Northeast Tarrant

Trojans face one of state’s toughest teams to start playoffs

Trinity QB Malini Maile (6) says he and his teammates can’t wait to play Allen in bi-district.
Trinity QB Malini Maile (6) says he and his teammates can’t wait to play Allen in bi-district. Special to the Star-Telegram

In many respects it was a grueling regular season for the Euless Trinity football team. Regardless of what did or didn’t happen over the previous 11 weeks, though, the one thing that ultimately matters is that the Trojans are still playing.

Thanks to their 35-17 victory over Flower Mound Marcus last Thursday, the Trojans enter the postseason the same as every other playoff team in the state — playing until you lose.

“We’re where we want to be, and that’s in the playoffs,” coach Chris Jensen said. “We took a really ugly route in getting there, but we’re here. The rest doesn’t matter. We’ve learned a lot of lessons that a lot of teams out there haven’t learned yet. And when they do, their season is possibly over. We learned ours and were fortunate to have enough time to salvage a playoff berth.”

As reward for clinching that playoff berth, Trinity draws perhaps the most unenviable first-round matchup in the entire state: Allen. And with the UIL’s pilot program that was recently put in place to allow 6A higher seeds to host bi-district matchups, the Trojans get to play on the road at their building.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Jensen said of the challenge. “After the season we’ve had of ups and downs, this is a great opportunity and we feel blessed to have a chance to play the No. 1 team on the planet.”

Senior Malini Maile echoes his coach’s sentiments, and said the team is actually fueled by what most teams would want to avoid.

“We love it. We love it a lot,” he said. “We like the competition, so we’re up for any challenge. I think as a team we’re really fired up and excited to play them and it’s a great opportunity to be able to play at their house.”

Playing the Eagles at Allen’s $60 million football mecca might overwhelm a lot of teams, but Maile and his teammates have plenty of experience in big games in big venues.

“I think we’ve seen it all,” Maile said, adding that he played against Allen as a sophomore. “We’ve seen a lot of football, and going into this week we’re just going to take it as a regular week and not try to focus too much on them. At the end of the day it is just another game, no matter how big or small it is. We’re just going to treat it the same.”

Probably easier said than done. It’s hard not to consider the 10-0 Eagles are averaging 47 points per game while surrendering fewer than 20 per game, and that over the past five years have won 71 games while losing just two, hanging up three state championship banners along the way.

Jensen went to watch Allen in person last Friday, a game in which the Eagles blanked Wylie 49-0.

“Watching them come out for warm-ups, they look the same as they did the last time we played them in 2014, and the four or five times we played them before that,” Jensen said. “They’re a great-looking bunch of kids and obviously well coached. You’re just going to have to play your best game, that’s it. If it’s not enough and we played our best, we can live with that.”

Allen defeated Trinity 30-27 in that 2014 meeting at Apogee Stadium in Denton, two weeks before the Eagles hoisted the 6A Division I trophy.

To pull off the surprise and send Allen home early this year, Jensen knows his team will have to be as close to perfect as it has been. The good news, he says, is that he knows his team hasn’t done that yet this season.

“You have to do your job and do it the best you’ve done it all year,” Jensen said. “We’ve got a lot of room still for improvement, and that’s what is exciting is that we haven’t played our best yet.”

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.