TXHSFB Team to Watch: Frisco Raccoons using winless 2017 campaign as motivation for perfect start to 2019

Frisco High School

First year Frisco High School head coach Jeff Harbert didn’t see his team’s perfect start coming. In fact, few did.

High school writers, including ours, thought the Raccoons, still recovering from a winless 2017 campaign, would contend for a playoff spot and slide in as the fourth-place team from District 7-5A. Six games into the season, Frisco finds itself in playoff contention, just not the way we saw it during the summer. Off to the team’s best start since 1973 at 6-0, Frisco has shown that some young players who were thrust into key roles last season have come of age.

“We had some young guys in key roles last year, and they’re using that experience this year,” Harbert said. “We’ve had a few talented classes come in back-to-back years, and that’s led to what’s been a breakout season for us.”

Experience has made all the difference with the Raccoons’ high-scoring offense that’s been, well, rabid at times. Frisco scored 76 in a district win over Lebanon Trail, but Harbert points to wins against Melissa (48-41 on Sept. 6) and Frisco Reedy (35-31 on Sept. 27) as telling signs that this team has turned a corner.

“We fell behind at Melissa 14-0 in the first quarter, and we had a chance to fold up our tents and go home,” Harbert said. “Maybe some of our teams in the past would have done that. But these guys hung in there.

“Same thing against Reedy. We got out to a big lead and then didn’t do much. Well, they scored 24 straight points and with four minutes left, we found ourselves down by four points. We hadn’t done a whole lot in that game, but we found a way. Some of the plays down the stretch were definitely unconventional, but the guys made it happen to get that win.”

Frisco averages 44.6 points per game, and Harbert said his playmakers are doing exactly that.

“Now guys are finding ways to make plays when it’s time to make plays,” he said.

Frisco’s used a balanced, fast-paced attack to harass opposing defenses. Quarterback Caree Green’s thrown for 1,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Transfer receiver Chase Lowery has been a big play machine, averaging 25 yards per catch with seven touchdowns. And running back Bryson Clemons, thrust into the lineup during that forgettable 2017 season, is running with renewed energy, averaging 120 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry.

“Bryson had to carry the ball a lot as a sophomore before he was really ready to,” Harbert said. “And he will tell you that last year he didn’t really live up to his or our expectations. He had to buy in to our way of doing things, and he has really done that. He’s running harder and more aggressively. He’s still really explosive but now he is getting us the tough yards as well.”

Along with Blake May and Donta Reece, the Raccoons have an effective running game that prevents defenses from keying on one player.

Harbert said his defense takes a bit of a different approach to things. Opponents have moved the ball and scored at a clip of 26 points per game, but those figures don’t bother Harbert as long as Aaron Taylor (12 tackles per game) and his teammates are making teams work for what they get.

“We give up a lot of yards,” Harbert explained. “That’s not really by design, but we play to our offense. If we can make the other team earn what they get, then we think they’ll have trouble keeping up with our offense.”

So far, that math works, though the Raccoons have been tempting fate by allowing opponents to convert on a high rate when they get to third and fourth down.

“I think we’re coming along as a unit, but when we get to third and fourth down, we can’t get off the field,” Harbert said. “We need to be better at that.”

There’s good news on that front, and better news, Harbert said.

Following Friday’s game with Lake Dallas, Frisco has three game weeks plus a bye to sharpen their skills. That’s the good news. The better news?

“The guys are confident, but they know we aren’t a finished product yet,” Harbert said. “Our goal is to be able to play with the elite teams.”

The coach, who spent 14 years as an assistant before succeeding Vance Gibson, said his players know what they must do to finish the season on a high note.

“We can’t buy into the Frisco hype, so to speak,” he said, noting that various media outlets have noticed his team’s start. “As long as we maintain our focus and work hard, I feel like we have kids who make plays when they need to be made. These dudes will show up when it’s time.”

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