Mineral Wells head football coach Chuck Lawrence is consistent.
For the past three years I have covered the Rams, whether the team is 0-5 or 3-2 in non-district play, he has always said the same thing after each non-league contest – “We are still 0-0.”
Of course, any team 0-5 in non-district play will have their coach say that, and it does sound like just a morale booster.
But I have also been on the other end of the stick.
When covering Aledo for their local weekly newspaper a few years back, I asked Bearcats head coach Tim Buchanan how he felt about his team being 3-0 heading into district play.
Buchanan, with a near scowl on his face, reminded me that “We are 0-0. Nothing more; nothing less. Those three (non-district) games don’t count toward anything.”
Lawrence reminded me once again when we were talking during our usual weekly meeting that the season really begins Friday when the Rams host the Castleberry Lions in the District 6-3A opener for both teams.
“When you are 0-5 that (0-0 district record) is great news, and if you are 5-0 it might not be such great news,” Lawrence said. “But either way it is the same thing – 0-0.”
Morale booster are not, the facts remain the facts: All 6-3A schools are 0-0 and there is new life – and new hope – for those teams like the Rams with losing non-district records.
Non-district records also don’t always tell the entire story. The Rams had six starters out in their season opener Aug. 30 against Graham, and in the following three games had an average of five starters out due to injury.
In their final non-district game, the Rams got one of those players back and expect Kolby Parks and Grant Peters to be back for the district opener.
Who knows what the Rams’ record would have been had the injury bug not come down hard on the team. But, you know what? Regardless of what the record could have been, it would still be 0-0 now.
If there can be any “good” news that came from the injuries it has been the improvisation of the Rams coaches who had the unenviable task of getting a team ready without its top three running backs.
What those coaches found was versatility among its players. Receivers Kelly Williams and DaShawn Hicks have not only proven to be formidable, explosive running backs, but another back who was buried deep in the depth chart in August now looks like a veteran varsity running back in sophomore Tristan Seargeant.
The three backs have combined for 497 yards on 78 carries for an incredible 6.37 yards per carry since coming on as running backs dating back to the Glen Rose game three contests ago.
Not bad for a fourth-string back and two players with no running back experience. I call that good coaching of good athletes.
Seargeant has really emerged, gaining 199 yards on 28 totes for a whopping 7.1 yards per carry.
Now add Parks to the offensive backfield mix and the Rams are suddenly a difficult team to prepare for. If the Rams can keep up that average they will win their share of District 6-3A ball games.
The running game will also help junior quarterback Caleb Acosta, who has not enjoyed a “breakout” game as of yet. The district opener can change that. Recall Acosta had one of his best games last year against Castleberry, completing 10 of 18 passes for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Rams are also hoping a solid defensive effort turned in two weeks ago against Burkburnett will carry over to Friday night.
“The non-district games are strictly there to help you get ready for district,” Lawrence said. “District starts Friday and hopefully the improvements we have made and the level of preparedness we have had aiming for this week will come together.
“We feel we have done a good job of getting the kids ready to play, and hopefully the kids mentally will come out and have a good ball game.”
Let’s get ready for district play.
Every team will begin Friday at 0-0.