Ten years ago, Hico used a big comeback to erase an early 19-0 deficit and defeat Kerens in the 2A regional semifinals. Looking for their first postseason win since 2002, the Tigers would need no comeback this time around.
Five different Hico (8-3) players scored touchdowns and the Tiger defense pitched a shutout until after the outcome was long since determined in a 46-8 rout of Kerens (5-6) in the opening round of the 1A Division I playoffs at Rockets Stadium in Robinson Friday.
Brandon Stewart scored twice including once on a long pass from Colton Stegall, and Dakota Mullins, Blake Hyles, Duane Hyles and Cade Fitzgerald all scored on the ground for the Tigers, who face District 8 champ Honey Grove in the area round next Friday in Ferris.
"The best deal about it was just for the kids and my coaching staff to have that good feeling of knowing all their hard work is reaping rewards," said Hico head coach Keith Wood, who was the team's defensive coordinator the last time they won a playoff game. "When you ask kids to come up at 6:30 or 6:45 in the morning and lift, then go through a full day of school and practice, and you ask the same of your coaching staff; it's good to get some success back out of all that."
Hico's defense limited Goldthwaite to just six points when the Tigers earned a share of the District 5-A Division I championship the previous week.
"They're probably playing the best we have defensively since I've been the head coach here. They've really come a long way," Wood said. "Our defensive coaching staff has really put together good game plans. We don't really change what we do, we just alter our personnel a little to adjust to who we play. We're going to stay in what we do because it's what we know; but we may have a few different kids in against the spread than we would against the power running teams we've been seeing."
That's fitting with Hico's next opponent looking for ways to spread the field.
"They're really athletic and more disciplined than what we saw (Friday)," Wood said. "They get in the spread and run the (zone-option) with either quarterback or running back taking it most of the time. They're both very talented."
Hico's run comes with a handful of senior leaders such as Stegall and Stewart, but the roster is primarily full of youth.
"We've had eight sophomores and one freshman on varsity all year; we started four sophomores on the defensive line last night," Wood pointed out. "We're certainly not done yet this year, but I think it should be a fun next few years here."