For the first time since the fall of 2003, the Greenville Lions will be playing meaningful football in November.
For Texas high schools, the ultimate goal is making the playoffs. District championships are great and a goal every coach has for their teams, but making the playoffs is what matters.
Make the playoffs and you have a shot at a state title.
That’s exactly what has happened for Greenville head coach Darren Duke, who understands what it takes to build programs, and what its like being apart of winning teams.
During the mid-to-late 90s, Duke was a part of bringing a winning culture to the Lions under then-head coach Marvin Sedberry.
Those teams went on a record-breaking playoff run in the history of Greenville football, rattling off nine consecutive appearances from 1995-2003, and Duke was a part of these teams for seven years before leaving in 2001.
Duke returned to the Lions as a defensive coordinator in 2012, and in 2016, he became the team’s head coach.
And the culture is similar when comparing his tenures.
“The kids have bought into being tough,” Duke said. “Once you start winning, then that expectation is already there, and that’s what we had in the late 90s.
“Now, we have relationships with these kids where they will do the hard work, do the tough things, and even though they’ve not seen the full fruits of that labor, they’re willing to do the work.”
Duke credits his hard off-season program and the resiliency of the kids for bringing Greenville back to the playoffs.
Additionally, they are talented.
This Lions feature great speed at the skill positions on both sides of the ball that Duke says they didn’t have back on those teams in the 90s.
“When you have a chance to have those big plays,” Duke said of his team’s explosive ability, “then that certainly helps you and puts you in a great position to win.”
Fully healthy, the Lions head into a first-round match-up against a speedy and powerful Frisco team that dominated opponents this year.
Grabbing a share of the District 7-5A championship last week against Lucas Lovejoy, Frisco comes into this game with a 9-1 regular season record.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s game at The Star in Frisco, Duke feels that district play has prepared him for the challenges ahead.
Facing adversity due to injuries, coming from behind and learning to compete with anyone in its district, gives Greenville an edge.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.