As exceptional of a regular season that the third-round bound Academy Bumblebees had, 40 years ago it wouldn’t have been good enough to make the playoffs.
It’s inconceivable these days to imagine a football team going 9-1 in the regular season and not qualifying for the postseason. Yet, before the UIL expanded its playoff system to include district second-place finishers in 1982 that was not an uncommon occurrence. Since later increasing the playoff pool to include third- and four-place teams, it became impossible for a 9-1 to not continue.
Before expansion, though, one misstep against the wrong district opponent at the wrong time meant the season ending without the opportunity to play more. For example, Academy’s lone loss was to district rival Lorena, which went through 11-3A-I unbeaten. The Bees would not have had the chance to post their first 10-win season since 1962.
On at least 15 occasions, area teams that finished the regular season 9-1 were just that — finished.
The Temple Wildcats just played their 114th playoff game in the 100 years of postseason history. They would have had an untold number more if runners-up had qualified.
Temple had one of those 9-1 seasons in 1972, the first season under their greatest coach Bob McQueen. The Wildcats were emerging from a string of mostly so-so years and exploded with nine straight victories before a showdown at No. 4 Killeen.
Before more than 10,000 fans on a drizzly, cold evening that included a color telecast of the game — rare in 1972 — and the oddity of a bomb threat from earlier in the day, the Kangaroos proved to be the more established team. The well-entrenched Gene Rogers-coached team took advantage of five first-half fumbles and an interception to beat Temple 28-0.
Four years later, though, the Wildcats returned the favor. Both teams went into the season finale 9-0 with the 15-4A title at stake. A dominant Wildcats defensive effort, plus a committee of strong rushers, in Anthony Johnson, Carl Robinson, Tony Jackson and Charles Young, propelled Temple to a 21-0 victory. Those Wildcats went on to the state final and began a streak of five straight 10-0 regular seasons. It was the season-ender for Killeen and the career-ender for Rogers after 24 years on the sideline, the last 11 for the Kangaroos.
Also in 1976, Belton saw its season end by a slim margin. The Tigers’ only loss came on Oct. 29 in Taylor. Down 7-0, the Tigers got an 89-yard touchdown romp from Mike Franklin with 8:53 remaining. However, the point-after was blocked and the Ducks held on for a 7-6 win and eventually garnered the 12-3A title.
A few area teams — Troy, Rogers, Gatesville and Granger — had the misfortune of twice going 9-1 without a postseason berth. In fact, for Troy it was back-to-back seasons.
An 18-0 October loss to Bartlett kept the Trojans, then coached by Dick Rodenbeck, out of the playoffs in 1965. The following year a 32-14 rout at the hands of Rogers was all it took to keep the Trojans from extending the season.
Two years later, Rogers found out what that was like. Donald Godwin’s Eagles won their last six games of 1968, but a 12-0 defeat from Rosebud kept Rogers from advancing despite its best regular season record since 1947. Eleven years later, still under Godwin, the Eagles’ 27-8 loss to Bartlett kept them on the sideline.
The 1965 Gatesville Hornets won their first nine games under Jack Gunlock and had a No. 9 ranking going into the season finale at Austin Lanier to clinch the 13-3A title. The Hornets’ David Easley scored on their first possession, but it didn’t happen again. Lanier upset Gatesville 22-6. Like Rogers, it happened a second time in 1979 when Connally upended the Hornets 28-14.
In 1958, Granger ran off eight straight wins and in the ninth week statistically dominated Elgin only to lose 18-8 to cost the Lions a berth. It happened again in 1969 when a stunning 33-8 loss to Leander in the sixth week was enough to lock them out.
Rockdale, under first-year coach Jim Gray in 1967, endured a single loss to Seguin that ended it for the Tigers.
The 9-1 bug hit both Rosebud and Lott in successive seasons, though never to Rosebud-Lott after the two schools merged.
Rosebud ran off nine wins in 1962 going into the finale against Hewitt Midway. To that point, the Black Panthers had outscored opponents 330-14. Rosebud took a 14-0 lead in the game on a touchdown pass from Gene Janes to Harold Swanzy and a Lloyd Fabianke run, but Midway scored 21 unanswered points to win the game and the 22-A crown.
The year before, Rosebud’s Falls County brethren from Lott suffered the same indignation in the seventh week. In a battle of unbeatens, Academy blanked Lott 21-0 midway through the Bees’ 25-game winning streak to knock out the Lions who wouldn’t get near the playoffs in its final eight years of sole existence.
Finally, Holland had a different twist on a nine-win regular season in 1983. The Hornets finished 9-0-1 before going into a zone playoff against Bruceville-Eddy to determine a 13-A South victor. Bruceville-Eddy won that one 30-19.
While there are still those who bemoan a playoff system that allows sub-.500 teams to get onboard, there was a time when it was much less forgiving.
Some of those people probably played for a left-out 9-1 team.