It’d be easy to say now that everything has gone according to Jay Northcutt’s plan at Wolfforth Frenship, but the coach won’t do that — at least, not in every way.
“I don’t know if you ever plan on going 0-10 or only winning three games in a season,” Northcutt said, “but the resiliency of our kids has gone as planned.”
That resiliency is, in part, what took Frenship from a combined 3-17 record in Northcutt’s first two seasons at the helm in 2017 and 2018, to a 7-4 mark and a return to the playoffs in 2019. And while the Tigers were surprising Texas in the fall, Northcutt says it was in the spring that he could tell his squad was ready for a leap.
“When you play a lot of young players, those kids eventually get older,” Northcutt said, noting that the Tigers started three freshmen in a winless 2017 campaign. “I think the biggest asset we have here is the commitment level and the competitive attitude our players have.”
Frenship’s improvement from a 3-7 season in 2018 to their breakout 2019 year was stark — an improvement of 17 points per game offensively, coupled with a two-touchdown-per-game jump defensively in points allowed.
The biggest boost, besides improved team cohesiveness, was the addition of quarterback Donoavan Smith, who transferred to Frenship from Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman after his father, DeAndre Smith, took a position on Matt Wells’ staff at Texas Tech. The dual-threat signal-caller made his impact felt: 3,114 yards and 26 touchdowns passing; 489 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing; and, according to his coach, devotion to his team.
“When you have a player that moves in that already has some Division I offers, that’s exciting, but you wonder, what kind of person is he going to be?” Northcutt said. “Luckily for us, he was that good of a kid. Beyond the physical ability, he’s got the leadership and the work ethic, and he has that understanding of how important it is to bond with your teammates.”
The Tigers’ roaring 2019 ended on a sour note, though, in the first round of the playoffs as Frenship dropped a heartbreaking 36-35 decision to El Paso Americas — ironically, on the same field in El Paso where the winless 2017 season started with a thumping at the hands of El Paso Montwood. And while Northcutt hammered home the message of how far the program has come in such a short time, he’s already looking forward to 2020 — in part, through filling out his questionnaire for Texas Football magazine.
“I had to erase all the players who just graduated, and that gives you a sinking feeling,” Northcutt said. “But then you start filling out the spots, and I thought, y’know, we’re gonna be alright. We don’t have a Donovan Smith on our team — not many people do — but I think we’re more complete.”
It’s all just the next step in Frenship’s plan to get back to the top of the South Plains.
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