Pine Tree Looks to Take Advantage of First Playoff Berth Since 2001
The Pine Tree football team did something on Monday it hasn't done in 16 years: practice to prepare for a playoff game.
"We had a great practice, it went really well. The energy was good and the kids were flying around and excited," Pine Tree coach Kerry Lane said on Tuesday. "There's a new amount of energy with our guys right now."
With all of his players either being in diapers or not even born the last time Pine Tree made the playoffs, Lane wants to make playoff practices and games the norm in his program. He's no stranger to it, after all, winning a state championship in Gilmer.
But first thing's first: North Forney on Friday in Athens.
"These guys want it to be the standard around here, but in order to keep that going we told the kids we're not done yet," Lane said. "We can do all the 'banquet talk' down the road when we look back on the season, but that time's not right now. We have work to do."
Despite its 3-7 record, Pine Tree won all its games when it mattered most in District 16-5A. The Pirates had the benefit of a late off week before ending the season with back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the district, Marshall and Texas High.
Lane said learning from those two losses is crucial to the Pirates' playoff future.
"We played fairly well against Marshall and did some things right against a team more talented than us, but we had a bad game against Texas High," Lane said. "My message to the kids is to do the things that we've done to put us in this position. If we're going to get beat, we're going to go down swinging and do things the way we do it. We can't live with going out and being flat like last week."
North Forney will pose the biggest challenge to Pine Tree's defense. Colby Suits and the Falcons' offense are averaging almost 54 points per game this season, including five games of scoring 56 points or more. Suits has thrown for 2,610 yards and 33 touchdowns while running for 624 yards and 14 scores.
Suits, who accounted for 10 touchdowns against Wylie East this year, is leading a program that reached the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and beat rival Forney for the first time ever.
"North Forney can score on you in a hurry. They're very athletic and snap the ball fast. They force the issue the whole time," Lane said. "Their situation is similar to ours, so we expect to see an excited football team."
A Pine Tree win would undoubtedly be an upset, but it's been a year for firsts for Lane and the Pirates. And it's the Texas high school football playoffs, so not much can be surprising.
"We're going to go in and do what we do," Lane said. "We're not going to change anything we've been doing. We're going to run the ball and take our shots when we need to. I want us to go out and play well and do the things that got us here."