For the handful of area teams still in the football playoffs, a fourth-round berth means they’re halfway to a state championship.
It also means they’re playing their 14th game of the season — 15th if you count preseason scrimmages — and going through a 17th week of practice since fall camp began Aug. 11.
In short, a season can become a grind, even when a trip to the state semifinals is at stake.
“I think anybody that’s being truthful with you will tell you that it’s tough,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “That’s the challenge coaches have with teenagers these days. It’s hard to stay just focused on football, because there’s a lot of other things going on with kids.”
Aledo (12-1) plays Canyon Randall at 7 p.m. Friday at Snyder in the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals.
Everman, in the 5A Division II bracket, will also be heading west, to play Canutillo at 4 p.m. Saturday in Midland.
The Bulldogs (9-4) haven’t veered from their normal routine, coach Dale Keeling said. They never go full speed on either offense or defense. Instead, their focus this week has been on the mental side of the game.
“They are high school kids, and they do have a lot of other things on their mind,” Keeling said. “The week we played Burleson, we showed up real nonchalant. They just beat us. They did a great job and we didn’t. Focus is a big deal around here. We stress it all the time, because sometimes we lack it.”
In Class 6A, Southlake Carroll and Euless Trinity are accustomed to deep playoff runs. Both routinely play into December and are here again this year. Carroll (13-0) plays Cedar Hill (11-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday at SMU in Dallas. Trinity (12-1) plays Allen (13-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Apogee Stadium in Denton.
Neither team has altered much of its schedule. Carroll players still go in full pads each practice, except for the day before a game. The practice script the Dragons used this week was the same as it was in August.
“We never change our preparation, whether it’s Week 1 or Week 16,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. “Is that for everybody? I don’t know. But we prepare for this January through July. Once our season starts, our kids get acclimatized to the routine and stick with it.”
Trinity has been about the same. The Trojans now lift weights after practice, instead of before, as they did during the regular season. And their coaches also keep an eye on their activity during practice to ensure they’re not overdoing it. Other than that, not much is different.
Trinity’s bye landed the week before its playoff opener, so the Trojans were able to tune up before beating South Grand Prairie.
“I’d say we’re more guarded on the physicality of the practice,” coach Steve Lineweaver said. “But we pretty much stay with the same schedule, same number of minutes in each session.”
Brock, meanwhile, is navigating an unexpected lengthy season. The Eagles (12-1) have reached the Class 3A Division I state quarterfinals (vs. Shallowater, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Abilene) in their first season of UIL competition.
The adjustment hasn’t been too drastic, though. Once they hit the playoffs, coach Chad Worrell cut back on his team’s post-practice sprints and weightlifting schedule.
“Everybody’s beat-up around this time of year,” Worrell said. “When you get in the playoffs, you kind of cut out your conditioning. By this time, we’re in shape.”