Was it a major turnaround, or just progress being made for the Keller football team this year? Maybe it was something in between.
Regardless, the outcome is a bit remarkable. After finishing last year at 1-9, Keller is back in the playoffs this season and on a roll, with the Indians playing their best football of the season.
Keller last saw the postseason in 2014 and had the makings of another playoff team in 2015, but things — as they normally do in a dry season — began to fall apart.
Last year’s one-win season was filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ moments.
The Indians lost their starting quarterback and then their leading rusher, among other things.
“Last year was just one of those years you don’t wish on anyone,” said Keller head coach Carl Stralow. “I take full credit for going 1-9. I give the kids full credit for this year’s record.”
The Indians have forged a 5-5 overall mark but came to life in the third game of the season, picking up three straight wins and managing key district victories. Two of their district losses were hotly contested. They lost to Haltom 29-26 on the game’s final play and to undefeated Fossil Ridge, 41-40.
“Things happen in a season. You’re going to win weird and lose weird,” Stralow said.
So, what was the difference this season? They endured the unremarkable 0-2 start and then replicated the loss of their key running back and later, a game and a half without the starting quarterback.
“This year we have a new group that just needed to learn how to win,” Stralow said. “Being hungry and learning to finish strong were key. We had some guys that came back, but we just needed to learn how to win again. With the teams in this area, that isn’t easy. You have to scratch some out you shouldn’t win.”
Stralow isn’t one for second-guessing, so his answer to the question of “What was the difference in what you did this year vs. last year?” was, “We’re not going to look back. We worked our tails off. We didn’t think anything was broken but we left no stone unturned (in this year’s preparations). We had some new strategies and the kids bought in,” Stralow added.
In reflection, though, Stralow said his team began to gel against L.D. Bell, as the offense began to click in a 30-28 win and really came together in Week 3 during its trip to Midland, a fruitful excursion along I-20 which produced a 36-26 win over another playoff-bound team.
What sits in front of Keller — and what lies ahead — is all that matters.
With Keller entering the playoffs playing their best football, future news stories may likely not reference the 1-9 season again.
“The season people remember you for starts next week,” Stralow was quoted in an earlier Star-Telegram story.
“We hope we can start the new (playoff) season like we finished the last one. We’re playing our best football and we’re in the tournament and proud to be there.”