Fossil Ridge High School is ranked 40th in the state in the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 2014 poll. Despite the nod, head coach Tony Baccarini knows that polls aren’t everything. Especially since the Panthers finished second in district last season after being ranked next to last before the season began.
“We don’t put a lot of stock in rankings. Hard work and becoming a team is what wins games,” Baccarini said. “We’ve been ranked high and not made the playoffs, and been ranked low and won our district. Being ranked high isn’t nearly as important as a strong work ethic and being a team.”
Fossil Ridge graduated 23 seniors last year but will return a number of juniors who started on last season’s successful regional finals team.
“We have a lot of great leadership returning this fall, and quite a few All-District starters returning. Our four returning defenders each had over 90 tackles last year,” Baccarini said. “We have our defensive end, free safety, strong safety and middle linebacker all back this season. Defensively, we run to the ball very hard and play very physically.”
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On offense, the Panthers are returning eight starters.
“We have our running back returning, who is a really good player, and our whole offensive line coming back,” Baccarini said. “We will just have to see what holes we need to fill and who will fill them.”
When the team returns to workouts on Aug. 11, there will be a number of players vying for those open positions.
“We had a very successful JV last season, finishing second in district with a 7-3 record,” Baccarini said. “A lot of them are ready to jump in to fill the spots and make a name for themselves.”
The abundance of youth Baccarini expects to see in workouts this August will only help the Panthers become a stronger squad.
“The more kids we can get on the field, the better we will be,” he said. “If we get 22 guys on the field we aren’t as good. If we get 50 guys on the field during the course of the game, we are a better football team.”
The stronger, the better as Fossil Ridge heads into the newly minted District 5-6A. The UIL realignment brings Denton’s Guyer and Ryan back into the same district with the Panthers, along with enhanced competition.
“We have played both Guyer and Ryan in district before and also in the playoffs,” Baccarini said. “They have good, high-quality programs. But on this level, everyone is good. If you don’t bring it every Friday night, someone is going to knock you off.”
That being said, the goal for the 2014-15 season remains consistent.
“Every year our number one goal stays the same, to get into the playoffs,” Baccarini said. “Once you get there, anything can happen with 64 teams in the bracket.”
The chances are good for the Panthers this season, poll or no poll.
“We are really excited about our football team,” Baccarini said. “We have a great group of kids who care about each other, love each other and play hard for each other. We are just ready for the season to get here.”