Everyone in Dawson knows why their Bulldogs are alive and well and running through the Class 2A DII playoffs.
It starts with coach Ronnie Striplin who turned the program around when he arrived three years ago and the team itself seems to epitomize everything Striplin has brought to Dawson, where hard work and discipline have molded the Bulldogs on their 10-2 run to the 2A Region II Quarterfinals.
That’s where Muenster, a 10-2 team that looks and acts and plays a lot like Dawson, will be waiting at 2 p.m. Friday at the Birdville Fine Arts and Athletics Complex in North Richland Hills.
This is Dawson’s first trip to the third round of the playoffs since 2005 and third in the history of the program.
Muenster knows all about the playoffs. The Hornets won the state title two years ago and they haven’t lost a district game in more than three years. They line up and play hard-nose, disciplined football, just like Dawson, and everyone knows this will be a battle of wills as much as football Friday.
This is by far Dawson’s biggest test in the playoffs because of Muenster’s experience and tradition and confidence.
That’s fine with the Dawson kids, who know why they’re here.
“It’s unbelievable how much work we put in,” said Dawson QB Brendan Horner, the leader on and off the field for the Bulldogs. “It’s the hard work that’s got us where we are. We work hard and we have a great bond.”
They believe in each other, and in Striplin, and as the coach points out, this team has not only bought in, but they’re all in.
The seniors were sophomores when he arrived and now they’re the true leaders of Dawson’s run.
They grew up the Dawson Way.
“They worked their tails off that first year and we went 3-7 and they worked their tails off when we went 5-5 last year,” said Striplin, who is all about old school football and doing things the right way — the Dawson Way.
“We do what we do,” he said of Dawson’s no nonsense, run-the-ball offense and it’s swarming, hard-hitting defense.
The Bulldogs come at you all at once and all together, time and time again.
“This team comes to play,” said Dawson defensive coordinator Matthew Fonville. “They play hard and they play with a lot of heart — a lot of heart. They just keep pushing.”
And they’re confident, but not cocky.
“We’re not coming in here with a high head,” said junior Body Martinez, a linebacker/tight end who makes an impact on both sides of the line. “But we’re coming in to hit you (hard).”
Striplin knows how special his kids are and appreciates the ones who were here when he arrived because “They’ve been with me the whole way,” he says.
“They were here in the beginning.”
That makes the run (not just the 10-2 season and not just the stretch through the playoffs), but the three-year run priceless.
These Bulldogs are grounded. They know where they came from and how they got here — and they know exactly where they want to go.
As Striplin says:
“We do what we do.”