Despite a young roster, Thomas-Fay-Custer has turned into a Class A powerhouse the past two seasons.
During each season, the Terriers cruised to a district championship, going a combined 19-1 in regular season play.
But both times, after deep playoff runs, their state title hopes were cut short in the semifinals by Woodland.
“Yeah, they've been though on us,” Thomas coach Bob Ward said. “But it's only made us more hungry. We've gotten close, but we haven't finished.”
And that's what 2012 is all about. Finishing.
With 15 seniors on his roster — many of them returning starters — Ward hopes his suddenly experienced team can take advantage of a final chance.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of guys that have started three or four years,” Ward said. “I think we return like eight guys on both sides of the ball. These guys realize it's their last year and it's their goal to finish the right way.”
HOLLIS BUILDING OFF LATE-SEASON RUN
Hollis' 2011 campaign was the perfect example of a tale of two seasons.
In a disastrous first half, the Tigers went winless, with four of the five losses by double-digits.
But facing an uphill battle, Hollis won its final four regular-season games, leading to an easy 48-13 victory over Empire in the first round of the playoffs.
“We battled back and showed our heart,” Tigers coach Reade Box said. “Our early season losses were all against tough teams. Some of the best teams in Texas.”
Facing undefeated Thomas in the second round, Hollis took the district champs down to the wire, losing 21-14 on a late touchdown.
“After the game, we were disappointed and we had kids crying,” Box said. “I mean, you're not a competitor if it doesn't hurt to lose. But at the same time, we were really proud of the outcome of the season and the experience it gave us.”
And now, returning many of its better players, Hollis confidently strolls into District A-2, setting up a potential rivalry with league-favorite Thomas.
“Even after the game last year, we knew that was going to be hyped up game,” Box said. “We are trying to get to where they have been.”
Realignment has swept across Oklahoma high school football, and its reverberations were felt in District A-2.
Essentially, the league will be an altered version of last season's District A-3, with five of the teams (Hollis, Sayre, Apache, Snyder and Burns Flat-Dill City) coming over.
Joining them will be Thomas (District A-1 winners in 2012) and Cordell (a 2-8 team in 2A-3 that was demoted).
“I like the changes,” Box said. “I think we are going to have a competitive league.”
For other teams, the benefits stretch past the competitiveness.
“Well, last year we were up in the Panhandle league,” Ward said. “So the travel will be less in this district, and that's always good.”
District A-2 coaches' poll
1. Thomas-Fay-Custer (13-1)
2. Hollis (5-6)
3. Cordell (2-8)
4. Sayre (5-6)
5. Apache (1-9)
6. Snyder (3-7)
7. Burns Flat-Dill City (3-6)
Note: Last year's record in parenthesis