Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Coaches go back to basics on bye week as most teams enter district play next week
Arlington Bowie players were so pumped with adrenaline after last week’s win that they probably could’ve run past the buses and sprinted back to their campus. Their 38-36 victory over Skyline gave them a burst of momentum that could extend to a game this week.
So maybe it would be better if Bowie wasn’t among the teams taking the week off. But there’s nothing bad about a bye week, coach Kenny Perry said.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “We can go back to fundamentals.”
It’s that way for a few dozen teams, who aren’t playing this week as they prepare for the start of district, when winning and losing really matters. More than half of the teams in the top 10 of the Class 4A and 5A area rankings won’t be hitting the fields this weekend.
Instead, they’ll be absorbing a hard-hitting rerun of football basics.
“It’s like going back to fall practice and getting a refresher,” Perry said.
The teams with bye weeks have already played three games, giving coaches a chance to evaluate players and make some adjustments. But planning for a different opponent each week cuts into time for preparing your own team.
And so the bye week is a breath of fresh air, even for teams that are on a roll, such as Frisco Centennial and Lancaster in 4A and Jesuit and Colleyville Heritage in 5A. Heritage’s next opponent is Euless Trinity, the powerhouse it has finished second to in district the last two years, but coach Mike Fuller isn’t devoting two full weeks to game-planning for the Trojans.
“We’re using this first week to focus on us and some of the things we need to do better,” Fuller said. “If you spend two full weeks working on a game plan, by the time you get to the second week, you’ve kind of lost your edge.”
Teams can get a jump on preparing for the next opponent, but the off week is more about looking in the mirror.
For Bowie, that means getting some more practice time for sophomore quarterback Tony James, who made his first start last week in place of the injured Keaton Perry. For Skyline, which suffered its first regular-season loss since 2010, there are issues to address with the consistency of the offense, as well as a defense that coach Reginald Samples said is still finding its way. The off week allows extra teaching time for the Skyline linebackers, none of whom were starters last season.
The benefit of having a “refresher” week in the middle of the season is why playing on Zero Week has become so popular. The University Interscholastic League began allowing Zero Week play in 1998, but there were only a smattering of games the first couple of years.
Then coaches began seeing the value of a bye week, especially if they could place it right before district play.
“We’re taking our three games that we played as a season in itself, breaking it apart and working on the things we need to improve,” Samples said, “because now we’re in the most important part of the season.”
That would be the district season, when winning is an adrenaline rush and a step toward a playoff spot.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
DeSoto and Cedar Hill, two of the top teams in 7-5A, meet Friday in a game that could decide the district title. The following week there are several other showdowns that could decide a district title:
District 6-5A: Colleyville Heritage vs. Euless Trinity
District 9-5A: Jesuit vs. Skyline
District 12-5A: Mesquite vs. Longview
District 11-4A: Carter vs. Kimball