Could a regular season game be any bigger?
Could there be a game at any time this season that will define the 2019 Tiger football team more than the one they will play Friday night at Tiger Stadium against No. 13 Ennis?
Those are just two of the questions hovering over the Tigers’ regular season finale showdown with their biggest rival. The biggest question is will they take their biggest step in a season of huge steps — no, make that leaps — that have brought them to Game 10 in a season that started with so much doubt and so many more questions.
“We’re here,” said Tigers coach Hal Wasson on Thursday. “We’re here. It’s Week 10 and we’re playing for something.
“That’s what you want. That’s what you’re playing for.”
Nobody knows more than Wasson just how far his Tigers have come this season, and just how much fun it has been to see this team grow, one week at a time, one game at a time, and — as Wasson will tell you — one play at a time.”
That’s what his program is built on — the simple but difficult premise that success comes when you play hard on ever play.
“We’ve got two options this week,” he said. “To play hard every snap or not to play hard every snap.”
Wasson has been preaching this sermon all year long. You have to be focused and play hard to succeed.
“It is a mindest,’ he said. “It is a choice. Our focus is on our consistency. To be successful you have to be consistent and that’s a mindset. Yes, it’s a big game, but for me every game is a big game.”
That has never been as evident as it is with a young team. Wasson never blames anything on youth, but he does point to playing with focus and not assuming anything.”
Whether that’s what hurt the Tigers last week in Their 7-0 win over Forney is a question for another time. The big question is what Tiger team will show up Friday?
Wasson’s kids have been resilient and have found a way all season to rebound after a loss with some inspired football the following week. They will need all the focus they can muster and some down-home inspiration against an Ennis team that is clearly the best team they have faced all year.
The game has the rivalry factor, and a new trophy to go to the winning team while honoring our veterans will be part of Friday’s big game.
Battle of Iwo Jima (Japan) survivor Hershel “Woody” Williams will present the Medal of Honor trophy to the winner of the game, and the 96-year-old will do the coin-flip at the beginning of the game.
The new trophy is to honor all the veterans who gave their lives in battle from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf wars.
And of course, this is the long awaited first game between Ennis coach Sam Harrell and Wasson, two of the most respected high school coaches in this or any other state.
When Wasson came home to Navarro County and took the job at Corsicana in January, football fans in the are started talking about this game. It has been circled on football schedules in both counties for months.
And it that’s not enough icing on a very good rivalry cake, consider this: A district title is on the line. If Ennis wins the Lions, who are 6-0 in the District 8-5A race, win the title that the Tigers won a year ago.
If the Tigers win they end their regular season at 7-1 in the district and have no worse than a three-way tie for first in the district with Ennis and Royse City, which beat the Tigers at home. If The Tigers win Friday and Royse City, which is 5-1 in the district race with a loss to Ennis, loses one of its final two game then the Tigers win the title outright.
Bit Ennis is a huge favorite to win Friday and nail down the crown.
“This is obviously going to be a tremendous challenge,” Wasson said. “They’re a top-ranked team and they have shown themselves to be consistent. They’ve got playmakers. They’re 8-1 for a reason.”
The Lions are loaded. They brought back seven starters from a tremendous defense from a year ago, and they returned Dyllan Santos, who was the Lions QB last year. He was picked by Texas Football magazine as the preseason District 8-5A DII Offensive Player of the Year.
But Santos has been replaced at quarterback by Collin Drake, who has completed 100-of-159 passes (62.9 percent) for 1,563 yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions. Drake has also rushed for 485 yards, averaging 6.4 yards a carry, and scored 11 TDs on the run.
Their cup runneth over with talented athletes, including receiver Laylon Spencer, who has made 39 receptions for 884 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Spencer is a deep threat every time the Lions snap the ball, and is averaging 22.7 yards a catch.
The Lions are averaging 404 yards and 38 points per game. The Tigers have been impressive on offense, averaging 376 yards and 26 points a game, but they are coming off their worst offensive night of the season in Forney, where they could never get going.
Wasson has said all year it doesn’t matter who you are playing, because you have to set your own standard of play— the Corsicana Standard — and that’s what he wants to see Friday, a consistent game with his team playing hard on every snap.
“I know this is a big game, but if you play to a standard, every game is a big game,” Wasson said.
“If you are going to be consistent you have to play inspired football. I feel we haven’t done that at this time. We’ve got to have that mindset for 48 minutes. That’s where the focus has to be.
“We’ve shown at times we can play very well and at other times we haven’t. To play a real consistent game we have to understand our purpose. Don’t concern yourself with the scoreboard but with how hard you play.
“We can become a real good football team if we take ownership of that purpose. And that has to happen real soon.”
He know how far his kids have come, and wants to see the next Friday.
“I love these players,” he said. “They have done a real good job physically. We have to get the right mindset. It’s about getting this football team to understand the magnitude of playing hard every snap.”