The Justin Northwest football team’s record reads 8-0.
But it took a lot of 1-0s for this program to get into this position. For all of those 1-0s, it’s also led to what is arguably the biggest regular season game this program has ever played.
No. 1 Aledo (8-0, 5-0 District 6-5A) arrives at Northwest ISD Stadium Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff with the knowledge that another upstart program wants to take its best shot at it. The Texans, who have also clinched a playoff berth at 5-0, are playing the Bearcats for a district championship and a chance to change perceptions.
Adding to the subplots: Aledo is on a 66-game district winning streak that dates back to 2007. It’s the longest active streak in the state.
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“Our message to the team was, nothing changes in the way we get ready for Aledo like we have for any other game,” Northwest coach Bill Poe said. “We have been afforded to have a game that could result in the district championship. But we continue our process.”
Coaches will use any mantra as a means for their players to buy into that process. That’s where the 1-0 became the rally cry. It began in the offseason after the Texans finished a dreadful 2015 at 1-9.
Northwest moved down to Class 5A. The hopes of a successful season started to build. But this 1-0 meant adding that one extra rep on a bench press. It meant shaving that one tenth of a second off the 40-yard dash. It meant going a little harder on that drill. It meant spending a little more time in the film room breaking down a play or finding that weakness in the opponent.
“We try to be perfect but a lot goes into winning those and going 1-0,” senior running back Syrus Moore said. “We’re humbled to be in the position that we’re in. Aledo is a really good football team. But we have to treat it the same.”
The no bulletin-board talk approach is the one Northwest has to take for a game like this. But the reality is that Aledo is not like last week’s opponent, Saginaw Chisholm Trail.
The walk down the hallways for the players during the week will be different. Signs will be posted throughout the school. The buzz will take on a life of its own. It’s the vision of every high school football coach to foster that kind of atmosphere. Poe has temper that. He recognized that when he was assistant coach for Todd Dodge at Carroll in the early 2000s.
“The key is keeping the week in perspective,” Poe said. “It’s about making sure they understand that every week is big. That the next game on our schedule is the next biggest one. We have to keep doing everything consistent on offense and defense to give ourselves a chance.”
The Bearcats have won five state championships in the last seven seasons. The Bearcats have scored at least 59 points in each of their first five district games. The Bearcats are averaging 558 yards of total offense.
Northwest, though, has been pretty prolific as well. The Texans have crossed 50 points in three of their five district games. The Texans are averaging 497 yards per game.
For the Texans to win a game like this, the mistakes have to be few, they have to catch a couple of breaks and must take advantage of any opportunities Aledo offers, be it a turnover or errant play on special teams.
“Obviously, this is our toughest game,” Moore said. “But for us to play a caliber of game like this, it’s going to show where we’re at and how we’ll have to improve when we get to the playoffs. We’ll definitely know what it’s going to take to win games like these.”