There is the Greatest Story Ever Told. Then there could be the Greatest Story Ever Told in Northeast Tarrant. Well, the disclaimer would be for the 2016 high school football season.
Two football programs that combined for one win through the first six weeks of the season, Northwest Byron Nelson and first-year varsity program Northwest V.R. Eaton, now find themselves in control of their postseason fate.
The formula for each is simple in their respective regular season finales: win and enjoy a trip to the postseason.
Nelson (3-6, 3-3) can clinch the No. 2 Division II seed in District 5-6A if it can defeat Hurst L.D. Bell at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Northwest ISD Stadium in Justin. But a loss could have dire consequences and potentially end the season.
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Eaton’s Eagles (3-6, 2-4 District 6-5A) have the either/or scenario as far as a Class 5A Division I No. 2 seed berth is concerned. Either the Eagles defeat White Settlement Brewer at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Northwest ISD Stadium and clinch a berth, or they turn in their pads next week.
Usually, first-year varsity programs have no business being in the playoff picture. In Eaton’s case, this program has no seniors and at times has endured some pretty tough blowouts. But head coach Brad Turner didn’t let the rough patches impact his program.
There were enough skill players to keep this team in games. The defense has steadily been improving. It then came together on Oct. 21, when the Eagles stunned Azle, 55-34. That put them in the picture. They then rallied from 23-10 down at Saginaw to clip the Rough Riders, 40-33, this past Friday.
“We’ve been in those situations before and weren’t playing that crisp,” Eaton head coach Brad Turner said. “We fixed our mistakes and then got a pick-six that gave us a shot. The one thing about this team is that they know how to fight.”
The energy at Eaton High School has changed. There was the excitement in that last week of August as the school was preparing to play that first varsity game against Denton Braswell. Now, the excitement takes on a different perspective because there is something at stake.
“Our goal before the season started was to be a playoff team,” Turner said. “Whether they realized it or not, that was our plan. Now that we’re here with something on the line, it validates what we set out to do. We’re going to embrace that. This is an awesome thing. We’re trying to build a culture around here.”
Everything suggested on Oct. 7 that Nelson had no business staying with power Euless Trinity. But when the Bobcats took that game to overtime and pulled off the 21-20 upset, it changed their season.
In fact, it gave the Bobcats the big chip in the pursuit of the playoffs. They beat Lewisville the following week and scored with 14 seconds remaining to pull out the 29-22 win at Flower Mound Marcus.
“Really, it’s a tribute to our kids and my staff,” Pride said. “When you start the way we did, you have to worry about them and hope they can hang on mentally and make them believe they can win. You try to make this week as normal as you can despite it being shorter. We know Bell is good enough to win.”
Nelson has the head-to-head tiebreakers against the Trojans and Marauders. A loss would send the Bobcats out of the playoffs if they get into a tiebreaker situation with Flower Mound and Marcus. The district’s tiebreaker points system doesn’t favor them.
Both programs are proving it’s not how a season starts but how it finishes. September brought anxiety. October has offered opportunity.