After starting its season 0-5, Creekview’s football team is attempting to stage some second-half heroics to climb back into the playoff mix in District 4-5A Division II.
If the Mustangs hope to do so, they can look no further than a resurgent stretch for their offense as something to help pave the way.
Creekview has lit up the scoreboard in recent weeks, at last rewarded with a notch in the win column after using a 36-point second half to distance from Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt, 64-36, on Nov. 13.
“No doubt it was a relief. We had every opportunity to win the week before but just couldn’t finish it,” said Jay Cline, Creekview head coach. “I thought it was something our kids really needed and it felt like a bit of a weight off our shoulders to get that one under our belts.”
The performance doubled as the second straight game the Mustangs have scored at least 50 points. They were operating with a similar effectiveness on Nov. 6 in a 52-51 shootout with Fort Worth South Hills that was decided on a blocked extra point by the Scorpions.
Creekview eclipsed 400 yards in both games — a marked stride from the unit’s production over the first half of the season. Over the Mustangs’ first four games, they totaled just 17 points versus 115 scored in the games against South Hills and Wyatt.
“I think part of it is that we went into the offseason without getting to do much during the summer. We hadn’t really seen the kids much since March,” Cline said. “We graduated a great group of kids and had to replace a lot of people, so it took some time to find exactly what fit our kids’ strengths, but Rob Paschall and our offensive staff have done a great job handling it.
“We’re still running the same offense, but they’ve found some things that fit the strengths of the kids a little more.”
The Mustangs are a stylistic outlier in today’s spread-heavy age of high school football, deploying a flexbone offense predicated on the run. The graduation of 33 seniors from a 46-man roster meant some arduous work for the Creekview coaching staff finding the best way to assemble its personnel.
The COVID-related casualties of the offseason, from no spring ball to limited skill work in the summer, only amplified that challenge, but Cline is optimistic that his players are beginning to hit their stride.
“The biggest thing is the kids are starting to learn a bit more,” he said. “For a lot of them, this is their first time playing varsity football and it took some time. Now, they’re just performing better.”
For the Mustangs’ offense to function, an effective ground game is a must and Creekview’s plight steepened prior to its first scrimmage when the team’s projected bell-cow rusher, Edgar Paige, tore his ACL. The trickle-down effect meant a reassignment of several roles on offense, most notably moving senior David Thompson to take a more featured role running the ball.
As the Mustangs’ offense has found new life, Thompson has been one of the biggest beneficiaries with a combined 302 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Wyatt and South Hills.
“Part of it is him just getting used to a brand-new position,” Cline said. “We didn’t put him there until the second game of the season. It took some time, but he’s got got great athletic ability and is strong and quick.”
As Creekview forces opponents to stack the box and key in on the run, junior quarterback Garrett Palacio has been opportunistic in deploying a play-action game that has featured a strong connection with junior receiver Sean Sallis. A big target at 6-foot-3, Sallis was the recipient of all seven of Palacio’s completions against South Hills — totaling 172 yards and three touchdowns. He found the end zone again versus Wyatt.
“He’s a great talent. We knew coming in that he was a talent we’d be able to use, because of what we run offensively and how it can open up that play-action passing game,” Cline said. “We thought we could do that and with Garrett Palacio being a good passer at quarterback, we’ve been able to take advantage of that.”
Creekview will need its newfound resurgence to continue in the weeks to come should it try and make up ground on the rest of the district. Games against Fort Worth North Side and Fort Worth Trimble Tech loom as the Mustangs close out the regular season.
“It’s got to be one game at a time. They can win these last games and if they do that then they set themselves up to be a playoff team,” Cline said. “But we have to do it one day at a time and one practice at at time. Everybody has to be ready to do their part.
“Our offense has a lot of confidence and is hitting its stride. I still think we can get a lot better, too.”