Now that they have the hang of it, Haslet V.R. Eaton’s Eagles are ready for the sequel to their first varsity football experience.
The rookie campaign of 2016 wasn’t that bad. Eaton played for a Class 5A playoff berth on the final week of the regular season before falling to White Settlement Brewer, 48-14.
Maybe few expected a first-year varsity program to be in contention. But the Eagles didn’t. Eaton finished 3-7 and beat Saginaw and Azle to put itself in the playoff conversation. The hurt of what could have been stung for eight months.
“Brewer left a sour taste in our mouths,” senior quarterback Riley Taylor said. “We’re going to be excited about this season. But we’re going to be focused on what we have to do. We know what to expect.”
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Year No. 2 begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at C.H. Collins Complex against Denton Braswell, another second-year varsity program. Eaton won the 2016 debut, 55-0, against the Bengals. There have been some changes with the wide receivers. But for the most part everybody returns led by Taylor and running back Titus Swen. Taylor threw for 2,009 yards. Swen rushed for 1,272 yards.
I couldn’t sleep [Monday night]. There was so much going through my mind. It was going 100 mph. But once the game starts, the habits will kick in.
Eaton head coach Ellis Miller
All the preparation for starting a varsity program is in the past. The day-to-day grind is in place. There’s a routine. There’s a rhythm. There’s a structure.
The game should also slow down. After going through a faster and more physical brand of football, players recognized that they had to everything at a faster rate. The offseason program also matched the maturity. Head coach Ellis Miller stressed building the culture. That starts with trust.
“Last year, it was about catching up to the speed of the game,” Miller said. “We didn’t quite understand. But now we’re practicing to that tempo. When we lost to Frisco Independence (68-24) that changed things. This year, the players get it. They know what a varsity team is supposed to look like.”
Miller, who was promoted from defensive coordinator, may have the butterflies his player’s don’t. In May, he succeeded Brad Turner, who took an athletic department administrative position within the Northwest ISD.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Miller said. “I couldn’t sleep [Monday night]. There was so much going through my mind. It was going 100 mph. But once the game starts, the habits will kick in. I’ll focus on the defense. There are other things I’m going to have to start watching, like clock management.”
Believing in Miller’s message is building. Participation has seen an influx. The program went from 170 total players in 2016 to 230 this fall. Eaton will field two freshmen and two junior varsity teams.
The time frame for a new football program to establish itself is usually about five seasons. By that time, a couple of senior classes have passed. Traditions have been cultivated. However, Eaton players want to put their program on speed dial.