Two years ago, it was all Randy Jackson could do to walk down the halls at Grapevine High School and convince young men to come out, take in a practice and be a part of the turnaround with his football program.
Crickets served as the response. When you don’t win, people aren’t interested.
Now, the Mustangs are coming off an eight-win 2015 season and have been to the playoffs in Jackson’s first two years. The expectations for 2016 may be as high as they have been since the 1998 Class 4A state championship team.
“We’ve added about six new guys this year who just came out because they wanted to come out,” Jackson said. “That’s what success does. It’s a big deal. If this team improves every week, the I think we can be a good team come playoff time. We don’t want to peak in the middle of the year.”
The third year for a program’s ascent is pivotal. Yes, the Mustangs have seen their win totals grow from three to eight. But now, this program has more in front of it in terms of contending for a district championship and making a playoff run.
The Mustangs will challenge GCISD-rival Colleyville Heritage for the 8-5A championship. With 15 returning starters, this is probably Jackson’s best team.
Grapevine’s success will hinge on its defense and ability to stop the run. In 2015, the Mustangs stopped it as they allowed only 3.9 yards per carry. That was a significant drop from 2014, when they allowed 7.4.
With eight returning starters, the core centers on a very instinctive linebacker group between Brennon Davis, Nick Jordan and Colin Margiotta. The front is led by nose tackle Brian Andrews.
“Our front seven is good,” Jackson said. “They were our catalyst last year. Any time you play good defense, it’s because you’re tougher and physical.
“These linebackers are so solid. They’re where they’re supposed to be. We’re in Grapevine, where you’re talking about young men who are going to be future CEOs.”
Offensively, there is one big known but some other unknowns. Junior quarterback Alan Bowman is a seasoned veteran.
However, he has to work in a new group of receivers. David Clayton should be one of the leaders, along with Colleyville Covenant transfer Trey Waters. There are also several newcomers who played baseball last year in senior Dillon Gonzalez and Dane Hernandez. Remember the name of Exauce Ganjwa. He goes by the nickname “X”.
Bowman has the respect of the locker room that he should be able to get into a good rhythm. The Mustangs are just going to have to find more depth in the running game. There are two quality performers in returning starter Zach Wolf, who rushed for 810 yards in 2015, and Patrick Bollman, who had some good moments.
“When your best players are your best leaders, it really makes a difference,” Jackson said. “I just want us to take this day by day.”
Head coach: Randy Jackson (17th season overall; 3rd season at Grapevine)
2015: 8-3; lost to Denton in Class 5A Region I Division II bi-district playoff
Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
Key players: QB Alan Bowman, NG Brian Andrews, RB Zach Wolf, LB Brennon Davis, LB Nick Jordan, LB Colin Margiotta
Notable: Under Jackson, the Mustangs are 11-11 in his first two seasons. Jackson is 130-62 in his career … the non-district schedule of Azle, Abilene Cooper and Frisco Heritage is extremely challenging.