It has been a fast track for a young team that hasn't had a lot of time to grow up, but like it or not the real season is here, and on Friday night Hal Wasson's young Tigers begin the District 8-5A DII season in Greenville, where they face their most significant test.
Just getting here has seen the Tigers grow up since Wasson arrived in January and met a squad of just 32 players (there are now more than 100 in the program), and they have made big strides over the past two weeks because both of Corsicana's pre-district games were against playoff teams that brought back a ton of experience and talent.
The Tigers went 1-1, losing to No. 13 Burleson Centennial, and coming back to beat Boswell last week in the home opener. Wasson knows how big this game is, and on Thursday he pointed to where he thought his team was on the eve of the district race.
“The positives are we've got good kids and they're buying into the mindset we're bringing (to the program), and I'm really excited about our coaching staff. I'm excited about the support we're getting, and I'm excited that we're getting better,” Wasson said.
“We're playing 16 guys who have no varsity experience and we're seeing improvement and we have so many young guys getting experience,” he said. “Our first two opponents were very experienced, seasoned teams. Our Tigers have had to weather some pretty intense storms, and they've weathered them.”
The Tigers made a giant leap from Week 1 to Week 2, and found a running game that wasn't there in the beginning of the season, rushing for more than 300 yards in last week's 40-34 win over Boswell in which Eric Dickson ran for 193 yards and Damarius Daniels ran for 100, including a game-winning 12-yard TD run with 34 seconds left.
Wasson made changes last week and emphasized the run, and his kids produced. Now they have to make another giant leap, because the game is a crucial game — and it's on the road.
“I enjoy playing on the road,” Wasson said. “It's a good learning experience, and road games bring good camaraderie. And I like it because it's a good time to experience mental toughness.
“No doubt, it's a huge game for us,” he said. “We've got to be better this week to be able to win.”
Wasson said his team had another good of practice.
“The biggest energizer we got this week was we got a cooler breeze and it went from 103 degrees to 95. It's always good to get that kind of break.”
Two of the nine teams in the 8-5A race are off to 2-0 starts as North Forney and Royce City have yet to lose, but Ennis, which beat Waxahachie 21-13 and lost to Dallas Bishop Lynch, the TAPPS DI state champ 41-34, is still considered the favorite to win the district.
The Tigers, who won the 8-5A title last season, have lost only three district games in the past three years, but most of that team graduated, and Wasson has come in and worked with a young team that saw 92 percent of the offense leave.
The young Tigers do have momentum after last week's dramatic comeback win, but Wasson knows that:
“Last week's win has nothing to do with this week's win as far as execution goes,” he said. “One area of concern I still have is we've got to be more disciplined. The key word for us this week is 'Self-control,' and being your best when you have to be. Last week should be a brick in the foundation. We've got to be able to execute.
“Boswell was a good challenge and Greenville will be a big challenge. We know all about them being athletic. We know they're fast. If we're not better this week, we'll come away from this game disappointed.”
Wasson knows his team has to step up, and step up against another veteran team — a Greenville team that has a big play offense and can score in a hurry, a team that has already scored 82 points in splitting a pair of games, including a 45-12 win over Dallas Lincoln last week.
“The fact of the matter is that we're playing our third team that has 15-16 returning starters, and we've got 16 guys who never played varsity football,” Wasson said. “I'm proud of these guys. They have continued every day to get better. We've told them to just get a little better every day, and they have done that.”
But Wasson adds that the team is a work in progress and has a long way to go ...
“We want to be driving on Interstate 45 at 75 mph, cruising at 75,” Wasson said. “We're not at 75 yet, but there are plenty of good things ahead for this team.”