[By Stephen Amason, Special to ETSN.fm]

After a difficult season last year, finishing at the bottom of their district with a record of 1-9, the Grand Saline Indians have been a different team in 2018, and have fought their way back into the playoffs.

Knowing some changes were needed, this year’s seniors made a decision over the summer to not go through another nine-loss season. They set a goal to get back to the postseason, and weren’t going to settle for anything less.

“We got a great group of kids this year,” said Grand Saline coach Michael Ridge. “These seniors have really stepped up and the attitudes are great in these guys. We made a decision that we wanted to win and things are gonna be better around here. Since Aug. 6 we’ve been working every day to reach the playoffs and we’ve reached our goal.”

The Indians have been led by a stout defense, anchored by its star linebackers, juniors Bryce Smith and Grant Lewis. Smith has 96 tackles on the year and Lewis has 49. They have a combined total of 17.5 sacks on the year, and pride themselves on keeping pressure on the quarterback.

“Both of those guys started as sophomores and our defense as a whole last year was made up of several sophomores,” Ridge said. “We had a great offseason and they’ve really been getting after it. Both those guys do a great job at getting to the quarterback and putting pressure on them.”

The Indians (6-3) will face Blue Ridge (6-4) in a 3A Division II bi-district playoff Friday night at Terrell Memorial Stadium.

Ridge and his Indians know Blue Ridge is tough, and they’re going to have to play their best football to win.

“We’re gonna have to show up and play, that’s for sure,” Ridge said. “They’re a good football team, they’re 6-4 and got second in their district. They throw the ball around well and they’ve got a good running back who’s a big kid. I expect it to be a great game and we’re going to have to show up and play really good football.”