The dogfight has begun.
Football pundits across the state hail District 10-5A as one of, if not the, toughest out there – in any classification. By virtue of being an eight-team league, 10-5A got underway this past week while many teams were either idle or finishing up non-district slates. That means half the teams are already behind the eight-ball.
“We just need to make sure in this district that when you can get a win you make sure you get a win,” Mansfield Timberview coach James Brown said. “They’re going to be hard to come by.”
Timberview was one of four teams to get out to 1-0 in district play, thanks to the Wolves’ 30-7 victory over Red Oak. Lancaster and Waxahachie won as well, as did Mansfield Legacy, 47-29 over Midlothian.
“I feel great. It was a really good win against a really good team,” Broncos coach Chris Melson said. “We’ve adopted the theme that a lot of teams have, and that’s to try to go 1-0 each week. Every week is a challenge, but we just want to get better every week. Our kids know it’s a long season and a great district. We just have to fight our guts out each week to get into the playoffs, and that’s our goal.”
Lake Ridge and Summit find themselves chasing the pack after the first week. The Eagles were tripped up by consensus district favorites Lancaster, 54-38, while Summit fell to Waxahachie, 41-17.
“This next week has got to be the biggest week for us, and the week after that is the next biggest week,” Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said.
It’s easy in this district to preach the coach-speak of taking things one game at a time.
“It makes it easy for us as coaches to preach that, but it doesn’t mean the kids will always listen,” Brown joked. “There’s not one week in the seven weeks of district play that you can just sit back and say you can throw your hat out there and win. I don’t think any of us can say that.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about your kids not being emotionally ready and understand that you’d better be at your best each week,” Melson added.
So while it’s easy for coaches to keep the players focused, can they keep them from watching other teams in the district? Here, the coaches differ a bit.
“If they do, we don’t talk about it,” Thor said. “We really just focus on us and I don’t think our kids really follow scores. Like a casual fan, they may look at scores, but I don’t think they get into who has what record and who beat who. We can’t control that. When you try to control something you can’t control, that’s a scary feeling.”
Melson, meanwhile, knows his players have a watchful eye on district happenings.
“They do it all the time,” he said. “When one of our [future] opponents is playing on a Thursday, our kids will go watch. They are into who we’re playing and what they do and what they think about them. They’re into competing and winning this thing. They’re bought in. We’re all on the same page. We know it’s a huge challenge so we just have a lot of work to do.”
Brown admitted his players are probably actively tuned in as well.
“I think they check it every week,” he said. “I’m sure it’s something they pay attention to and are talking about. For us as coaches, the most important thing is to stay focused on ourselves.”
Focusing on oneself is a common theme among the coaches in District 10-5A.
“If you do look at your opponents, you won’t be too confident because every team is so good,” Thor said. “Every week you never know who’s going to win. People say it’s like a little SEC, and it kind of is.”
“I think there’s going to be a lot of guys that get knocked off here and there and if you let your guard down or you’re flat one game, you’re going to be in trouble,” Brown added. “It’s everybody, all eight schools. I think anybody has a chance to knock somebody off. I think you just have to think about yourself.”