West Rusk has already matched its win total from 2014 three weeks into this season. The Raiders went 3-7 last year, missing out on the playoffs on a tie-breaker with New Diana, but John Frazier’s team is 3-0 heading into this week.

“This is what we expected. We have good senior leadership, and that comes on and off the field,” said Frazier on his team’s fast start. “That leadership started showing itself in February, carried over into the full offseason and into summer workouts and 7-on-7. It has obviously been carried over into two-a-days and the start of the season, so we’re very happy with our team right now.”

Frazier described his seniors as a close-knit group that has the desire to be successful.

“They’re really unselfish and trust the coaching staff and our game plans,” Frazier said.

The seniors led the team to a 44-0 victory over Sabine last week, a team who had put up over 700 yards rushing in the previous game against Frankston High School.

“Our defensive staff came up with a great game plan. We forced them to throw the ball because we knew if they wanted to beat us we couldn’t let them do it on the ground. They hadn’t had to throw the ball yet to win a game this season and that was our goal,” Frazier said. “Our guys executed and made tackles against a very good running team and one of the best running backs we’ll face all season.”

A playoff berth never comes easy in District 8-3A Division II. That was learned the hard way in 2014 when a tie-breaker left the Raiders home for the postseason.

“Losing a playoff berth is a great teaching tool. We know that each game going forward after the bye week has playoff indications. Any coach in this district will tell you that each game is important and every district game has playoff implications because there will probably be a tie between at least two teams when all is said and done,” Frazier said. “We’ve spent the bye week getting back to the fundamentals and working on us. We’re worried about ourselves right now. We went back to some things we did early in two-a-days, tried to get healthy, work the weights more than we do during a game week and get in better shape.”

West Rusk is likely to face adversity this season with district games with Arp, Elysian Fields and Waskom still on the schedule, but if a group of young athletes knows how to handle adversity on the football field with any sort of perspective then it is the Raiders. Adarian Parker, an athlete at West Rusk, died less than a month before the start of last season.

“Losing Adarian was the ultimate adversity, but we try to use it as a life lesson for these kids and the community,” Frazier said. “Hopefully, when these kids move on to adulthood and lose someone important in their life then they’ll be better at handling it and moving forward in that person’s honor.”