BURLESON — The Burleson Centennial Spartans will begin league action in a top-10 showdown Friday at defending state champion Aledo.
In Dave Campbell’s Texas Football week 2 rankings, Centennial checks in at No. 9 in the Class 5A DII poll while Aledo is in its usual position at No. 1.
To the knowledge of Spartan head coach Kyle Geller, it’s the first time Burleson Centennial has ever cracked the top-10 rankings. But the Spartans’ commander-in-chief doesn’t put any stock into rankings.
“What I see on the practice field every day and on Friday nights is all I worry about,” Geller said. “Until we play a number of games, rankings don’t mean a whole lot. They’ve never won anybody any games. But it’s nice to have that respect for your program.”
With Centennial making its debut in the top-10 poll, it makes the District 5-5A Division II opener against Aledo a top-10 showdown.
For the second year in a row, the Spartans carry a 2-0 record into their league-opening tilt against the perennial power Bearcats as Centennial has picked up impressive non-district wins over Corsicana (34-21) and Denison (53-34).
“We’re nowhere near what we can be, even though we beat what I feel is a couple of good teams,” Geller said. “We’ve got to clean things up in every facet of the game in all three phases. But the kids have played hard and they give good effort. With that, you always have a chance. As coaches, we’ve got to get them cleaned up on a few things.”
Aledo, meanwhile, is 1-1 as the Bearcats dropped a wild 60-57 decision in week 1 against No. 7 (6A) Denton Guyer before bouncing back with a 63-0 win last week against Linces UVM Toluca out of Mexico.
Geller said facing a program like seven-time state champion Aledo is as much about the mental side and approach as it is physical execution.
“We know who we’re playing, our kids know who we’re playing,” Geller said. “The big thing is you just go out and play. You don’t worry about them being who they are. You go out and you play. If you play timid, they’ll beat you down. You can’t play timid. You’ve got to go out there and play to win. There’s no pressure on us, so go out and play. It’s like, if you watched Army and Michigan play last weekend, no one expected Army to even be in the same stadium with those guys. But you saw them in their locker room before the game and they knew they were going to be fine. That’s the same attitude I’d like to see from our program.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it’s about you and your execution. We can’t control what the other team has as far as their talent, their size, whatever. You game plan for certain things, but you can only control yourself, your effort, your focus and your toughness. That’s what I hope our kids see this week and I hope that’s how they play.”
The Spartans are 0-3 all-time against Aledo. In one of those games, the Spartans gave the Bearcats a scare when Centennial entered the game with the right mindset. The other two meetings, Centennial didn’t give itself a chance to stay in the game because of self-inflicted mistakes.
“We’ve played them three times,” Geller said. “The very first year we played to win and the first half was close and we battled against them. The second year we played them, we moved the football OK but they had their way with us on offense. And last year we turned the ball over too many times. I don’t think they punted one time. And we had six or seven turnovers.
“You win games by not losing them. That’s where you start. You lose games by giving the other team cheap things like turnovers and penalties. Our kids know what happened last year and how that affected the game. We were out of the game in the first half because we gave it to them four or five times.”
If the Spartans eliminate those self-inflicted mistakes, they have the personnel and unique schemes to hang with the Bearcats. While Aledo has standout playmakers on a yearly basis, Centennial has its own collection of game-changing playmakers in Chris Mosley, Jeff Kirven and Jaylon Jackson. But for that trio to be effective, Geller said it all starts in the trenches.
“It comes down to the interior,” Geller said. “If we don’t win the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage, plain and simple. If we win the line of scrimmage, we can do a lot of things. If we don’t win the line of scrimmage, we can’t do much.”
More than anything, Geller said he’s looking for his Spartans to play to win and give consistent effort.
“I want to see unbelievable effort,” he said. “If their kids are just simply better than our kids, well, so be it. But it’s not always the best player that wins, it’s the best team that wins. I know they have a great program over there. We, like everyone else, have so much respect for them and what they’ve done.”
Kickoff between Centennial and Aledo is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday from Bearcat Stadium.