Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Early losses don't doom seasons, just ask Arlington Martin and Southlake Carroll
It’s unusual when three of the area’s highly ranked Class 5A teams suffer lopsided losses in the same week. Add in three of the top four in 4A getting knocked off, including traditional power Highland Park absorbing a 41-point defeat, and that’s a pretty remarkable first week.
Remarkably bad, some might say, for the highly ranked 5A teams – Southlake Carroll, Arlington Martin and Plano West – and 4A teams – Denton Guyer, Lancaster and Highland Park – that debuted with losses. But in high school football, the sky is not falling after one week. The sky can still be the limit.
“You’ve got a full game on video, and that’s the best teaching tool,” said Martin coach Bob Wager, whose team opened with a 46-7 loss to powerhouse DeSoto. “Your first game to second game should be where your team makes the biggest leap.”
An opening loss can doom a college team’s chances for a national title, and in the NFL, an opening-night flop is often a good indicator of the bad to come. But high school teams, which don’t begin district play for a few weeks, are loaded with teenagers who are still learning the game.
A team’s ceiling isn’t just elastic; it’s not even visible after one game. And for the teams that lost openers, there are championship stories to diminish the disappointment.
Guyer, which won the 4A Division I title last year, and Cedar Park (4A Division II) started last season with two losses to 5A teams. In 2011, Aledo lost its opener and two of its first three games before rolling to the 4A Division II title. In 2010, Cibolo Steele lost two of its first three games and then won 14 straight to win the 5A Division II title.
Euless Trinity is one of the best examples of how dramatically a team can change. Early in the Trojans’ 2009 championship season, they lost back-to-back home games to Cedar Hill and Allen. Two years earlier, Trinity got clobbered by Odessa Permian, 30-3, in nondistrict play. The Trojans then crushed Permian, 38-14, during their march to a state title.
A loss early in the season doesn’t mean much. It’s what a team learns from it.
That’s the value of scheduling a powerhouse for nondistrict play.
“If you don’t play that high level of competition, sometimes your weaknesses don’t get exposed,” Wager said. “DeSoto exposed some things.”
The same thing happened for Guyer, which opened with a 38-28 loss to Cedar Hill, and Highland Park, which was flattened by Aledo, 44-3. Carroll has lots of instructional video to watch after its 49-27 loss to Allen, the state’s top-ranked 5A team.
“We’d rather find out now than 11 weeks from now,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said before the game.
If you find out in the opening week, there’s time to make changes. If you find out in the playoffs, it’s probably time to look ahead to the next season.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.