Texas high school football still believes in Cinderella.
Thanks to “Friday Night Lights” and a lengthy tradition of growing quality players, many people around the country understand Texas high school football. But what you may not know is that it is technically possible in Texas to win a state title after going 0-10 in the regular season.
“Everybody has the ‘Why not us mentality,’” said Brian Bell, a former record-setting quarterback at Sam Houston State who is now coach of the China Spring team.
China Spring was 3-7 in the regular-season and one of 112 teams with losing record to make this year’s playoffs. Now China Spring, a school of 850 students located in the Waco suburbs, is one of 14 below .500 teams advancing to the second round, thanks to 50-12 win against Kennedale last week.
In the second round, China Spring plays Melissa (8-3) Thursday in Waxahachie, Texas.
“When you get this far, you are never facing a bad team, including ourselves,” Bell said.
Bell reminded his players that the Texas playoffs offer qualifiers a fresh start.
“Decatur, last year was 4-6 and then won (four) in a row and went to the semifinals in our division,” Bell said. “I preach that. You have to get hot at the right time. Injuries are a big part of it. What’s the weather like? Are you catching a team at the right time?”
Texas is the largest of the contiguous states, and geography is a primary reason why 15.9% of 704 playoff qualifiers, over 12 divisions, had a losing record this season. Four qualifiers come from every district and sometimes there are only four teams in a district.
China Spring’s district has five teams, and a two-hour drive is required for some games.
“It’s a fair system,” said Logan Lawrence, communication specialist of University Interscholastic League, the Texas governing body for high school sports. “You can’t be faulted because of your geography. Your town is where it is supposed to be. We are not going to force a team to travel three or four hours just to prevent four-team districts.”