By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – Atascocita has come a long way since the days of 3-7 records and missing the playoffs.
In its first six seasons as a program, the Eagles had one 10-win season, amassing an overall record of just 25-36.
The past now five seasons, the story has been much different.
Under the guidance of Craig Stump, the Eagles have hit the 10-win mark three times and racked up 24 wins. State Quarterfinals and now a State Semifinals appearance in just the past two seasons.
“You strive for that, you create those expectations and then it’s about the players and them getting it done on the field,” Stump, who is 48-12 in his fifth season at Atascocita, said. “You don’t have a crystal ball, so you can’t really tell when you might get to this point. Certainly it’s something you strive for and you expect to work to get there so when it happens hopefully you’re ready for it.”
The Eagles have been ready for it week in and week out, led by senior quarterback Daveon Boyd.
Boyd hasn’t put up the monster numbers statistically this season like last, passing for 2,347 yards, 25 touchdowns and rushing for another 766 yards and 13 scores, but has led the Eagles to one round farther than last year and to consecutive 12-win seasons.
There are differences in his game this year, Stump said as he is more confident with the ball and makes decisions quicker.
“I just think it’s another year of having been in those games,” he said. “He had a whole new group of receivers this year and they’ve grown throughout the year and are playing really well right now. I just think overall confidence of having been there and just one more year of knowing the offense and knowing what we’re trying to do.”
Getting to the State Semifinals hasn’t been a simple path for Atascocita taking down Pearland, Lamar and North Shore in three-straight weeks.
Pearland, Lamar and North Shore have all been to at least the State Semifinals once since 2010, the Oilers winning a State Championship in 2010 and of course the Mustangs being the defending
6A Division 1 State Champions from a year ago.
Having had to go through a gauntlet of teams like this, Stump said this has prepared them to take on a team such as No. 3 Lake Travis, which is a program that won five-straight State Championships from 2007-2012.
“They’ve been in these games before,” Stump said. “I think you do approach it as the game is going to come down to three or four plays, you don’t know when they’re going to happen and so far we’ve been able to make them. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
For the past three rounds, close victories have been the story for Atascocita.
Against Pearland the Eagles led 21-14 heading into the fourth quarter, ended up winning 35-14. Against Lamar it took a pick six with 3:18 left in the game to seal a 28-27 win. Against North Shore, it took a 36-yard field goal with time expiring, a forced fumble and six-yard touchdown run by Boyd in overtime to down the defending State Champs.
It’s been close calls week in and week out for the Eagles to put it lightly, but the same can’t be said for Lake Travis.
The Cavaliers outscoring their opponents this postseason 201-38 and have scored north of 50 points on 10 occasions this season, three of those coming in the playoffs.
Against Westlake, a team that averaged 36.6 points per game in the regular season and 42.3 points per game in the postseason, Lake Travis held the Chaps to just three points while scoring 51 in the blowout victory.
“Obviously we have to tackle well, they’ve had some big plays,” Stump said of Westlake. “We have to make them move the length of the field and eliminate the big plays.
“I also think one thing that we’re talking about is that they haven’t been pushed in the fourth quarter like we have. If we can get in that position and push them and see how they respond.”
Practicing in the second week of December preparing for a game is something Lake Travis has been accustomed too but not the same for Atascocita.
Cavaliers are into the State Semifinals for the eighth time since 2007, while for the Eagles its the first time in program history.
“What I told our players was if you’re satisfied with that then it’ll show in your performance,” Stump said. “You get to this point, you want to be in the final two and approach that game the way you need to. I don’t think there is any question anytime you’re one of the last four teams playing and its the second week of December it’s pretty special.”
Atascocita faces No. 3 Lake Travis with a State Championship game berth on the line at 2 p.m. on Saturday inside the Alamodome.