Success can sometimes be a matter of perspective. Both Aledo and Mansfield were eliminated from the UIL football playoffs in the state semifinal round over the weekend, but where the seasons rank in the annals of the respective programs may feel very different.
For Mansfield, it was inarguably the best season in school history — a history that dates back over 100 years.
It was the furthest any Tigers team had ever progressed in the postseason. So despite bowing out of the playoffs in a lopsided 49-21 6A Division II loss to Austin Lake Travis on Saturday, it’s hard not to take pride in what this squad accomplished.
“It doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re very proud of the season — a history-making season on so many levels,” Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme said.
Aledo, on the other hand, had won back-to-back state titles in 2013 and 2014 and had raised the championship trophy five times since 2009, with the only gap a second-round loss in 2012.
For the Bearcats, reaching the state championship game has become the norm. So after Friday night’s 42-21 loss to Mansfield Lake Ridge in a 5A Division I semifinal, it was almost like destiny unfulfilled.
“The expectations are high and they need to be high,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “You want them that way. Anytime you don’t get to that last one, you feel a little disappointed.”
The Bearcats weren’t without their challenges entering the season. With heavy losses to graduation, especially on the offensive side of the ball, it wasn’t going to be easy to duplicate recent success.
If you analyze Aledo’s 13-2 record, it’s not hard to notice that the two losses came against teams (Lake Ridge and Cedar Park) that are a combined 30-0 and playing for state titles.
“Obviously the seniors are very upset,” Wood said. “I’ve told them the season isn’t a failure and it’s not in my eyes, but I know they’re disappointed. This is a bump in the road. It’s football, it’s a game, but you did put a lot of time and a lot of work into it. It’s supposed to hurt; it’s supposed to be disappointing when you lose.”
Garrett Hyles, one of those Aledo seniors, is trying keep it all in perspective.
“I think it was successful. Obviously, it would have been nice to keep playing another week,” Hyles said. “We played hard and every week got better. That’s all you can ask for. The expectations are high in Aledo, but you do the best you can. Of course [the fans are] upset that we didn’t win state again, but then again we were one game away from the state final. We did our best and I think they understand that.”
“All that being said, I think we had a lot of guys come on and come on well to play for us,” Wood added. “I think over time we’ll realize it was still a successful season. But in the end, if you’re not playing in that last one you haven’t achieved your goal.”
Over in Mansfield there are new goals — goals that have come as a result of this season.
“This is one of those seasons where I want the underclassmen to remember and think about,” Hulme said. “This is the goal now. The goal several years ago was to get past the third round. Now we’ve reset the bar. Now our goal will always be to get as far as the 2015 team and let’s go one step closer.”
Hulme wouldn’t mind to someday have Aledo’s history of accomplishment and expectations, but cautions that sustaining such success is a nearly impossible undertaking.
“You can’t win it every year, I don’t care who you are,” he said. “Even the Patriots don’t win it every year. That’s the beauty of sports.”