SHENANDOAH – After a film session during two-a-day practices in August, Bullard defensive coordinator Andy Kendrick could sense his players did not believe in themselves as much as he did.
So, he decided to put an idea in their heads.
“I told them, ‘I really believe that we could go three or four rounds deep in the playoffs,” Kendrick said.
Considering Bullard had never won one playoff game in its school history much less two, the Panther players were a little taken aback by their coach’s confidence.
“He said that he believed we could do it,” said Bullard junior linebacker Zack Holladay. “Some of us, we weren’t sure about it, but we’re here, we’re thankful for it; a lot of hard work, team work and keeping the family together.”
Three months later and is seems Kendrick was prophetic as the Panthers will to take the field for a third-round playoff game at 2 p.m. Saturday against West Orange-Stark at Woodforest Stadium.
Bullard has won four games in a row and a big reason is its defense – more to the point, its second-half defense. The Panthers have allowed 20 points combined in eight quarters of second-half football. The Panthers held the Rusk Eagles to six points in its regular-season finale. Bullard then blanked Center in the second half of its bi-district win.
Last week against Waco Robinson, the Panthers had given up 27 points in the first half.
In the second half?
Robinson scored 14 points late in the fourth quarter, six of which came with no time on the clock as Bullard had already sewn up a 53-41 win. Bullard forced Robinson into three-and-outs on all three of its drives in the third quarter while the special teams blocked a punt.
“I thought we came out a little bit flat and I basically just told them to stick their chest out and act like they belonged in this football game and play,” Kendrick said. “They had every right to be on that field, just like Robinson did; they were a great second-half defense and they needed to go out there and show it.”
The Panthers (8-4) now face a West Orange-Stark team currently enjoying an eight-game winning streak. The Mustangs (9-3) have outscored their two playoff opponents 110-23. The offense is led by tailback Britton Lindsey, who has rushed for 1,455 yards averaging 6.6 per carry to go along with 19 touchdowns.
"They’re fast and they are going to try to run the ball over us and we just have to be technically sound and get to our spots,” said junior linebacker J.P. Hendrix. “We have to play technically sound defense. We always talk about not getting too high or too low and right now we are just trying to keep going. I am not satisfied and nobody else here is. We don’t want it to be over.”