Written by Matt Wixon
Slow starts don't stop teams like Garland, McKinney Boyd, Frisco Wakeland from returning to playoffs
It’s the final week of the regular season, so dozens of Dallas-area teams are immersed in the swampy landscape of point-differentials and other tiebreakers. McKinney Boyd, however, is on solid playoff ground as it prepares to play McKinney.
“It’s sure nice to not have to wait until Week 10,” Boyd coach Don Drake said.
That luxury wasn’t easy to predict back when Boyd (5-4, 3-1 in District 10-5A) had started the season 1-3 — with all three losses by more than two touchdowns. But the Broncos are part of a large group of teams that struggled in nondistrict before steering on to the playoff road.
Arlington, Mansfield, Jesuit, Lake Highlands, Garland, Garland Naaman Forest, Frisco Wakeland and West Mesquite started the season a combined 5-27. But with one week remaining, each has already secured a playoff berth.
“We weren’t happy, and the kids weren’t happy,” Drake said of the start of the season. “But they knew they had to just keep working and continuing to improve.”
Tough schedules contributed to the ugly nondistrict records for many teams. Others were plagued by injuries, such as Garland (4-4, 4-1 in District 11-5A), which lost expected starting quarterback V.J. Gates to a torn ACL in a preseason scrimmage. Two weeks into an 0-3 start, a whopping 14 of Garland’s starters were injured.
Some starters have now returned to help Garland secure its sixth straight playoff berth. The return of injured starters has also made a big difference at Wakeland (5-4, 4-2 in District 9-4A), which missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker last year.
Early this season, Wakeland went to battle without two 2012 all-district selections: senior linebacker/running back Tyler Carver and defensive end Noah Westerfield, who is orally committed to Northwestern. Junior starting safety Jimmy Wilkins also missed time because of an injury.
“Those were all super impact guys,” Wakeland coach Marty Secord said. “We’ve got some guys back at the right time and got them on the field at the same time.”
But the biggest reason for the turnaround, Secord said, is attitude.
“The kids hung in there and kept fighting,” he said. “We try to create a family here, and when one player gets injured, the rest of the family has to step up.”
Many players have stepped up at Arlington, which in September scored a total of 13 points in back-to-back nondistrict losses to Mansfield Timberview and Lewisville. Arlington (5-4, 4-2 in 3-5A) also lost its first two district games during a 1-4 start, but Friday the Colts extended their win streak to four games by beating Arlington Bowie for the first time in four years.
Some teams just need a few extra weeks, and a few unsightly losses, to come together. For Boyd, a nondistrict schedule that included Coppell (7-1) and Mesquite Horn (7-2) put the spotlight on an inexperienced secondary. But since allowing 46 points per game in its first three losses, Boyd is allowing only 22.
Boyd’s 1-3 start mirrored last year, when it took its lumps against the same nondistrict schedule. The Broncos battled back to make the playoffs last year and expected to do the same this year.
“The kids had kind of been through that before. They learned from it,” Drake said. “I never thought we were in a position where we couldn’t recover.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon
No reason to panic
Teams that stumbled at the start of the season but have clinched playoff spots with one game remaining:
4-2 in 3-5A
4-2 in 9-4A
4-1 in 11-5A
Gar. Naaman Forest
4-1 in 11-5A
5-1 in 9-5A
4-2 in 9-5A
4-2 in 7-5A
3-1 in 10-5A
5-1 in 10-4A
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.