all four grades. But it suffered a winless season full of lopsided defeats.
Lake Ridge entered into District 15-4A with powers Ennis, Lancaster, Red Oak and Waxahachie.
In 10 games, Lake Ridge allowed 603 points and scored only 55, although the Eagles were more competitive in a 49-21 loss to Mansfield Legacy in the season finale.
Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said there are talented juniors and underclassmen who can build on this season's foundation.
Junior Jalyn Hernandez has been Thor's top offensive threat at wide receiver, picking up 249 yards on 20 receptions. In the offensive backfield, junior fullback Jerome Calbert has impressed Thor with his on-the-field skill, resulting in 190 yards this season, and his leadership ability.
Thor said eventually he hopes his offense can execute a fast pace, running three plays a minute.
The coaches said injuries were an issue but declined to discuss the number or extent of them.
To the coaches and administrators, the lopsided losses and tough practices are bumps in the road to allow their programs to grow while letting these athletes play.
"They'll be better players for it by the time they're juniors and seniors," Daughtrey said.
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