It's OK to call Yoakum underdogs. The Bulldogs have faced must-win games since starting 2-4 and 0-2 in district.
Nine wins later and Yoakum (11-4) is in the state championship game. One more and those underdogs will be champions.
The architect of this success is Bo Robinson, who in his second year has taken Yoakum to the program's first state title game appearance since 1952.
"We are excited to still be playing," Robinson said. "Not many 6-4 teams make it to the state championship."
As fate would have it, Mineola (13-2) stands in the way of that title. The Class 3A Division I championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Once upon a time in the early 1980s, Robinson regularly requested if the family could visit Mineola for a sought-after frozen treat.
"My dad was coach at Lindale my first grade through eighth grade year, and in those days Lindale played Mineola and I remember that well," Robinson said. "We used to go to Mineola after church on Sundays because it was the only place in East Texas you could buy Blue Bell ice cream."
Wendell Robinson, now retired and in the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor, left Lindale for West Rusk in 1984 and then Bremond, leading that team to the state title game in 1987 with Bo Robinson a defensive lineman on that squad.
Bo Robinson then doled out punishment as a defensive lineman for the Texas Longhorns, earning All-Southwest Conference honors in 1992. After a cup of coffee in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, Robinson was an assistant under Wendell when Bremond made it back to the state final in 1993. His first head coaching spot was at Bangs, where he led the Dragons to back-to-back state championship game appearances in 2002 and 2003. In both games, Bangs was denied state glory by foes from East Texas -2002 by Corrigan-Camden and 2003 by Garrison.
Thirteen years later, Robinson is back at the state final against another East Texas team.
Actually, it's the second East Texas team in Yoakum's way. The Bulldogs took out the first one Friday when Yoakum defeated previously unbeaten Malakoff in the state semifinals at the University of Texas' Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin by limiting the Tigers to their lowest total of the season in a 28-24 win.
It was just the most recent surprise Yoakum has delivered in a season that looked pretty bleak early on. The Bulldogs went 2-2 in non-district before dropping their first two league encounters in close losses to Hallettsville and Edna.
"We have really been playing playoffs for about nine weeks now," Robinson said. The kids have just hung in there."
Yoakum now plays on the biggest of stages and venues, AT&T Stadium, although Robinson slightly disagrees with that.
"Since I am a UT guy, I don't think (our guys) could have played at a better place than DKR," Robinson said. "The way kids are now; most of them have probably been (to AT&T Stadium).
"Don't look up (at that big screen). That is what I am going to tell them."