The Gatesville Hornets possess the “it” factor.
It cannot be defined or recorded in a box score. It does not appear in any tangible form, but it is there.
It can be sensed in the team’s collective self-confidence and felt every time the players step foot on a football field. The Hornets truly believe they are destined for greatness this year, and when watching them play or listening to them speak, the feeling becomes almost palatable. There is a thick aura of bravado surrounding the squad. It is not arrogance, but simple certainty in their ability to win games.
And, so far, they have no reason to doubt themselves.
On the heels of a disappointing 4-6 showing last season, Gatesville has overcome every obstacle put in its way. The undefeated Hornets proved there is no such thing as a home-field advantage when they come to town, winning three of their first four games of the season on the road before upsetting then-No. 9 Waco La Vega 49-48 in double overtime at McKamie Stadium.
Then, Gatesville ran through is District 8-3A schedule with ease, winning every game, including road games against preseason perceived powers Brownwood and Liberty Hill, by at least 20 points en route to the program’s first district championship since 2002.
Now, the Hornets are three rounds deep in the Class 3A, Division II playoffs, sitting a mere four victories away from earning the second state championship in the school’s 100-year football history.
None of this, however, came as much of a surprise to the players and coaches on the team. For many, this year has loomed on the horizon since the current roster was in middle school. With 28 seniors on the team, this season is their farewell to Gatesville football, each other and, for some, the sport itself, and they intend to make it count.
Few could have expected to be 12-0, but, prior to the season-opening kickoff, they all truly believed they would be in their current position.
For the Hornets, this is their destiny.
Does it mean Gatesville will run the table like it did in 2000, when it went 15-0 and won a state title? Not necessarily, but do not count the Hornets out.
Gatesville could not have asked for a better path in the playoffs. The Hornets avoided Region I powerhouses No. 2 Abilene Wylie and No. 3 Stephenville because they advanced to the Class 3A Division I playoffs, and their opponent Friday evening at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium – Monahans – eliminated No. 6 Shallowater in the area round last week.
Outside of the state championship game itself, the only ranked opponent Gatesville could possibly encounter is either No. 7 Argyle or No. 10 Gilmer in the state semifinals. The two Region II teams play each other Friday at Mesquite.
But the relatively easy road to a title game appearance means little to the Hornets, who force themselves to focus only on the game in front of them, and their tunnel vision extends onto the field itself as Gatesville has yet to find itself in a situation it could not will its way out of.
Tied 28-28 entering the fourth quarter, the Hornets, sparked by offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns, scored 20 unanswered points to win their postseason opener against Alvarado. One week later, Gatesville completely shut down Vernon’s high-powered offense, holding the Lions, who entered the game averaging 40.9 points per game, scoreless until 3:35 remained in the third quarter.
At this point, there should be no doubting Gatesville. The Hornets have talent spread all over the field. More importantly, however, they have “it” oozing from every pore.
Gatesville continually finds ways to win and shows little surprise when accomplishing what others believe is unimaginable. Somehow, they just do it. Somehow, they just have “it.”
And whatever “it” is could take the Hornets all the way to Arlington.