The Azle Hornets clinched a playoff berth Friday night, breaking a three-way tie with Lake Dallas and Trophy Club Nelson to finish 7-3 and send the team to the postseason for the first time in seven years.
Over that stretch, Friday nights became known more for the halftime performances of the school's marching band than good football.
Azle vs. Birdville
7 p.m. Thursday, Saginaw Chisholm Trail Stadium
Records: Azle 7-3, Birdville 10-0
"In years past, the fans would stay just long enough to see the band play at halftime and then the stands would empty out," said coach Devon Dorris, who took over the program in 2010. "That's certainly not the case anymore because we've given them a reason to stick around for the second half."
In 2010, Dorris watched his first Azle team go a dismal 2-8 while winning only one game in district play. The team showed progress in 2011, going 4-6.
"Most of our seniors played on those teams as sophomores and juniors," Dorris said. "We've been preaching the same thing around here for three years, and the kids believed in it and we are finally seeing the benefits of it."
The Hornets got off to a fast 3-0 start this season, outscoring their opponents 119-37. Despite losing their leading rusher, Hunter McDonald, to a fractured wrist in Week 7, the team finished 4-3 in district play, doing just enough to land the Hornets in the postseason.
"I'm extremely proud of our team. The senior class has worked hard for three years to get this program turned around, and the underclassmen have fallen in line due to their leadership," Dorris said.
Azle will face stiff competition Thursday at Chisholm Trail Stadium, playing an undefeated Birdville team that has outscored its last five opponents 294-14. Despite the competition, Dorris knows his team will be ready to play.
"I know Birdville is good, they are 10-0, but our goal is to show up and be the best team they've played all year long on Thursday night," Dorris said.
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