In the final moments of last week’s 31-21 victory over Stephenville, Celina junior defensive end Preston Smith came up with the play of the year near the goal line.
As Stephenville quarterback Kade Renfro neared the pylon to make it a one-score game, Smith came out of nowhere to not only stop Renfro, but also stripped the ball out of his grasp.
Senior wide receiver, and newly converted defensive back, Noah Ross just happened to be at the right place at the right time. He then scooped up the loose football and raced nearly 70 yards to the other side of the field to seal the deal on one the area’s more unexpected postseason outcomes yet.
“I remember just picking the ball up and looking at the sidelines because I was right there, and everyone was just going crazy,” Ross said.
After making the move from quarterback to wide receiver this past offseason, Ross has really come alive in the team’s two playoff games and given the offense a much-needed boost.
So far in the postseason, Ross has hauled in 20 catches for 207 yards and two scores, one of which came on the Bobcats’ final offensive play of the game two weeks ago in a thrilling 35-34 come-from-behind win over Wilmer-Hutchins.
The way Ross has elevated his play so far in the playoffs has been the epitome of Celina football as a whole over the last three decades.
Regardless of how the regular season may go, the Bobcats generally seem to ramp things up come playoff time, which has coined the popular slogan around the town known as “Celina Time.”
It was started nearly 20 years ago by former head coach Butch Ford, who led the Bobcats to two state titles in 2005 and 2007.
“When you get into the playoffs it’s different here,” said Bill Elliott, Celina head coach. “It has to be different because you’re playing the best teams in the state and have to play at a much higher level. A lot of teams don’t understand that, especially teams that aren’t in the playoffs a lot.”
One team that Elliott feels may not fully understand what the Bobcats are capable of in the postseason is its next opponent: Argyle.
Celina and Argyle met in the final week of the regular season just three weeks ago and the state’s No.1-ranekd program took it to the Bobcats in a forgetful 63-21 outcome.
The fierce rivals, who have competed against each other in the preseason or in district play numerous times over the last two decades, now meet in the playoffs for the first time and Elliott believes his squad is better suited this time around in the rematch.
“Argyle doesn’t understand how we play in the playoffs,” he said. “We beat two really good football teams in two weeks and played a whole lot better than anybody thought we could. We have been getting better throughout the year and now it’s the time that it’s paying off.
“I don’t think Argyle is getting any better. They’re still the same team they were three weeks ago and aren’t improving. They’re already a great football team but don’t have the ceiling that we do.”
The Bobcats enter this week’s showdown against the Eagles as underdogs once again, but that is nothing new for them.
For the first time in Elliott’s tenure as head coach, Celina finished fourth in the district and needed a late-season victory over Anna to clinch its 25th consecutive playoff appearance. In fact, many of the players and coaches have embraced their new underdog identity this season.
“We knew nobody picked us to win last week and probably the same this week,” said Hunter Watson, junior quarterback. “We have that in the back of our minds and that has lit a fire under us.”