The culture that Grapevine head football coach Randy Jackson envisioned for this program came down to two factors: relationships and players earning everything.
Everything that goes into building a program is a process. But if it follows a coach’s blueprint, it leads to what the Mustangs will do on Friday night.
Grapevine (10-1) takes on the state’s No. 1 Class 5A team Aledo (11-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Saginaw High School in a Division II Region I area playoff game. This is arguably the biggest game Grapevine football has played since it won the 1998 Class 4 state title.
“When you develop relationships, you get the kids to trust what you do,” Jackson said. “It takes a lot of work. But you have to stress to them that they must earn everything every day. We stack a bunch of days and months together and earn it.”
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While the Mustangs will be considered underdogs, the growth with this team has been notable in its signature games. Grapevine surprisingly easily handled Abilene Cooper, 61-7, and beat district rival Colleyville Heritage, 39-24. Even in their 38-35 loss to Richland, the Mustangs nearly erased a 35-14 deficit before they ran out of time.
Aledo’s defensive front will present the stiffest challenge against this balanced Grapevine offense. Junior nose tackle James Williams is not only physical, he’s instinctive. Senior defensive tackle and TCU commit Wes Harris was moved from the offense to stand alongside Williams.
Grapevine has running options between senior Zach Wolfe and sophomore Roshawn Prear. But the Mustangs are still going to have to develop it.
“Aledo is strong and physical,” Jackson said. “You’re going to have to do your share of double teams. This is some hard rock mining against them. But you can’t make a living on the inside.”
That’s where the junior quarterback Alan Bowman’s development becomes important. He’s about to make his 32nd career start. Each season, he has grown more and more comfortable with what the Grapevine coaches are asking.
He’s also taken care of the football. Bowman has thrown 42 touchdown passes against only five interceptions. Bowman has also found a way to use his second and third options. The Mustangs have five different receivers with at least 22 receptions. Dylan Gonzalez (47-688, 10 TD), David Clayton (47-672, 11 TD) and Zack Carnes (38-650, 10 TD) are about as consistent a trio as you’re going to find.
“Alan’s decision making has been something that I’ve really been happy with,” Jackson said. “And when you’re taking care of the football like he is, you’re going to win a lot football games.”
The Bearcats, who have won five state championships in the last seven seasons, will counter with multiple running backs in freshman Jase McClellan, junior Donnie Evans and senior Michael Jordan who are each over 700 yards.
Quarterback Dillon Davis will test Grapevine’s secondary with his vertical shots to the likes of Preston Jefferis, Logan Bridges and Hunter Rosson. Like Grapevine, each of those receivers are over 600 receiving yards. The defensive pressure the Mustangs must bring must start with senior nose tackle Brian Andrews.
Grapevine’s task is tall. But this exactly where Jackson wants this program to be.
“We’re a blue-collar team. This is how you build your program where guys leave a legacy. For our kids, we’ve gone from wishing to win games, to hoping to win games to expecting to win games. I feel good about where we are mentally. Our guys are going toe to toe with the best.”
The winner advances to the Region I semifinals and will face the winner of Canutillo and Abilene Cooper.