High School Football

Many Fort Worth-area teams tasted first playoff wins in forever

Richland cheerleaders and players celebrate the Rebels’ first football playoff victory since 1984 after a 42-35 win Friday over Fort Worth South Hills.
Richland cheerleaders and players celebrate the Rebels’ first football playoff victory since 1984 after a 42-35 win Friday over Fort Worth South Hills. Special to the Star-Telegram

It didn’t rain Friday night, but several major droughts ended nevertheless.

For Richland, Grapevine, Fort Worth Dunbar and Justin Northwest, playoff dry spells stretched back years, even decades. And for Keller Timber Creek, a relative upstart in the local football landscape, it was the first taste of postseason victory.

Before Friday night’s rally against Fort Worth South Hills, Richland last won a playoff game in 1984 — 10 years before current coach Ged Kates graduated from the school.

“As far as our kids were concerned, 1984 is the same as 1884,” he said.

Kates said he and his staff decided not to make the long absence of playoff wins a major talking point, hoping to avoid any undue pressure on the team.

They were aware going into the game, not so much from us as coaches saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to make history, but they knew it from the groundswell of support we’ve had.

Richland coach Ged Kates, on his players’ awareness of no playoff victory since 1984

“We focused on the fact we’re having fun together and let’s go see what we can do here,” Kates said. “They were aware going into the game, not so much from us as coaches saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to make history,” but they knew it from the groundswell of support we’ve had.”

Indeed, it’s been a long while since Rebels students and alumni felt so good about their football team. Richland reached the postseason in 2008 and 2009, but lost both seasons to Arlington Bowie in the bi-district round.

“The school has an unbelievable sense of pride,” Kates said. “Like any school, when the football team does well, it just changes the atmosphere of the entire school. Homework isn’t quite so bad, the lunchroom food tastes a little bit better, it’s not so bad to wake up in the morning and get there on time.”

When I first got here, nobody was talking anything about state championships. Everybody was just talking about trying to win any game.

Grapevine coach Randy Jackson

Grapevine’s drought didn’t stretch back quite so far, but the Mustangs have hardly resembled the program that won 4A state titles in 1996 and 1998. Coach Randy Jackson arrived in 2014 and found very little residual pride from the glory days.

“When I first got here, nobody was talking anything about state championships,” Jackson said. “Everybody was just talking about trying to win any game.”

Before Friday’s 70-0 whitewashing of Fort Worth Southwest, the Mustangs last won a playoff game in 2006, suffering six consecutive bi-district defeats in that span. Now, Jackson sees the growth in his team as the bar of expectations is raised.

“In two years we’ve gone from a regular-season, nondistrict win being a huge deal to the bi-district win feeling like it wasn’t the Super Bowl we were playing,” he said.

Dunbar last advanced in the postseason in 2001, when the Wildcats defeated Stephenville before falling to Southlake Carroll 23-22 in the second round. The closest they came to playoff success since then was a double-overtime loss to Stephenville in 2008.

Fort Worth Independent School District hasn’t seen much playoff success in recent years, and Dunbar, which knocked out Fort Worth Wyatt 25-19, could match the longest run by a member school since 2000 with a win this week.

1 Football playoff victory for Justin Northwest in its more than 50-year history after the Texans rallied from 16 points down to beat Denton 31-29.

Justin Northwest had never won a playoff game in school history, which dates more than half a century. The Texans were 0-8 in the postseason before overcoming a 16-point deficit Friday night to oust Denton High 31-29. Northwest coach Bill Poe said making history was definitely discussed among his players.

“Several times we put it out in front of them that they have an opportunity to make history,” Poe said. “It was something we relished in and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity … It’s a tribute to how hard our kids have worked and especially after the kind of season we had last year [1-9] to be able to turn that around almost 180 degrees.”

Timber Creek opened in 2009, with the first varsity football season in 2010. The Falcons advanced to the playoffs in 2012, losing to Arlington in the first round. Friday, they etched school history by knocking off perennial playoff team Arlington Martin.

“It’s amazing to even get to the playoffs for Timber Creek, let alone win a playoff game,” coach Kevin Golden said. “I knew Martin was a good team and a storied program with tradition. They’ve been in the playoffs for 11 straight years. Of course, I’m not going to tell my team anything about that. I’m going to hope they don’t know that.”

Up next

  • Richland vs. Denton Ryan, 7 p.m. Friday, Justin Northwest ISD Stadium
  • Grapevine vs. Aledo, 7 p.m. Friday, Saginaw High School
  • Fort Worth Dunbar vs. Saginaw Boswell, 7 p.m. Saginaw Chisholm Trail High School
  • Justin Northwest vs. Colleyville Heritage, 2 p.m. Saturday, The Star at the Ford Center in Frisco
  • Keller Timber Creek vs. San Angelo Central, 7 p.m. Friday, Keller ISD Stadium
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