The McKinney Lions will finish their football season Friday night against perennial football power and
undefeated district 10 4A champion Highland Park. The Lions are the only MISD varsity football team who are definitively eliminated from the playoffs, as McKinney Boyd has already clinched and McKinney North will play for a spot Friday against Wylie.
Second-year Lion Head Coach Jeff Smith’s team brings an 0-9 record into the game. And he knows it will be difficult to earn victory No. 1 since Highland Park is 9-0. Smith, however, knows that his team is prepared and looks forward to seeing its response to the final challenge.
“I am, of course, very disappointed with our win-loss record this year,” Smith said. “The season has not turned out like we had planned.”
Smith said the scoreboard does not reflect how hard his players have worked and battled each week.
“The kids have done a good job,” Smith said. “We remind them that they should finish like the men they are supposed to be. Our team is going to behave like men until the final clock says zero.”
By 4A football standard,s his team is considered young, with 18 seniors and 32 underclassmen on the team. Nine starters on offense and nine on defense are underclassmen. These numbers give Smith a “ready” excuse for his team’s record but he’s not buying any of it.
“There are no excuses,” Smith empathically said. “We have just not gotten it done. However our kids have learned much about themselves, our entire coaching staff is very proud of their effort. This year’s team has built a solid foundation for future Lion teams as well as for themselves. The humility and lessons learned this year will help them become better students, husbands, fathers and above all men.”
Senior captain Chuck Schober, a wide receiver and kicker, understands that the long season does have some positives to it.
“It is disappointing but our coaches have us thinking we have a chance to win every game we play,” Schober said. “This week has been a more up-tempo week of practice. Beating Highland Park this week would salvage our season, but more importantly our coaches have taught us to persevere when things don’t go well.”
Senior fullback and captain Elliot Parkman says this season has taught him much about himself and his leadership.
“As the season went on, I knew the team looked to us (seniors) for leadership. I wanted to lead by example when things did not go well; I knew that I needed to be under control regardless of the situation. Coach Hall (defensive coordinator) tells us that true leaders will step up when things get rough. This season has revealed our leadership.”
Both Schober and Parkman agree that the 38-37 loss to Richardson Pearce, in which Pearce rallied with less than a minute to play, was a defining moment for the Lions. They both agree that the team “came together that night” and Parkman added, “We played so hard, it was so close.”
“Our focus was sharp,” Schober added. “We got better that night.”
Smith agrees that this season has had some positives but he makes no bones about his won-loss record: “Not winning a game is not acceptable,” he said. “Our kids are ready for Highland Park this Friday. There are many intangibles going our way this Friday, our kids are used to playing Highland Park, so I expect a very good game.”
So it’s down to one more in 2011. Win or lose the Lions’ season ends this Friday. Smith said “This year is going to help us in the future. This year will motivate us to be better”
The plan is for the Lions to take a couple days off next week. After that, it’s time for this year’s 32 underclassmen to grow up and become the leaders their coaches have prepared them to be.
And it will be time to put what they learned in 2011 into practice to make sure the 2012 scoreboard
tells a different story.
-Story by Harvey Oaxaca, TownSquareBuzz.com contributor