Fort Worth Wyatt coach Zachary Criss and his players are resolved to make this the best-tasting Thanksgiving turkey in several years.
“I get ribbed by my brother all the time,” Criss said of his brother, Anthony, one-time Wyatt coach now at Arlington Sam Houston. “The only Criss who hasn’t won a playoff game. I’m a family joke at Thanksgiving.
“The kids know about that so they work to get that off of me, and them as well.”
Criss isn’t the only Wyatt coach not to win recently in the postseason. The Chaparrals haven’t won a playoff game since the 2000 season under coach Lewis Hayes, who had a handy tool in the late Darrent Williams, who went on to Oklahoma State and the Denver Broncos of the NFL.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
First things first, of course. A victory Friday over Fort Worth Trimble Tech would clinch the Chaparrals’ sixth playoff appearance in the Criss’ eight years. Wyatt — at 4-4 and 4-1 in District 7-5A — enters in good shape as it stands with two games to play. The Bulldogs would need to win by more than 20 points to cause the Chaparrals trouble.
Wyatt closes the season next week against South Hills, the district frontrunner at 8-0. Arlington Heights is second at 6-2.
The Chaparrals, the fifth-largest school by enrollment in the district, are also playing to be the top small-division — Division II — school out of the district. Southwest, the sixth largest, enters this week a game back, though Wyatt has already defeated the Raiders.
If Wyatt can hang onto that No. 1 seed, it would play the No. 2 small-division finisher out of District 8-5A in bi-district. As it stands at the moment, that would be Fort Worth Dunbar, which pulled an upset a week ago of Birdville on the road.
Young players growing into critical roles have been the key to overcoming an 0-3 start. Criss has a host of sophomores up off a good freshman team a year ago, and junior quarterback Michael Franklin, seeing his first action as a varsity player, leads the team with seven touchdowns.
“Everything seems to be coming into play,” Criss said. “The kids have pulled together and grown, and gotten better. We had a great summer, they did a great job in the weight room. All of that coupled with the added experience. That’s why the offense had been slow to take off … inexperienced sophomores.”
Football is but one of a series of good things happening at Wyatt. A new principal has infused a new energy, said Criss, who added that his team is performing as well academically as it ever has in his tenure.
“This group of kids are working hard,” Criss said. “The school in general has great morale. It’s been a great year all-around.”
The next new experience for many of these Chaparrals will in all probability be the playoffs. A victory would be uncharted territory for everybody.
In 2000, Wyatt advanced three rounds deep, defeating Burleson and Wichita Falls Rider before being eliminated by Wolfforth Frenship, led by quarterback Kendal Briles, now the offensive coordinator at Baylor.
In the bi-district victory over Burleson at Pennington Field, Williams had 165 yards and two touchdowns on three offensive touches. Defensively, he had two key interceptions the next week.
Wyatt is the last Fort Worth ISD football team to reach the third round.
“It hasn’t happened in 16 years,” Criss said. “It’d be huge for the program, huge for the community.”
Faith back honored
Grapevine Faith running back Keyshawn Wyatt has been named the private school Week 9 Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week. The senior rushed for 400 yards and six touchdowns on 22 carries last week against Fort Worth Christian.
Players of the Week
Mansfield Summit quarterback Brysen McKinney is the dfwVarsity offensive Player of the Week for Week 9, and Summit defensive back Jaylon Richard is the defensive Player of the Week. A total of 60,605 votes were cast.
Reach John Henry at email@example.com. Twitter: @John_F_Henry