The Coahoma Bulldogs have a new attitude this year.
Now in his third year as head football coach, Trey Gardner is not just hoping for a third straight playoff appearance, he wants to move beyond bi-district — which is as far as his squads have gotten thus far.
“What we are building off of this year is what I call 'And then some'.,” Gardner said. “We want to win — win district, then keep playing.”
In 2010, the Bulldogs played, according to Gardner, “Like we were just happy to be there,”.
Coahoma fell to the Spearman Lynx.
In 2011, Gardner's team again earned a playoff spot, but were ousted yet again by Spearman.
“We really felt like we were the better last year,” Gardner said. “We made three mistakes that cost us. We felt like we should have won, but we didn't get it done.”
Despite the defeat, Gardner has a lot to work with this year.
About 18 starters from last year have returned, as well as around 15 seniors that are familiar with Gardner's signature Wing-T offense.
“We have some good players to rely on,” Gardner said. “We aren't drastically changing anything. We will primarily be a running team, but we want to throw the ball enough to make the other teams think we will throw it.”
One thing that has changed is the coaching staff. Since Gardner assumed head coaching duties, many faces have changed. This year's most notable change is the addition of Jimmy Whiddon as defensive coordinator. Like many of the team's coaches, Whiddon has ties to Coahoma.
“I grew up here,” Whiddon said.
“Four-out-of-eight coaches went to school here,” Gardner added. “And one has a father who went to school here.”
The seniors on the roster are also ready to play their roles as leaders on and off the field.
“We want to set a good example,” Tanner Ruiz, who looks to take the majority of snaps at the QB position said. “We (seniors) will be leaving. The younger kids will have to step up and be leaders. It's been a great experience. A lot of ups and downs, but hopefully we will finish with a great up.”
Linebacker Peyton Rodriguez agrees.
“One thing we have tried to do is teach the young guys not to give upwhen things get tough,” Rodriguez said. “We have a tough year this year. We play a lot of schools with experience in the playoffs. We are going to have to fight and hopefully we can go far this year.”
The first step to going far will be a difficult task — Coahoma will travel to Midland to face Howard County rival Forsan at Grande Communications Stadium during the ASCO Football Kickoff Classic on Aug. 30.
“It's going to be a war,” Gardner said of the upcoming game. “It's a big deal because it's Forsan. We may try to downplay it for the kids — like it's just another game — but, the kids know who we are playing. A lot of them know each other. We will have to contain their speed and try to keep them inside. If you let them get outside, you may not catch them. We know (Forsan) will give us their best effort.”
Last year, Coahoma got the best of Buffaloes — but won the affair by a single point.
One athlete off of each team that participates in the Kickoff Classic gets a $2,000 collegiate scholarship. That is one reason, according to Gardner, that it is worth holding what may be Howard County's biggest rivalry in a neighboring city.
Coahoma seems poised to grab a playoff spot in District 3-2A. That doesn't mean that Bulldogs don't have their work cut out for them.
On top of a tough non-district schedule, Coahoma must contend with district foes such as Sonora, Crane, Alpine and Stanton.