Flatonia’s jump to 2A Division I is not cause for concern.
Since 2010, Chris Freytag's had the Bulldogs headed in the right direction and one might look at their projected fourth-place finish in District 13-2A DII as a slight. But taking into consideration that that might be one of the toughest districts in the state, Texas Football is giving Flatonia credit where its due. This is a team to keep an eye on.
“When people look at (the rankings) from afar, you have a preseason No. 1 team in the state, Shiner, and then you got Ganado, who went to the state quarterfinals in 3A last year, coming down so you pretty much knew that would be No. 1 and No. 2,” Freytag said when asked about his team's projection.
When it came down to picking between Flatonia, Schulenburg and Weimar, it was down to returning talent and head-to-head results from 2019. Flatonia returns 16 total starters from last year’s regional semifinals run and has a key win over Schulenburg, who returns less.
Plus, it’s not like the program isn’t used to seeing any of these names on the schedule. The players might be to some extent, but not the staff. Three realignments ago, these same five teams were grouped together too.
“The last time we were (with Shiner, Ganado, Weimar and Schulenburg), we went three rounds,” Freytag said when asked about the pedigree. “The district is just brutal, I mean, it really is. Week in, week out, you're facing physical teams for us with some teams with 60 or 70 more kids in high school than we have.”
But the biggest reason for excitement comes from the returning cast. Dakory Willis is a tough hole to fill in the backfield, but Freytag is confident in 1,000-yard rusher Chris Johnston who averaged nearly a first down per carry as a junior and also registered 67 tackles at defensive end. He’s also the fastest kid in the program.
It says a lot about the Bulldogs’ talent depth that Freytag couldn’t mention one name without remembering three more. It’s hard to keep track of the specific names when you’re returning most of your team. The Hernandez brothers, DB Alex and LB Izick, both put in tons of work during the spring before workouts were shut down due to COVID-19. Josh Ramirez also has the chance to special along the offensive line after starting as a freshman. And those are just the first ones that came to mind first before Ricardo Olivares and Holden Kloesel on the outside or Braylon Burton in the trenches.
The kids in the program now were in elementary and middle school when Flatonia finally broke through to the playoffs under Freytag in 2013, his fourth season at the helm. Now competing as a consistent level has become the norm.
“When you take over a program and it's at its darkest point, I thought we were doing a really good job, but we couldn't get on to that to get in the playoffs,” Freytag said.
The Bulldogs went 9-21 his first three seasons. Now, there’s no need to convince the small 2A town of just under 1,500 people to get excited come fall. Last year’s 11-2 mark is one of Flatonia’s best records since its 1988 Class 1A state finals appearance.
“They have woken up and now they love football again,” Freytag said. “When they walk on that field, they don't really care who they’re playing. They're confident that they can compete and they will compete at the highest level.”
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