Stuck in four-game losing streak, the Collinsville Pirates hit a rough stretch of play that included a 51-6 loss to Valley View on Oct. 11.
But as they closed out their final two weeks of the regular season, the Pirates picked themselves up off the mat and responded with two resounding wins.
Collinsville downed Celeste 33-0 and beat Trenton 34-6 to give the Pirates some momentum headed into the playoffs, where they delivered clutch plays in the second half to best Wolfe City 15-14 on Nov. 14.
The Pirates were counted out by many to beat Wolfe City, but head coach Garrett Patterson said the team has been playing with a chip on its shoulder for a while now.
“After we got blown out by Lindsay and Valley View, people looked at us like we weren’t a very good football team,” Patterson said. “We didn’t have things go our way against Lindsay and Valley View is just a good team. I don’t think anybody gave us a chance to make the playoffs. People bash you and say how terrible you are. I told the kids to block it out. It doesn’t matter what they think. It matters what we do.”
Patterson said since the Pirates’ bye week in late October, the team has looked refreshed and is playing with energy.
“The bye week helped us a tremendous amount,” Patterson said. “It let us get our bodies where we needed them. We’ve been playing really well with good energy lately. We just played really well defensively. We only gave up six points in the last two games. That was huge. We’ve been picking it back up on defense. That’s always good. Defense wins championships and if we can do that well we give ourselves a chance.”
The Pirates’ win over Wolfe City came by way of a 22-yard field goal with two minutes left and a blocked field goal as time expired to preserve the win.
“That was definitely one of the more exciting games I’ve ever been in,” Patterson said. “It was huge the way the kids blocked that kick and honestly, nobody gave us a chance to win that game anyways. It was really exciting.”
Collinsville has embraced the underdog mentality, according to Patterson. On Thursday, Nov. 21, the Pirates will face the undefeated San Saba Armadillos in Mineral Wells.
“We’ve looked at every game we’ve had as we’re the underdog,” Patterson said. “We look at it this week that we have nothing to lose so we’re going to lay it on the line. San Saba is really, really good. They’ve got it all. They’re big, they’re fast and they’re physical. They execute well and they’re 11-0 for a reason. They’re the real deal. I told the kids they want to play teams like this because it means you’re doing good things.”
Patterson said the Armadillos’ offense will be a test for the Pirates’ defense.
“They’re very explosive,” Patterson said. “They’re big up front. They’re definitely going to get the ball in the quarterback and running back’s hands. They’ve got a 6-5 receiver that they try to get the ball to. They present a whole lot of problems because they have kids that can go. That’s just their top three players. Everyone else is just a notch below them.”
Keeping the ball in front of them will be key for the secondary players, according to Patterson.
“We’re going to have to execute very, very, very well offensively and defensively,” Patterson said. “You can’t turn the ball over or you’re going to get murdered. You’re going to have to control the clock on the offensive side of the ball because they’re so explosive offensively. We have to limit their amount of possessions.”
The run to the playoffs and the win over Wolfe City was important to the Pirates’ football program, especially for Patterson, who is in his first year as head coach at Collinsville.
“First of all, the kids have bought in to the program,” Patterson said. “Good things will happen if they buy in and that will help in the upcoming offseason. It really builds confidence in them also because we lost a tremendous amount of seniors from last year and there wasn’t much expected of them. They proved a lot of nay-sayers wrong and once they bought it, this team really changed.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip