Derrick Taylor’s coaching philosophy is simple yet complicated all at the same time.
“If you want to be a thoroughbred, you have to run with them,” the Fort Stockton head football coach explained.
And that’s the approach Taylor took when assembling the Panthers’ nondistrict schedule this season, a schedule that has Fort Stockton (0-5) winless at the halfway point of the season heading into its bye.
Through the first five weeks, Fort Stockton has lined up against a Class 4A opponent (San Angelo Lake View), a 2011 Class 3A Division II state semifinalist (Monahans) and 3A Division I quarterfinalist (Seminole), plus two other squads (Big Spring and Levelland) that are off to a combined 9-1 start in 2012.
“We could have put together a lighter schedule, but it wouldn’t have done us any good,” said Taylor, whose team started 6-0 last year before going winless in District 4-3A. “The caliber of teams that we saw (in nondistrict) are the teams we’ll see if we make the playoffs. So why not see them early and often?”
Despite not being able to pick up that elusive first victory during their nondistrict stretch, the Panthers are somewhat satisfied with the progress they have made prior to starting league play, “in which the games start to count,” Taylor added.
“It’s been a struggle and it’s been tough on us,” Taylor said. “But I think it will all pay off in the end. The kids are showing up to practice with good attitudes and they’re ready. It’s kind of a relief in the kids’ eyes that district is starting.”
Fort Stockton has a very real possibility of earning a playoff spot out of District 3-3A, which includes Pecos, Clint, Mountain View, Anthony and Fabens.
The Panthers are a new addition to the district, in which the other five teams finished a combined 21 games under .500 in 2011 (15-36).
During this week’s bye, Taylor said the Panthers will also have a little time to heal, and welcome back starting running back Victor Olivas, who’s missed the previous two weeks with a knee injury.
The Panthers open District 3-3A on Oct. 12 at Fabens (3-2).
Earlier this week, Fabens coach Don Hennigan reiterated to Taylor just how “brutal” the Panthers’ nondistrict schedule was.
“Yeah it was pretty brutal,” Taylor told his counterpart. “But if we can overcome the adversity, we’ll be better off in the long run.”
The Kermit Yellow Jackets (1-4) are hoping the same nondistrict mindset will pay dividends for them in District 2-2A Division I.
Three of Kermit’s first four opponents (Greenwood, Pecos and Reagan County) are off to a combined 12-3 start this season.
And the Yellow Jackets enter their bye week coming off a 47-0 loss to Monahans, prior to starting district play Oct. 12.
“We kind of scheduled heavy just so we’d be ready for the district,” Kermit head coach Coby Owen said. “I think it’s going to help us in the long run.
“We’re banged up and bruised up pretty good, but we’ll get healthy this week and be ready to go. The kids learned a lot (facing a tough nondistrict slate) especially with the Monahans game. But we saw the things that we need to work on and the things that we need to get better at. I was proud of them. We’ll heal up and be ready to go when district starts.”
Kermit also is hoping to battle for a postseason berth in 2-2A Division I, which only has one team that had a winning record in 2011.
Idalou finished 10-2 and reached the third round of the playoffs; the other four teams were a combined 13-27.
Owen said despite the rough start, the Yellow Jackets are fired up prior to starting the district race.
“They feel real good,” Owen said. “Their attitudes have been positive and they’ve worked extremely hard. We’ll take it one game at a time and do the best we can to get one of those playoff spots. But it’s going to be a battle week in and week out and we’re not going to be able to take a week off.”
After the nondistrict roads that both Kermit and Fort Stockton have taken to reach the halfway point of the season, no one would accuse either of them of taking a week off.
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