Failing to win their regular-season finale may have been the best thing for Dale Keeling and his Everman Bulldogs as they continue their run in their 16th straight playoff appearance.
Already a lock for another postseason trip heading into a Nov. 7 game against Burleson, Everman fell flat, losing 48-27 despite Kierre Crossley’s 183 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“I feel like it was a blessing in disguise, because although we lost, it was a major wake-up call,” Crossley said.
The junior is having a monster season after he ran for a school-record 390 yards in last week’s 31-20 win over El Paso Eastlake. He has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season and is averaging 232 yards on the ground, 295 in the playoffs.
“Kierre has been phenomenal during the past three weeks,” Keeling said.
The Bulldogs (9-4) next have a 4 p.m. Saturday game against Canutillo (12-1) in the Class 5A Division II Region I final at Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium.
Everman is one of just four teams with four losses remaining in the postseason and the only one in 5A. The Bulldogs opened the playoffs with wins over Fort Worth Wyatt (51-12) and Wichita Falls (21-20).
“Losing to Burleson showed our kids that if you don’t focus on your current opponent you can lose every week,” Keeling said.
Now they face a Canutillo team that has won its past 12 games. The Eagles are averaging 36 points this postseason after wins over El Paso Ysleta, San Angelo Lake View and Azle.
The Bulldogs will continue to hand the ball to Crossley, who has rushed 33 and 40 times the past two weeks, his two highest totals this season.
“My focus is to do whatever it takes to get my team a win,” Crossley said. “I will prepare myself mentally and physically to be ready at all times.”
Another huge playoff win came when the Bulldogs defeated Wichita Falls, the same team that knocked them out in last year’s second round (31-28).
“It was awesome, it’s always great to get a second chance,” Crossley said. “We were not satisfied with how we finished our season last year and we all worked hard to change that this year.”
The running back, who has scored 35 touchdowns this season, looks to continue his run and help the Bulldogs win their first state title since 2002.
“This playoff run means everything to my team and I,” Crossley said. “We worked very hard this off-season to put ourselves in this position.”