The start of the football playoffs is an opportunity for renewed enthusiasm for every team fortunate enough to have made it this far.
Though some resumes built during the last three months are certainly better than others, the slates are wiped clean and every team enters with the dream of winning the ultimate prize.
Each of the area qualifiers has their own story and their own history they would like to add a successful chapter to.
Several teams were able to extend streaks of success. Rowlett is back in the playoffs for its Garland ISD record 14th consecutive season. Horn is on a run of 11 straight postseason berths, Poteet qualified for the seventh consecutive year and Sunnyvale is back for the fifth time in a row.
We have seen impressive turnarounds, both during the course of the season, and also as a program.
Mesquite posted a 1-9 record last season, but head coach Jeff Fleener and his staff made a commitment to the team and they responded with a winning record to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Sachse has never lost more than one non-district game in a season, but found itself searching for an identity after a 0-3 start. The Mustangs found it and have flourished since, winning seven in a row to claim their third consecutive outright district championship.
Horn’s turnaround was even more dramatic. The Jaguars lost their first seven games against opponents who would finish the season with a combined record of 61-7. They learned from those experiences to win their final three games to punch their ticket.
“If win out, we’re in, period,” said Horn head coach Mike Overton after their first victory three weeks ago. “That’s what we have to do and once you get in, who knows what can happen.”
It is the last part of the statement that teams rally around.
Why not us?
This is not an area known for producing football state championship teams. Garland is the only GISD team to win a state title, but three of those (1956, 1963, 1964) are more than a half-century old, with exception being the 1999 champion.
Mesquite’s 2001 state titlist is the only MISD program to hoist the trophy.
But area teams have not been exempt from stepping up at this time of year and delivering memorable moments and runs.
Rowlett might have the single-biggest upset among this group against, ironically, the program they are facing this week.
In 2007, Allen, much like this season, entered the playoffs with a perfect 10-0 record and a No. 4 ranking in the state poll. Rowlett, conversely, was just 5-5 and was coming off a tough loss in the regular season finale.
It was Rowlett, though, that shocked Allen in racing to a 30-0 lead in the first half. Allen regrouped and made a furious charge, but the Eagles were able to make the plays they needed down the stretch to hold on for a 37-32 victory and an upset that is still talked about around the state today.
While Rowlett was unable to keep the magic going, other area teams have put together a string of victories.
Nobody expected Poteet to make the playoffs in 2010, let alone be a factor. The Pirates were coming off a winless season and had lost 18 consecutive games.
But they also had a new culture under first-year head coach Randy Jackson. Poteet put together a solid regular season and then caught fire, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before suffering a narrow 29-27 loss to eventual champion Aledo.
Just two years ago, the Pirates again stepped into the spotlight. After a 7-3 regular season, they took off with an impressive streak of victories over favored opponents to return to the state semifinals, where they again fell to Aledo.
Poteet also made trips to the regional finals in 2012 and 2013, the latter of which featured a memorable 65-60 win over Whitehouse and current NFL star Patrick Mahomes.
West Mesquite advanced to the regional finals in 2007, as did Horn in 2010 and Sunnyvale in 2015, and Rowlett and Sachse have each made recent runs to the regional semifinals.
Those runs did not end in lifting a state championship trophy, but that is also why none of these programs back away from the fact that it is still their ultimate goal.
They have enjoyed a taste of success and seen that a run from this area is possible.
It is that belief that gives them equal optimism to that of more-noted programs
And it is that belief they hope will allow them to make history this seasoan.
That journey starts Friday.