The expectations are low.
While the latest edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football predicts three local schools from District 12-6A — Copperas Cove, Shoemaker and Killeen — will reach the playoffs this season, the highly respected publication’s prospects for the smaller schools in the area are not positive.
Out of the five teams not competing in Class 6A, only one is picked to make the postseason with two squads finishing last in their district’s standings, including Florence.
It is not the forecast Buffaloes first-year head coach Joey McQueen wanted, but perhaps nobody is more accustomed to starting the season as a distinct underdog.
At previous high school coaching stops, McQueen ended a 0-20 run at Lampasas before earning the program’s first district championship in 25 years. He also stopped a two-year losing skid at Smithville and guided San Angelo Lake View to its first playoff appearance in 10 years, winning a district championship with the Chiefs the following season.
The one common thread through the series of turnarounds — very few, including DCTF, thought it was possible.
“Probably out of my 25 years coaching, not many of my teams have been picked to make the playoffs,” said McQueen, who is inheriting the Buffaloes following a 1-9, 0-7 season. “Maybe once or twice during the years I was at Mason, but other than that, it has only happened a couple of times.”
Competing in 10-3A, Division I, Florence is expected to miss the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, joining Class 4A programs Lampasas and Salado and six-man football’s Lometa as area teams left out of the postseason.
McQueen, however, is comfortable with the prediction, considering the Buffaloes’ history, and has no problem being doubted.
“When you know that the kids have worked hard, if they do better than what DCTF picked us to do, that’s just more satisfaction,” he said. “The kids would really like that if that is what happens.”
Like their old district rival Florence, the Eagles are picked to finish last in their new district this season.
On the heels of a one-win season in 2013, Salado makes a significant leap this year, jumping from Class 2A to Class 4A. While the DCTF staff believes the Eagles will be better, stating they are “poised to win more than just one game this season,” they also foresee them being the lone team from the five-team 11-4A, DII, to not make the playoffs.
Coming off a 3-7, 1-4 showing during head coach Brian Emerson’s first season at Lampasas, the Badgers are expected to finish fifth in 13-4A, DI, beating out China Spring in the final standings. Lampasas has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, coinciding with McQueen’s departure in 2011.
One season after delivering the biggest negative swing in victories among all Class 4A programs, Gatesville, which won three games in 2013 after going 13-1 in 2012, is predicted to return to the playoffs this season, but not by much. The Hornets are picked to finish fourth in the six-team district they share with Lampasas.
“Quarterback Jeff Speer paid his dues in seven starts last season, and he’ll throw to proven targets in wide receivers Andraque Jones and Andrew Wallace,” the team synopsis reads.
Despite coming within one game of winning the program’s first district championship since 2011 last year, returning the district’s leading rusher and receiver and sporting the preseason offensive MVP in running back R.J. Haggard, Lometa is expected to miss the playoffs, finishing third under first-year head coach D.T. Torres.
The Hornets went 7-4, 3-1 last year.
The Zephyr Bulldogs, who lost to Lometa 46-31 last season, are expected to win the 11-1A, DI, championship with Evant claiming the other postseason berth in the four-team field thanks to a wealth of experience, welcoming back four starters on both offense and defense.
“Evant has put together back-to-back winning seasons, and with a large amount of returning playmakers, the Elks should extend that streak,” the DCTF staff writes.