By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
MILDRED — —
MILDRED — Patrick Harvell has reminded his football team several times this week that he expected the Mildred Eagles to be in this position, with another chance to play for a state championship.
Actually, he reminded the Eagles of that notion a year ago almost to this day, in Mansfield after Mildred’s season stalled in the Class 2A DII state semifinals with a gut-wrenching 35-28 loss to Cisco.
Mildred’s most successful coach in school history wanted his team to know that the expectation was that the Eagles would be back, on the doorstep, of the state finals and Cowboys Stadium.
There’s no word if it was a Bum Phillips-like speech — with his famous “next year we’re gonna kick the door down” message to Houston Oilers fans after getting eliminated by the Steelers in the 1979 AFC Championship Game (actually Phillips’ speech had profanity, but we won’t go there).
Harvell probably didn’t have the same brashness 15 minutes after a tough loss to Cisco. Chances are that talk was more subdued.
But it appears he got his message across to those returning players that night in Mansfield because here the Eagles are, presented with a second chance.
If it feels like this is meant to be, it’s probably because it is.
“We walked off the field on Dec. 10 last year and I brought the kids together one last time,” Harvell said. “And I talked about how I fully expected us to be back. I told them it would take hard work in the offseason. Look at how we’ve worked hard as a team. They’ve done a great job.”
Harvell is a smart guy. One area counterpart this week called him an “unbelievable coach.”
But let’s go back to smart.
Harvell knew he had the crucial player returning, his quarterback Nic Shimonek, who should go over 8,000 yards Friday night against Sonora. There would be no breaking in a new offensive leader during the ofseason.
Harvell also had running back Draylon Sterling. Jeremy Ballard. Noah Pennell. Thomas Finigmow. Mikey Muncy. His coaching staff was intact (the Eagles did lose offensive coordinator Kevin Morton to a head coaching job in Normangee).
All the key components were in place for another deep playoff run.
Harvell also knew he had more than just a talented roster. He knew he would have a hungry team.
One that tasted big-time postseason success last fall. One that came so close, with the ball in their hands driving for a game-tying touchdown in the final seconds against Cisco.
Nothing is more motivating than falling just short of your dream. Nothing is more motivating than getting a second chance.
“Knowing that feeling of how it felt when we lost,” Shimonek said. “We’re a lot more hungry. No one wants that feeling again.”
The Eagles’ team I saw Tuesday at practice acted like it’s been here before. It was a crisp workout. As Raymond documented in a story in Thursday’s paper, the Eagles were loose. They were chatty.
They had the look of a team ready for this moment.
Talking to a group of players after practice in the weight room, it was easy to see that this team is ready. And they’re confident, because they’ve been on this stage before and they know that they’re capable of taking the next step.
The championship step.
Next stop Arlington.