Corsicana's Tigers won't be looking to win Friday night when they face Forney on the road.
They will be looking to make the next step in what has been an incredible journey.
Sure, they will be favored over Forney's 2-5 Jackrabbits, who are 1-4 in the District 8-5A DII race, but what Hal Wasson wants to see this week is a new team on the field.
It's simply that time of the season.
“This time of year, when you reach Week 9 you need to either get better or fall back, and we need to be better,” Wasson said. “I've noticed this time of year that some teams get hot and take it to another level, and we certainly want to do that. That's the plan.”
The Tigers know they're in the playoffs and with two games left Wasson wants to see his team make a significant step forward as they hit the stretch run before the postseason begins.
While almost every team in Texas has three weeks left on their schedule, the Tigers, who were forced to play 10 weeks in a row without a traditional bye week, have two games left and then a get a week off before the playoffs begin on Nov. 8.
The Tigers (6-2 and 5-1 in the district race) face Forney on the road Friday night and finish their district schedule and regular season at home against state-ranked Ennis next week. Wasson wants to see his kids reach another level in these two games and hit the playoffs on the rise.
“We need to play well,” he said. “We need to play consistent. We're still looking for that 48 minutes of consistent football. We need to move forward to the next level. We don't want to go back. This is a big week, a challenging week.”
Wasson's philosophy for building a winning program is based in part on not being caught up with the opponents' record. He has said all along that the important thing is to set a standard and live up to that standard, regardless of who you are playing. He calls it the Corsicana Standard, and he made it clear this week that the standard will go up this week to a new level. That's the goal.
Wasson wants his team ready for the postseason and he knows he has two games to push his Tigers to that level.
It begins in Forney on Friday.
The Tigers bounced back from a difficult loss at Royse City two weeks ago when they defeated Sulphur Springs 41-14 last week at home with an impressive performance in the second half when they outscored the Wildcats 20-0 to put the game away.
He wants to build off the momentum of that second half this week, and he specifically wants to see a better road team in Forney.
“We need to play much better on the road,” said Wasson, whose Tigers are unbeaten at Tiger Stadium. “We addressed that this week. The key to playing better on the road is focus — focus, maturity, and discipline all go hand in hand. Those are the things we have to be better at.
“I've got to coach better,” he said. “It's a focus issue. But you don't get focused right before kickoff. Those things start when you get out of bed in the morning. It's nothing but maturity. It's a mindset.
It's the time of year we need to see consistency.”
Forney has struggled on offense all season and is averaging just 98 yards in the air and 128 yards on the ground. The Jackrabbits have scored just 88 points this season and are coming off a 52-0 loss to Ennis.
They will be anxious to bounce back from that loss at home, where the teams in this district have all proven to be much better.
Forney is led by quarterback Campbell Anderson, who has completed 51-of-112 passes for 659 yards. He has thrown more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (5), and he has rushed for 251 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.
Jaylyn Phillips leads Forney's ground game with 350 yards on 93 carries and a touchdown for a team that has rushed for only 883 yards this year, and Riley McMurren is the team's top receiver with nine receptions for 243 yards (27-yard average).
But Forney's numbers won't matter if the Tigers don't play well. They have not played nearly as well on the road, where they have had to have big fourth quarters to win against Greenville and North Forney.
They have been outscored (58-47) in their three district road games, beating Greenville 20-7, and edging North Forney 27-24 before losing to Royse City 27-0.
Their numbers are dramatically better at home, where they've outscored three district teams 123-28 with a 40-7 win over Kaufman, a 42-7 win over Terrell and a 41-14 win last week over Sulphur Springs.
The Tigers defense made giant strides last week in the Sulphur Springs game and the Tigers rediscovered their running game as both Anthony Young, who ran for 145 yards, and Damarius Daniels, who had a 55-yard TD run, bounced back after struggling against Royse City.
That's what Wasson wants to see this week: A strong defensive effort and a successful running game.
Wasson has praised his young team and talked about how proud he is of the way they have improved from Day 1.
But he made it clear that it's a different season now, and time to take the next step.
“They're getting better,” he said. “We've definitely improved, but we're not where we want to be. It's the time of year now where you either start getting better, and if you don't it's short-lived.”