SPORTS HEADLINES

Football: Adversity pushes Decatur

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, November 29, 2017
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Adding to Trophy Case

ADDING TO TROPHY CASE – Decatur coach Mike Fuller presents his team with the area trophy after the Eagles’ victory over Andrews Friday. Decatur earned its first trip to the third round since 2013. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A few weeks ago before Decatur beat Sanger to end the regular season, coach Mike Fuller said 4-6, 5-5 and 6-4 teams entering the playoffs were some of the most dangerous.

But just two games earlier, it certainly didn’t look like the Eagles would be one of those teams. Fresh off a 69-36 loss at the hands of Wichita Falls Hirschi, Decatur was 3-4, battered and dealing with a slew of injuries.

With three games remaining on their schedule, against the bottom three teams in District 4-4AI, the Eagles began to right the ship, defeating Gainesville, Burkburnett and Sanger to end the regular season at 6-4.

Reece Waddell

Now with two playoff victories under its belt, Decatur is playing its best football into December, and if nothing else, showing exactly why those 4-6, 5-5 and 6-4 teams that get into the playoffs are so dangerous.

Although Decatur struggled with injuries early in the season, the Eagles battled through them and are now on a roll. Along with several key players going down, Decatur also played a tough schedule. The four teams the Eagles lost to (Midlothian Heritage, Stephenville, Argyle and Hirschi) have a combined record of 44-4, and are all still alive in the playoffs.

Make no mistake about it, Decatur is a better team after being battle-tested.

The Eagles dispatched Abilene Wylie, a team who played for the 4A state title last season, in the bi-district round and then defeated a 9-2 Andrews squad in the area game last Friday.

“I think we wouldn’t be where we are as a team without those injuries,” senior linebacker Harrison Haney said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity as a team, and it’s helped us grow stronger. We started caring for each other more.”

Including its two playoff victories, Decatur has averaged 60.4 points per game during its five-game winning streak. Against Andrews, a team that allowed just 24.2 points per game in the regular season, the Eagles put up 55.

Junior quarterback Wilson Hicks had one of his best games of the year, going 26-for-39 for 434 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Meanwhile, Decatur’s defense has come up big in key moments as well.

The Eagles held a high-octane Andrews team scoreless down the stretch last week, forcing a punt and turnover on downs to put the game away.

“We got healthy,” Hicks said of his team’s recent performance. “We just have a lot of confidence right now.”

It’s easy to see why.

On a team littered with seniors – 28 to be exact – Decatur’s experience is starting to pay dividends.

Impact players like senior Dane Fitzgerald have returned from injury. Senior linebacker Braxton Roth has continued to play despite a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

In these do-or-die, win-or-go-home games, the Eagles aren’t ready to roll over just yet, despite who their opponent may be.

It’s a testament to this team’s incredible resilience.

“This year didn’t start off the way [the seniors] wanted it to,” Fuller said. “They came in with a lot of expectations. They have an opportunity Friday, if things go our way, to live up to some of those expectations. And they already have. They’ve done a lot of good things.”

Now the stage is set for Decatur to avenge its last loss when the Eagles take on Hirschi Friday. The last time these two schools met, Hirschi running back Daimarqua Foster torched Decatur for 580 yards and five touchdowns.

But the Eagles are a different football team now – healthy, confident and ready for a much different result.

Even if some people might not be picking them to win.

“We don’t really pay attention to favorites,” Hicks said. “We just go out there and play.”

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