Wipe the slate clean football teams, get ready for the second act.
The Texas UIL high school football playoffs start Thursday and 35 days later, it’s the state championships.
That’s the ultimate goal of every player, but first, they must get past the bi-district round.
For some area teams, the road ends here. But for others, they can only build from the regular season – and the scary thing is that some of them haven’t even played their best football yet.
Keller Fossil Ridge, Aledo and Fort Worth South Hills are undefeated. Everman has won seven straight games since losing its first three. Mansfield Lake Ridge opened the season with a loss, but the Eagles have won their past nine.
At Mansfield High, success means a lengthy playoff run. The Tigers advanced three rounds last year, and five in 2015.
“I feel like we can still get better,” said Mansfield coach Daniel Maberry, whose Tigers (9-1) meet Keller Central (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Newsom Stadium in Mansfield.
In Week 3, the Tigers were shut out in the second half and had two turnovers in a 31-14 loss to Flower Mound Marcus, but from there the Tigers went 7-0 to win the District 4-6A title. Since the loss, the Tigers have won by nearly 30 points per game.
“I think our team has gotten better each week, but there are still things we can work on,” Maberry said.
Fresh off a 3-7 season, the Burleson Elks rebounded with a 9-1 record. The Elks only loss was 42-22 at Everman.
“The team believed we could run the table and possibly go 10-0,” coach Gary McElroy said. “We didn’t play our best game against Everman, but the next day we met and said anything less than 9-1 would be unacceptable.”
The Elks made good on that goal, winning their final four games. They scored at least 28 points in each.
“They committed themselves to finishing the season in a strong fashion,” said McElroy, whose team faces Mansfield Legacy (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Farrington Field. “I don’t feel like we played our best football.”
“Obviously, the opponents get tougher from here on out, but I believe our team is getting better and more confident with every win. The more opportunity we have to practice, the more mature they become about things.”
Euless Trinity went 1-2 to begin the year before going unbeaten in District 5-6A. The struggling Trojans’ offense improved by averaging two more touchdowns a game in district play.
Appearing in the playoffs for the 20th straight season, Trinity (8-2) meets Plano (7-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pennington Field. The game will be televised live on KTXA/Ch. 21.
“I’m pleased with their grit,” Trinity coach Chris Jensen said. “But there’s lots of room for improvement.”
In District 8-5A, Colleyville Heritage lost to state Associated Press No. 1 Aledo in the season opener, but reeled off nine consecutive wins since by an average of 37 points a game.
Statewide AP voters also noticed. The Panthers finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll.
Heritage (9-1) meets Fort Worth Arlington Heights (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Birdville Fine Arts Athletic Complex.
“I think we have improved every week, but haven’t played our best football this year and our guys know that and are beginning to understand what needs to be done to achieve it,” coach Joe Willis said. “We certainly aren’t done building our résumé and need to keep that mentality if we are going to be our best in the second season.”
BI-DISTRICT PREDICTIONS (winners in bold) Thursday
Lake Worth vs. Midlothian Heritage
Lamar vs. Haltom
Brewer vs. Ryan
Southwest vs. Richland
Rider vs. Aledo
YMLA vs. Grapevine
Alvarado vs. Springtown
Mineral Wells vs. Carter
Vernon vs. Glen Rose
Clyde vs. Brock
Bridgeport vs. Godley
Life vs. Iowa Park
Ranchview vs. Kennedale
Waxahachie vs. Everman
Burleson vs. Legacy
Denison vs. Boswell
Summit vs. Crowley
Centennial vs. Lake Ridge
Arlington Heights vs. Colleyville Heritage
Eaton vs. Sherman
Birdville vs. South Hills
Plano vs. Trinity
Keller vs. Martin
Arlington vs. Fossil Ridge
McKinney vs. Carroll
Nelson vs. Guyer
Central vs. Mansfield
Bishop Gorman vs. FW Christian
Grapevine Faith vs. Dallas Christian
Southwest Christian vs. CH Trinity Christian
WP Trinity Christian vs. Coram Deo
All Saints vs. Nolan Catholic
Gainesville State vs. Colleyville Covenant
Grace Prep vs. Lubbock Christian
Last week: 40-8
Season: 420-130 (76.4 winning percentage)