It's been a difficult transition this season for the Terrell Tigers.
With a new coaching staff came a new system. Yet without spring practice, the Tigers had little time to mesh the schemes with the available players.
Combine those circumstances with a daunting schedule in District 15-4A, and Terrell sits in the district basement with three games remaining in the season. The Tigers (2-5, 0-5) will look to snap a five-game skid when they host West Mesquite on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Despite losing four out of five district games by margins of 35 points or more, including a 42-7 defeat at Corsicana last week, Terrell head coach Darrell Jordan refuses to make excuses.
"It's tough when you're coming in new and trying to put in your system, and we didn't have spring training, which was a big thing," Jordan said. "But we don't have any excuses to offer. Any time you lose, it's disappointing. Every time you step on that field, you expect to win. You prepare to win. And we haven't been getting it done."
Jordan said that he can see progress from his team in practice and during the games, even if it has yet to show up on the scoreboard.
"If you work hard enough, sooner or later you're going to reap the benefits," Jordan said. "We're still waiting to reap the benefits. We're going to keep doing the right things we need to do to turn it around, however long it takes."
The Terrell coaches are trying to find positives to build upon, Jordan said, such as the defensive effort in the second half against Corsicana, when the Tigers allowed just 60 total yards after surrendering 400 yards before halftime.
"The kids finally realized what the defensive coaches have been saying. We're finally getting through to them, and they understand it," Jordan said. "It was a completely different second half, as far as defense was concerned."
The Tigers have turned the quarterback job primarily to a pair of sophomores -- Cameron Smith and Quincy Jackson, who split time last week. Jackson will miss the next two games with a dislocated shoulder he suffered against Corsicana, meaning Smith will get the start and the bulk of the snaps on Friday, with senior Shea South as the backup.
Jordan said he saw some improvement from the offense last week, when Terrell gained 318 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown run from Dwayne Dowell, but committed five turnovers.
"We were moving the football up and down the field all night," Jordan said. "It's a growing process for those two young kids. The good thing about that is you've got them coming back for two more years."
Terrell linebacker Quamyas White also will miss Friday's game with a dislocated shoulder, Jordan said.
Friday's game will be critical for the Wranglers (2-5, 2-3) in the race for the final playoff spot in 15-4A. West Mesquite has made five straight postseason appearances.
The Wranglers struggled on offense early this season, but had one of their best offensive games of the year during a 40-33 loss to district leader Waxahachie last week.
The previous week, West Mesquite scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to upset rival Mesquite Poteet 22-21.
"We've improved dramatically since the early part of the season," said West Mesquite head coach Mike Overton. "We have an incredibly young football team. We've been making some steady progress, and our kids are fighting hard."
Overton credits the improvement in part to the maturity of his offense, which lost several players to graduation following a three-game playoff run in 2010.
"We've had to simplify some things," Overton said. "It was a total rebuilding year offensively, and we've struggled somewhat but we're getting better."
West Mesquite has tried three different quarterbacks in an effort to replace Trevone Boykin, who signed with TCU after a stellar career with the Wranglers. Boykin had 324 all-purpose yards and accounted for four touchdowns during West Mesquite's 45-20 win over Terrell last season.
The current quarterback for the Wranglers is sophomore Shateek Nasir, who threw for three scores with no interceptions against Waxahachie. Two of those touchdowns went to Eldridge Massington, who is one of the top Class 4A receivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this season with 39 catches for 663 yards and six touchdowns.
"They're a good team. They're peaking at the right time," Jordan said. "We're going to take away what they like to do. We've got a good game plan, and we feel confident going into this game."
Overton said that with two teams in rebuilding mode, Friday's matchup could be intriguing.
"Their record is the same as ours. I see a team that's fighting hard and their kids are playing hard. We're going to get their best effort," Overton said. "It's two teams that have some talent and are trying to find their footing a little bit."