“You’ve got to accentuate the positive/Eliminate the negative/Latch on to the affirmative/Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” — “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” by Johnny Mercer

During what has been one of the toughest years in Ellison’s 34-year history, Eagles coach Buddy McBryde is channeling his inner Johnny Mercer.

“The kids, this particular group, they are doing all the things that you want them to do as a coach, except put wins in the column,” McBryde said. “They’re making the grades, they’re behaving, they’re here at workouts. If they miss it’s because of an academic issue they’re taking care of. All those things are very, very positive.”

Suffering through what could be its first winless season since 2001, the only time Ellison’s gone 0-fer, the Eagles (0-8, 0-5 12-5A) haven’t found many positives when it comes to their on-the-field play.Managing just 45 total points this season, Ellison is ranked 245th — last — in Class 5A in scoring offense.

Its scoring troubles also resulted in three shutouts, including a 37-0 loss at Belton last Friday. By the same token, the Eagles defense has allowed a district-high 243 points in five 12-5A games and has been outscored by an average of nearly 45 points per game.

“It isn’t a good feeling, but we try to overcome that and just get better as the year goes on,” said Ellison senior Christobal Colon. “We all want that (first) win but we’re just trying to help everybody become better and become a good team.”

Turnovers have been a big reason for the troubles, accounting for 33 through eight games this season, including a disastrous 21 interceptions spread among three different quarterbacks.

“For whatever reasons this year, it has just been one of those years where things have just blown up on us,” McBryde said.

The lone bright spot this season has been the running of bruising junior tailback Isiah Cowan, who has 634 rushing yards but just a single touchdown.

“Isiah has a lot of pride, and he wants to run the football — he has fun running it,” McBryde said of Cowan. “There isn’t any (more) motivation for him (other than) he wants the ball and wants to run it.”And he’s gotten plenty of opportunities with Ellison, accounting for 22 carries out of the first 27 offensive plays against Belton, tallying 125 yards before leaving the game with an injury midway through the third quarter.

Cowan will be needed often tonight when the resurgent Temple Wildcats (4-4, 3-2) come to town for their second consecutive Thursday-night game — and third in four weeks — at Leo Buckley Stadium, after escaping with a 21-18 victory over also winless Shoemaker last week.

“It’s been interesting, I’m not going to lie to you, three Thursdays out of four weeks, I don’t know if I’ve ever faced that before,” first-year Temple coach Mike Spradlin said. “But I think our kids have handled it well.”

Despite a rough 1-4 start to Spradlin’s tenure, things have really turned around for Temple, as the Wildcats are in the thick of the 12-5A playoff race tied with rival Belton and Harker Heights for the third and fourth playoff spots. But with victories over both, Temple holds the tiebreakers and is almost assured a playoff spot with a win today.

In the midst of a three-game win streak, the Wildcats are getting it done offensively with the 12-5A’s top unit, fueled by the running of the junior backfield tandem of tailback Gaylon Sanders (second in 12-5A with 1,129 rushing yards and 14 TDs) and quarterback Zach Allen (2,121 yards of total offense, 13 TDs).

“They’ve got two ‘backs that make it look easy. They look like they’re not being touched because they simply see the field real well and make good cuts and moves,” McBryde said. “You have to gang-tackle them and try and get them stopped before they get through the line of scrimmage.”

And despite the Eagles’ on-field struggles, Spradlin and his Wildcats won’t be overlooking them by any means.

“It’s really pretty easy (staying motivated). ... If we intend to be a playoff team — and we do — then we have to be playing our best football right now,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking time off, so we’re a highly motivated football team.”


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