BLANCHARD — Strong starts have been common in Blanchard the last few football seasons, and at 5-0, this one hasn't started significantly better than any of the last three.
But that's where everyone in Blanchard hopes the comparisons to the recent past will end.
The 2009 Lions opened 6-1 but lost three of the final five and exited the playoffs in the second round. In 2010, they started 4-1 but lost four of the next six and were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.
But last year was the stinger.
The Lions were 4-2 through six weeks, but lost three of the last four, including an 18-14 loss to Bridge Creek in Week 10 with their postseason lives on the line.
“A lot of guys were embarrassed with the way we finished last year,” Blanchard coach Jeff Craig said. “Even though we had some injuries and things happen to us, we felt like we underachieved. We made a commitment in the offseason to put something together that was special.
“We've had some fair starts the last few years, but we're really dedicating ourselves to staying focused and finishing this year.”
Not only are the fifth-ranked Lions undefeated, but they've been sharp, too. Blanchard opened with a 46-7 win over Bethany, and Week 2 brought the Lions' closest contest to date, a 30-7 win over Lindsay, currently ranked eighth in Class 2A.
Since then, the Lions have reeled off wins of 28, 47 and 45 points.
The offensive success is credited to an efficient run-pass balance behind a young offensive line that came together quickly around center Tucker Yarbrough. The junior missed last season with a shoulder injury suffered in the opening game.
The run game has been effective, with Braden Stringer and Stephan Davis each averaging better than 10 yards per carry, and quarterback Brock Lamle has been posting big numbers through the air. The senior has completed 62 of 95 passes for 901 yards with 17 touchdowns and only one interception.
Lamle points to the team's attention to minute details, which became their focus in spring and has carried on since then.
“We want everyone to be in the exact spot they need to be in for the play to work,” he said. “We want to have the best chance to succeed, whether it's the blocking angles of the linemen, or the receivers running precise routes, or me going through my reads the right way, or the running backs hitting the hole exactly right.
“We want to keep getting better, execute perfectly and be the best team we can be.”
Still, at this point, it's hard to even call Blanchard the favorite for the district title in 3A-1. Second-ranked Tuttle has been purely dominant in its five wins, and 4-1 Jones certainly can't be ignored.
All three of those teams have the talent to end up in the top 10 by the end of the season, yet one of them will have to go on the road top open the playoffs against the 3A-2 runner-up.
Blanchard, Tuttle and Jones all play each other over the final four weeks of the season, including Tuttle at Blanchard in Week 10, which could very well be for the district crown.
As pleased as the Lions are with the 5-0 start, they know how quickly a good start can turn south.
“We're confident in how we've been playing and the skills we have,” Lamle said. “We just don't want to get complacent or satisfied. We want to keep winning and make sure we don't slip up.”