Grand Saline flying high after 4-1 start

Grand Saline coach Michael Ludlow, the Indians' offensive coordinator last season, has led his team to a 4-1 start going into the bye week. (Christopher R. Vinn | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

GRAND SALINE — The bye week usually gives Grand Saline an opportunity to correct things and regroup. No doubt, it’s often been needed.

The Indians are spending this season’s break looking forward to their district opener and preparing for a possible run to the playoffs. Where’s all the confidence coming from?

Well, to begin with, Grand Saline has completely reversed last season’s record through five games. The Indians are 4-1, riding a four-game winning streak and have people talking about a once-proud program’s possible reemergence. 

“It’s awesome,” running back T.J. Ollison said. “This is real what we’re doing.”

Ollison’s words can be put into perspective with a glance at the past 30 years, which included the best run in program history, followed by one of the worst.

Grand Saline spent most of the 1980s and 90s as a perennial power, reaching the playoffs 16 times and playing a feature role in an episode of MTV’s True Life. The Indians won 161 games during the stretch, which ended with a 12-1 record in the last season before the millennium. 

The 2000s presented a much different story.   

Grand Saline completed the decade with only 39 wins and finished above .500 only twice, a skid that featured no more than two wins in each of the past three seasons. The Indians reached a low point in terms of victories a year ago, going 1-9 and marking the program’s worst campaign since 1980 — when it went winless.

Hence the reason everyone is excited about the 4-1 start.  

“They are different,” said head coach Michael Ludlow, the offensive coordinator last season. “It’s a different atmosphere. We have a whole team. The kids always want to break out (of the huddle) to ‘family.’”

Added senior cornerback Ty Wood: “We can’t just let it get to our heads, though. We haven’t done anything until the end of district, when we make the playoffs and make a run.”  

So far, the modus operandi has been a strong running game and a stingy defense. The Indians rushed for more than 300 yards in each of their wins, plus allowed opponents only 230 yards of total offense a game on the season. 

Ollison, a junior, has carried the ball 109 times for 779 yards (ranking second in the area) and eight touchdowns. The second-year letterman finished with 35 carries for 213 yards and two scores in a 33-27 win against Edgewood last week.

Austen Truett, a freshman quarterback, has 73 carries for 460 yards and five scores and has completed 27 of 51 passes for 350 yards and two TDs. 

“This is a good group; we’re working together and getting things done,” Ollison said. “We’re coming out strong, going 11 men to the football. We worked hard in the offseason; that’s where we got a lot of our work done. 

“After school we just lift, lift, lift. We’re all a unit. We’re as one. That’s how we work.”

Grand Saline’s wins have come against Malakoff (34-14), Lone Oak (14-6), Winona (30-8) and Edgewood. 

The Indians were outscored a combined 108-34 in losses to Malakoff, Long Oak and Edgewood last season (their only win came against Winona). 

Grand Saline begins District 7-2A Division I action Friday, Oct. 7 against Quitman. The Indians then take on Mineola, Winnsboro, Melissa and Caddo Mills, respectively.   

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