Mansfield Summit and Haslet Eaton’s football programs are experiencing two realities.
Officially, they begin the UIL Class 5A playoffs this week. Unofficially, they’ve been in the postseason for the last three.
Facing elimination in the previous two weeks, both Channon Hall’s Summit Jaguars and Ellis Miller’s Eaton Eagles had to win just to get to this point.
“We’re in a situation of win or go home,” Hall said. “But we’ve been in that for a while. You either stay locked in or put the pads up next week. We’re not holding anything back.”
Just misses in 2016 for both teams have turned into just did it in 2017.
Summit advanced with its 41-14 win over Mansfield Summit. Eaton clinched its first playoff berth in school history when it defeated White Settlement 38-31 and then received help when Justin Northwest routed Azle 49-7.
Summit (6-4) meets Crowley (6-4) in a Division I Region II bi-district game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Fort Worth’s Clark Stadium. Eaton (5-5) faces Sherman (5-5) in a Division I Region I bi-district game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Flower Mound’s Neal Wilson Stadium.
There is symmetry between the two. Each has gone through coaching changes. Hall replaced Travis Pride who relocated to Trophy Club Nelson. Miller was Brad Turner’s defensive coordinator in 2016 and was promoted to head coach in May when Turner took an administrative position within the Northwest ISD.
Miller witnessed the Week 11 frustration. Had they defeated Brewer in the 2016 finale, the Eagles would have clinched. They lost badly, 48-14.
“We went into that game last year and thought we could play with them but didn’t know for sure physically,” Miller said. “We left that game thinking they were the mature team. They were the playoff team.”
Summit was 2-3 in District 10-5A going into its final two 2016 games against Mansfield Legacy and Timberview and controlled its destiny. The Jaguars lost both.
Hall and Miller used those moments as the off-season message. They preached finishing, playing for four quarters and being mentally tough.
Summit handled Timberview. Eaton scored in the final minutes to beat Brewer on the road.
“We had the ultimate focus,” said Hall, who had taken Killeen Shoemaker to the playoffs in three of his five years before coming to Summit. “The way our players warmed up and came out of the locker room just told me they were ready to go. That’s what you want as a coach.”
Eaton fields its first senior class with 39. This team endured some gut wrenching losses this year. After a lost fumble snap on a victory formation, Frisco Independence scored on the last play to win, 29-28. Eaton lost to Saginaw Boswell, 15-14, because the 9-1 Pioneers converted a 2-point extra point after an errant snap on their first touchdown.
The Eagles then lost to Azle, 24-17, when running back Titus Swen was stopped inches away from the goal line on the final play of the game that could have tied it and sent it into overtime.
Eaton was rewarded when, trailing 31-24 in the fourth quarter at Brewer, the Eagles rallied for 14 points and the win.
“One thing we preached was our body language,” Miller said. “We told them something bad would happen. It did, but they thought they were going to win. There was urgency and purpose in every step and every practice. That’s what I liked about us.”