Arp extended its winning streak to five games with a victory over a Hooks team that entered the game with only one loss in the entire season.

The Tigers started the season 1-5 overall and 0-3 in district play before a win over Troup became the catalyst to a playoff berth and a bi-district playoff victory.

“We evaluated ourselves going into that seventh game of the season against Troup. We looked at what we were doing and made some changes we felt like we needed to make, especially on the offensive side the ball,” Arp head coach Dale Irwin said. “I think we made some decisions there that really benefitted us from that point and has us where we are right now.”

Those changes were forced after a non-district schedule that included Franklin and Hughes Springs, as well as a district schedule that began with consecutive games against West Rusk, Winona, and Waskom.

“Our record was also misleading in some ways because of how tough our non-district schedule always is and we were a very young and inexperienced team when we started this season. We also had to face some really good district competition right away and we weren’t as experienced this season. That made it tougher than last year,” Irwin said. “They were good measuring stick games for us and showed us that we weren’t where we needed to be and that got us to make the necessary changes to turn around the season and start winning some games.”

Arp also beat Hooks in the 2014 bi-district round of the state playoffs, but this time it was an upset. Playing Hooks in 2014 was a big factor, according to Irwin.

“Hooks is a very talented ball club. It definitely helped that we played them last year. Our defensive staff had a good scouting report on them. We knew we had to stop their two war daddies in the backfield. We took their five best plays and worked them to death before that game. We wanted them to win doing something else and that’s what you must do against a really good football team,” Irwin said. “I thought we should’ve scored more points, but mistakes cost us a few possessions. The defense definitely won us that game, but I liked how we controlled the time of possession and kept them off the field. The roles were reversed from last year since they were the favorite, but having seen what they want to do really helped out our team.”

Some teams worry about a letdown after an upset win in the playoffs, but Irwin doesn’t feel his team will suffer from a letdown.

“We were 1-5 going into the Troup game and we had a discussion about the playoffs starting in that game. Our backs were up against the wall right there. We’ve been facing win-or-go-home games for over a month now. This is what we’ve been facing, so I don’t think it’ll be any different this week. We already feel like we’re five or six rounds deep in the playoffs because we’ve had to win all of those games to get to this point,” Irwin said. “Long Oak is a very well-coached football team that executes. We need to defend the perimeter and play sound football because they like to get the ball out quick to the outside and then run the ball down the middle. Alignment and assignment will be huge for us.”