What a difference a year makes.
This time last season, the Frenship football program was dealing with the stark reality that their 15-year streak of making the playoffs was coming to an end. Nothing seemed to go right, whether it was on-field execution, injuries or motivation, and it left the Tigers sitting at home in the postseason for the first time since 1995.
Fast forward 12 months, and the Tigers have done a 180-degree turn back to the dominating ways the program became known for during the late 1990s and 2000s. It’s such a turnaround that Frenship (7-0, 4-0 in District 3-4A) has gone from missing the playoffs to being in position to clinch a postseason berth two weeks before the regular season ends, which is what a win today over Palo Duro (2-5, 2-2) would provide.
“That would be a great feeling since we missed the playoffs last year,” senior center David Ortiz said. “But we don’t want to let that get to our heads to where we think we have it set just making the playoffs.”
What the Tigers also have to avoid getting into their heads are thoughts of Randall, which is also undefeated, also perfect in district play and which Frenship hosts next Friday in a battle for the league title at Peoples Bank Stadium.
Having battled Palo Duro numerous times in the regular season and the playoffs over the last two decades, Frenship coach Brad Davis knows better than to look past the Dons despite their record.
“We don’t look at this as a trap game,” Davis said. “Our focus is entirely on Palo Duro and we know the way this district is, the worst thing you can do is not take the opponent you play that week seriously and not focus on that opponent only. We’re going to be as prepared as we can be and play as well as we can against who we are playing that week. We won’t focus on anyone else until that one is over and then we will go on from there.”
For the Tigers to play their best, Davis hopes they can find a way to get started quickly, something which has been about the only trouble spot this season.
Frenship leads 3-4A in offensive yards per game (497.1) and points per game (41.4) and yards (221.0) and points (11.2) allowed per game. Occasionally, however, the Tigers have stubbed their collective in the first quarter, which has led to some slow starts. Penalties and turnovers have plagued Frenship in five of their seven games and has resulted in seven points or fewer in the first quarter.
But the Tigers have been a tremendous second-half team, which is why they are winning by more than 30 points per game.
“I don’t think it’s anything other than turnovers and penalties,” Davis said. “That’s two things we’ve stressed to the kids is eliminating first-half mistakes and playing smart and not taking any penalties that tend to stop our drives. It seems to be a trend in the first half ... and I think it’s just a coincidence more than anything.”
Otherwise, the Tigers have been consistent, especially on defense. Frenship has recorded three shutouts, two in district play, has allowed a touchdown or fewer in four of its seven games and has given up more than 13 points just once.
Consistency is what Palo Duro is searching for. The Dons went winless in non-district, won their first two league contests against Canyon and Plainview but have dropped their last two to Dumas and Randall.
“We started out and played great (against Canyon) and that second week against Plainview,” Dons head coach Steve Parr said. “Then we went to Dumas and neither team really played well. Then we got beat last week and couldn’t do anything. Well, we did something but it all benefitted the other team. Things happen for a reason but we’ve fought through it and got through it and now we’re putting last week behind us and getting ready to go play a good team.”
Parr made his name with the running game, but has opened it up some this season with some solid athletes. But the Dons are still giving up more yardage (354.4 per game) than they are earning offensively (291.1), and last week sophomore quarterback Malik Sims was picked off six times by Randall.
“At times we’ve thrown and caught the ball well and at times we’ve played good defense,” Parr said. “We just haven’t been consistent. (Randall) took advantage of our mistakes. We have been consistently inconsistent in what we’re doing.”
One more week like that, and Frenship will find itself back in the postseason.
“Really, it’s nice if we can get that playoff spot secure before the season’s over,” Davis said. “We play every game to win that game and play our best people in order to do it, regardless of the playoffs of the standings. We’re not concerned with anything else. We want to beat Palo Duro this week and we’ll take it from there.”
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Frenship at Palo Duro
7:30 p.m., Dick Bivins Stadium, Amarillo
Radio: KTTU 104.3 FM (Lubbock)
Records: Frenship 7-0, 4-0 in 3-4A; Palo Duro 2-5, 2-2
Frenship vs. Palo Duro
beat Plainview 44-0 Last week lost to Randall 35-20
497.1 Total offense 291.0
221.0 Total defense 354.4
41.4 Points scored 22.4
11.2 Points allowed 29.4
RB Bobby Huey Player to watch QB Malik Sims
(1,160 passing yards, 9 TDs) (934 passing yards, 6 TDs)