Watch Keller Central’s football team and you’ll probably come away with the same reaction, time after time after time.
“How does this team win by doing this?”
Nothing is conventional. The offense typically isn’t explosive. The defense plays stingy. Special teams are sound but not game-changing. Yet somehow, the sum is greater than the parts.
Heck, not even head coach Bart Helsley can explain it.
“Our kids play very hard every week,” Helsley said. “Some weeks, we can score quite a few points. Some weeks we don’t. We’re very good on defense. We’re getting more consistent on offense. The goal is to win the game. I really like the way the kids have bought into what we’re doing.”
The Chargers may not be easy on the eyes. What has been easy recently is the scoreboard. Central (5-2, 3-0) has won four consecutive games and meets Keller Fossil Ridge (7-0, 3-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Keller ISD Athletic Complex for the outright District 3-6A lead.
This is arguably the most meaningful game Central has played in a regular season since Oct. 20 against Carroll. The Chargers lost, 24-21. Had they won, it would have created a first-place tie.
Ironically, this game falls the same week of the season. The Chargers and Panthers have split the previous four meetings.
This meaning-filled game offers a far better prognosis than what was forecast. The Chargers were considered a borderline playoff team.
Now, they likely need only one more win in these last three games — Keller Fossil Ridge Friday, Keller Timber Creek Nov. 3 and Haltom Nov. 9 — to wrap up a sixth postseason appearance in the past seven seasons.
In an era where points and yards are easily racked up, the Chargers are a throwback. They’re churning out just 281 yards per game. No quarterback is on pace to throw for 1,000 yards. No running back is on pace to rush for 700 yards.
Yet it’s been enough, because the defense has forced 16 turnovers. The Chargers are plus-5 in that critical ratio. They have won games scoring 17 points or less three times. They’ve been shut out, 7-0. They’ve won, 7-3.
They have forced teams to play a more deliberate pace and frustrate them. Central’s patience is its mainstay.
“I know we’re not a flashy team,” senior cornerback Noah Moreno said. “But we put our trust in what our coaches put on the table for us. The style we play is something we work on executing every day.”
The challenge against the Panthers is devising a way to slow down a pretty aggressive offense that is has surpassed 35 points five times and features several dynamic playmakers highlighted by wide receiver Stefan Cobbs.
It’s already a given the Chargers are underdogs. Being an unknown is just part of the landscape. Players have long understood that. Their faith in the philosophy overrides all.
“Our kids will play with a chip on their shoulder,” Helsley said. “They’re OK with that. We always feel like we have. But each week, we try to approach the game in the same manner. At the end of the day, our focus is on what you did and how you played.”