San Augustine is Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity Heading into Second Round
When things start to click at the right time, it doesn't matter what a football team's record is.
Such is the case for San Augustine.
"Everybody's pumped up. The kids are fired up and really excited," San Augustine coach Marty Murr said.
The Wolves ended their 2016 regular season with a respectable 6-4 record and came out of a brutal District 11-2A Division I as the fourth and final playoff team. But if you look at the past two weeks, you'd think this was a team that could compete for a state title.
That wouldn't be unfamiliar territory for San Augustine, which finished as its district's third-place team in 2003 (when only three teams made the playoffs) but wound up as the Class 2A Division I state champions.
Needing a win against then-unbeaten and state-ranked Carlisle in the final game of the regular season, San Augustine responded. The Wolves came out on top 42-28 to capture a postseason berth.
"After the Joaquin game (a 49-27 loss in Week 10) we had a big meeting and saw the writing on the wall," Murr said. "We knew we were going to have to play better or it was going to be a short season. It was huge to turn that around. Any time you can go into the playoffs coming off a win only increases your chances."
It wasn't getting any easier from there. San Augustine drew 9-1 Groveton in the first round, though the Indians' only loss was to San Augustine, 58-54, in non-district.
Groveton was firing on all cylinders after that loss, however. The Indians scored less than 49 points once all season and had one of East Texas' most prolific offenses.
But yet again, San Augustine responded. The Wolves forced four turnovers and held Groveton to its lowest point output of the season in a 35-34 win.
"These last two wins I'd attribute to our team just coming together, playing together and believing in each other," Murr said. "Our district is a very tough district and it was hard to get through, but we gelled together and started playing great football."
San Augustine's defense forced nine turnovers in the wins over Carlisle and Groveton, something few teams can say against opponents of that caliber.
"It allowed us not to give up the big plays. Any time you make a team keep driving the ball and not get the big play, there's a better chance of them making mistakes," Murr said. "Groveton's offense may be the best around, so to make them give up the ball four times is huge."
San Augustine's next opponent is Big Sandy (8-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Rusk in the area round. The Wildcats, like San Augustine, are no stranger to the postseason and will look to grind the clock to keep the ball away from the Wolves' high-powered offense.
"The game plan is the same -- to play great defense and get those turnovers. They're a ball-control team, so we have to get off the field on third down," Murr said.
Like Groveton, San Augustine (7-4) boasts one of the area's best offenses, captained by Murr's son at quarterback, junior Gavin Murr. The younger Murr has thrown for 2,604 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 11 games.
Junior receiver QuenTyvian Borders is another one of East Texas' best. He has 52 receptions for 1,319 yards and 16 touchdowns going into Saturday's game, and junior K.J. Davis is the Wolves' top rusher with 225 carries for 1,644 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"Offensively we don't have a magic formula. But the philosophy is you take what the defense gives you," Murr said. "We might throw 30 to 40 times in one game and 10 to 15 times in another. Offensively against Big Sandy we're going to try to line up, take what they give us and execute."
At this point every team remaining in the playoffs has one thing on its mind: winning the next game and continue that push toward AT&T Stadium. Murr said when it comes to his team, their focus is on finishing the next thing in front of them to build toward something bigger.
"We want to finish the play, then finish the series, then finish the quarter and finish the game. That's exactly what we say," Murr said. "It all starts with that play right there. If we do that, good things will happen."