Grand Saline hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2007, but that will change this season. The Indians clinched a playoff berth with a 10-8 victory over Cooper last week. It was Grand Saline’s second consecutive two-point district victory.

Now at 3-0 in District 6-3A Division II, the Indians (4-4) are in the playoffs for the first time under third-year head coach Michael Ridge.

“Our kids started believing they could win, and it is amazing what a group can accomplish with some belief and some confidence,” Ridge said. “Losing can weigh on you, but we had a plan when I got here before the 2013 season, and we knew this group of seniors would be a big part of that plan when we got here. They were sophomores then, but we knew this year was coming. We felt this year could be different if we could stay healthy. We didn’t stay healthy the last two years, and I think it cost us some wins. We’ve stayed relatively healthy this season, and it is showing on the field.”

It is never easy to take over a program accustomed to losing. That was the challenge Ridge and his staff faced when they arrived in Grand Saline. The Indians were a contender to make the playoffs at the end of the last century, but it was a tough go for Grand Saline over the past 15 years. Grand Saline went 0-10 in the first two seasons under Ridge, and went 7-59 since the 2008 season.

“It is tough to keep the players working hard when they’re not seeing any success. We’re in an instant-gratification world, but sports don’t work like that. There aren’t any shortcuts to working hard. We needed to put in the work to see the results and that is starting to happen,” Ridge said. “We’ve been very lucky to have the support of our community and school board because we’ve been able to add a new weight room and other facilities. That has really helped out this team and program.”

Grand Saline is in the playoffs, but the goals of the 2015 season aren’t accomplished. A win this week against Lone Oak (3-5, 3-0) could clinch a district championship for the Indians, and Ridge isn’t shying away from the importance of the game.

“I don’t mind building this game into something really important. It is a really important game, and we should treat it like one. These kids haven’t had something to play for in a long time, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with being honest about what is on the line for both teams. Lone Oak is also in the playoffs, but we both want to be known as district champions,” Ridge said. “There is a 60 percent chance of rain this week, so we’ll treat it like last week. We’ll stress ball control because in games like this, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes usually wins.”