It was a bittersweet taste for three teams this week, but for different reasons. The Fossil Ridge football team had locked down its bi-district playoff round spot this Friday but dropped the season finale to Byron Nelson.
The Panthers (5-5, 4-3) are set to take on Marcus at Flower Mound’s Marauder Stadium at 7:30 p.m., due to a new UIL guideline allowing higher seeded teams to play at home in the first round.
Playing in 6A’s Division II, Ridge – the smallest district school in terms of enrollment – not only lost to Nelson, 41-31, but also was short a key running back and quarterback for part of the game due to injury.
Head coach Tony Baccarini said he expects the players to be back for Friday’s game.
“When the 2’s came in, they played well. It was good to see all of them in the game.”
What they lost in any momentum, the Panthers still have in pride.
“I’m proud of our guys and we’re still extremely young and the smallest school in the district,” Baccarini said. “I’m proud to get into the playoffs.”
Marcus, which Baccarini said is big up front on both sides, is a good team with a good record, 9-1.
“But we’re smaller than most teams we play,” Baccarini joked, stating the Marcus match-up would be nothing new for the Panthers.
Keller had that bittersweet taste for the opposite reason.
The Indians played one of their best games of the season in a 47-21 win over Northwest. But it was their last.
Dillon Smith threw for 255 yards and two scores and Brady Marek caught three passes for 100 yards, most on a 76-yard scoring pass from Smith. Meanwhile, Tyler Tutt added 172 yards.
In the process, Tutt set the school record for rushing in a season (1,682) and tied the school mark for touchdowns in a season (21).
Head coach Carl Stralow said the records were a goal of the offensive line, actually. Finishing the season at 6-4 marks the first winning season for Keller since 2009.
The win also saw every varsity player in on some action, including all 46 seniors.
“The seniors were not interested in losing,” Stralow said of the significance of the final game. “It’s an amazing group and everyone had a role. They changed the culture and we’re real fortunate.
“Without the bumps in the road we could have been preparing for the playoffs, but the kids handled it with class and played as hard as they could and I’m real proud,” Stralow said.
It’s now just time for a breath or two before the off-season, which Stralow said needs to be incredible to bridge the gap.
“We’ve got a great future. It will be a tell-tale off-season for how successful we’ll be next season.”
Central got the same bittersweet taste with its win over Timber Creek, 42-20. The Chargers also got to finish on a positive note and a 4-6 overall mark.
“It was the last game for this team and they played well,” said head coach Bart Helsley. “It’s positive for the guys finishing up and for those coming back.”
Central will return plenty of starters next year, including quarterback Reece Robertson.
Helsley said Robertson’s success as an unproven player coming into the season is a testament to the offensive line, the receivers and running backs.
“And our defense fought hard every game,” he said. “I think that sticks out in my mind.
Timber Creek finished at 3-7, 2-5 and lacked any sweet taste about the season.
“It was a season of good plays marked by lost opportunity,” said head coach Kevin Golden. “You never like having known your team missed opportunities to make the playoffs.”
The Falcons entered the final week with a scenario to still make the postseason, but it all was predicated on a win over Central.
The Falcons also endured key injuries, but Golden wasn’t willing to use that as an excuse.
“You always want to go out on a winning note and get that momentum for the off-season,” he said.