Before the first snap of practice, Willow Park Trinity coach Joe Hamstra knew this season would be special.
After years of success in six-man, the Eagles were making their initial foray into 11-man and into the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Regardless of the outcome of the games, the players on this team would be making history.
And now they've made even more history by qualifying for the TAPPS Division III playoffs.
"I knew we had some good players and thought we would be competitive with the teams on our schedule. What I did not anticipate is how quick they learned our system on both sides of the ball," Hamstra said. "It is a tribute to how hard our kids work. They are highly motivated and work hard. Our success is a reflection of that."
The Eagles (8-2) finished second in TAPPS Division III District 1. They outscored their opponents by an average of 40-18 during the regular season.
Their first-round playoff opponent had not been announced at press time.
"I feel like our team has exceeded expectations. We were considered a no-name start-up and an easy opponent," sophomore receiver Preston Gist said. "I believe we have proven all the doubters wrong."
Hamstra said the campus has a special feel to it.
"Not just because of football, but our volleyball team is ranked second in state and in the playoffs, our cross country team is doing well," he said. "The thing that makes our campus special is the way we support one another's activities and sports. Our success is enjoyed by our whole school community."
The Trinity offense is led by senior quarterback Calib Guynes (1,042 yards, 18 TD, 5 int. passing; 675 yards, 13 TD rushing). There's also senior running back Nathan Chesney (532 yards, 8 TD), junior running back Garrett Green (512 yards, 6 TD). Chesney (19 catches, 287 yards, 4 TD) leads the receiving corps, along with junior Nathan Montano (9-234, 2 TD) and Green (21-238, 6 TD).
Sophomore cornerback Caleb Chesney averages nine tackles per game, while senior linebacker Chase Gunter cornerback Nathan Chesney and junior corner Nic de La Cruz each average six.
"This season did not come without hard work. We are outside and in the weight room every day, and that is how we have earned our respect," sophomore linebacker Gage Scott said.
And, with only eight seniors, the team appears poised for continued success.
"Absolutely. We recently begun to get a weight program established last year," Hamstra said. "This year, we are not where we need to be physically- we are getting by with effort.
"Moving forward, when our weight program gets where it needs to be, the future of our football program looks very good."
The Eagles left their mark with years of success at the six-man level. Hamstra said this season is a magical way to start a new tradition.
"I attribute our success to a few things," he said. "TCA is a place that still pushes multi-sport athletes. Because of that, we have kids that are used to competing in different venues and relish the opportunity to perform. We have great administrative and community support. I have a great group of coaches that love and care for our kids and seek to maximize their ability."
Bearcats pass test, can clinch ninth straight league title
Saginaw Boswell Pioneers (6-3, 5-1 in District 6-5A) at Aledo Bearcats (9-0, 6-0)
7 p.m. Friday
▪ Last week: Boswell 26, Saginaw Chisholm Trail 7; Aledo 61, Justin Northwest 27.
▪ Last season: Boswell 10-2, 5A Division I area playoffs; Aledo 13-2, Class 5A Division I state semifinals.
▪ All-time series: Aledo leads 5-0.
▪ Last meeting: Aledo 75, Boswell 14 in area round of playoffs in 2013.
▪ Returning starters: Boswell 5 offense/7 defense, Aledo 8 offense/5 defense.
▪ Boswell notable: While not the powerhouse Aledo is, the Pioneers are familiar with the postseason, making their seventh appearance in nine years. Freshman quarterback Brayden Thomas (1,233 yards, 14 TD, 7 int. passing) has grabbed attention, and together with senior running back Damon Williams (1,101 yards, 10 TD) leads a balanced offense like the Bearcats, though not as explosive. Senior defensive end D'Shalon Douglas has five sacks.
▪ Aledo notable: With 68 straight district victories (their last league loss was 2007), the Bearcats have clinched no worse than a tie for a ninth straight district championship. In what was expected to be a challenge last week, the Bearcats overcame an early 17-14 deficit to roll past previously unbeaten Northwest. A win over the Pioneers would give them the title outright, while a loss would leave them tied with Boswell and perhaps Northwest. Senior quarterback Dillon Davis has a TD-interception ratio of 30-4 and has passed for 2,233 yards. Running backs Jase McClellan, freshman, (690 yards, 10 TD) and senior Michael Jordan (753, 11 TD) are primed to go over the 1,000-yard mark, as might junior Donnie Evans (553, 16 TD), especially if the Bearcats go on a playoff run. Davis has plenty of receiving targets, led by senior Preston Jefferis (27 catches, 616 yards, 7 TD), junior Hunter Rosson (34-608, 9 TD) and senior Logan Bridges (28-527, 7 TD). Seven defenders have an interception this season, led by sophomores Wyatt Harris and Brannon Webb with three each. Senior linebacker Rhett Harris has two that he has returned for 114 yards, including a 55-yard TD in last week's win.
Brock seeks another perfect regular season
Breckenridge Buckaroos (4-5, 3-1 in District 4-3A Division I) at Brock Eagles (9-0, 4-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday
▪ Last week: Ponder 13, Breckenridge 0; Brock 66, Boyd 0.
▪ Last season: Breckenridge 7-5, Class 3A Division I area round. Brock 16-0, Class 3A Division I state champions.
▪ Returning starters: Breckenridge 7 offense/6 defense, Brock 5 offense/7 defense.
▪ All-time series: Brock leads 2-0.
▪ Last meeting: Brock 20, Breckenridge 17 in 2015.
▪ Breckenridge notable: The Buckaroos have played Brock tougher than anyone in district since the Eagles began University Interscholastic League Play in 2014. In two meetings, Brock has outscored them 38-20. Like Brock, Breckenridge runs the ball a lot more (130 yards per game) than passing (53). The Buckaroos are also headed for a seventh straight playoff appearance.
▪ Brock notable: The Eagles are on a 25-game winning streak, but must top their nemesis to win a third straight district championship. The defense, led by the likes of senior linebacker Zane Young, senior tackle Devin Stentz and senior cornerback Kyle Thiel has surrendered 12 points in the past six games and has five shutouts all season. Senior running back Tyler Gray is having another sensational season, having already topped 1,000 yards again and is averaging almost 10 yards each time he carries the ball. The Eagles are outscoring their opponents by an average of 52-10.
Bulldogs hope to play spoiler in finale
Nocona Indians (6-3, 2-2 in District 5-3A Division II) at Millsap Bulldogs (3-6, 0-4)
7 p.m. Friday
▪ Last week: Henrietta 48, Nocona 28; Holliday 56, Millsap 0.
▪ Last season: Nocona 2-8. Millsap 1-9.
▪ Returning starters: Nocona 6 offense/8 defense, Millsap 9 offense/8 defense.
▪ All-time series: Millsap leads 9-7.
▪ Last meeting: Millsap 35, Nocona 34 in 2015.
▪ Millsap notable: The Bulldogs rush for over 220 yards per game but pass for less than 25. Senior running backs Spencer Mitchell (361 yards, 5 TD) and Jeff Morlen (326 yards, 4 TD) lead the running game. Senior linebacker Kody Wages leads the defense with an average of just under four tackles.
▪ Nocona notable: The Indians are looking for a return to the playoffs after just two wins over the past two seasons. They are led by junior quarterback Jeremy James (1,849 yards, 17 TD, 4 int. passing).