Pleasant Grove Looks to Continue Riding Its Hot Streak After 3-0 Start to 2017
After a 14-7 loss to district rival Atlanta last October, his team's sixth loss in seven games, Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson decided to make a change.
Or, return to the old ways is probably a better way to put it.
Gibson's brother and assistant coach, Justin, had approached him about reverting the offense back to the Wing-T a couple of weeks prior. Josh Gibson pulled the trigger after the Atlanta game, and the Hawks were back in business.
Pleasant Grove reeled off five consecutive wins -- averaging 35 points per game -- only to see its season end in a four-point loss to then-No. 4 Celina in the third round of the playoffs. That's the only game the Hawks have lost since they returned to the Wing-T offense.
"I don't think (Justin) wanted to overstep his boundaries, but he had said we should go back to the Wing-T, and then it kicks off like it did," Gibson said. "I told him, 'I wish we would have done this earlier,' and he said, 'I told you about it a few weeks ago.' Then I said, 'Well next time yell it at me, man!'
Pleasant Grove has kept the accelerator to the floor so far in 2017, starting the season with a 27-20 win against Arkansas High and following with 30-plus-point wins over Paris (45-13) and Frisco (43-13), the last of which came against Josh and Justin Gibson's father, Vance Gibson.
Needless to say, the change worked.
"We finished the season really well last year so we had a lot of confidence going into this year," Gibson said. "These kids have an expectation that they're going to be better and work harder this year, and so far it's worked out that way."
The Hawks returned 14 starters this season, several of whom were freshmen when Gibson took the job in 2014. He said he's seen a lot of growth in his team over the past three-plus seasons.
"I am really in awe at how hard these guys have worked. I think because of that we are reaping what we've sowed," Gibson said. "We have good athletes but they have phenomenal work ethic. A lot of these guys were freshmen when I started adn they have bought into the vision that we are going to grow each week and take big steps each year. They understand the more you put in, the more you're going to put out on the field."
Six different Pleasant Grove players scored against Frisco last week with its vaunted, yet rare, Wing-T offense. The Hawks' scheme and deep roster of playmakers is what makes his team special, Gibson said.
"Schematically we're harder to prepare for just because we do something that's so different. You can't prepare to stop one or two kids," Gibson said. "We're going to give the ball to the hot hand or the kid who's going to be able to produce. And our kids are very unselfish, which makes us even better."
Pleasant Grove has already avenged 2016 losses to Frisco and Paris, and will look to do the same against arch-rival Liberty-Eylau, a team Gibson said the Hawks haven't beaten in nearly a decade. The Leopards notched their first win of 2017 last week against Atlanta after dropping their first three games to East Texas powerhouses Gilmer, Carthage and Texas High.
"We just have to play to our capability and play to our potential, which I think we'll do. Liberty-Eylau is a special program. They're one of the most athletic and fastest teams every year," Gibson said. "They've played a very tough schedule and with the caliber of team they have, it will be another notch in our belt of how far we've come if we're able to pull out a victory."