Mart didn’t wipe the slate clean. After the Panthers’ season ended in the third round of the playoffs last year, at the hands of Crawford no less, Kevin Hoffman hasn’t let his players forget it.
Mart tied the Pirates early in the fourth quarter, but Crawford answered with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Gage Pearson to Cade Johnson with a little under nine minutes left in the game.
“We’ve talked about the loss last year since last year,” Hoffman said. “They knocked us out of the playoffs last year. We talked about it day one of two-a-days. We talked about it when we got in the playoffs. We talked about it this week. We’re going to keep it in the back of our minds. They’re the ones that got us. We don’t want that to happen again.”
Mart will try its best to keep history from repeating itself as the Panthers take on Crawford in the state quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Waco ISD Stadium.
It’s not just Hoffman and the Panthers who haven’t forgotten what happened at Waco ISD Stadium a little over a year ago. Delbert Kelm remembers it, too.
“It was a very, very, very tough and physical football game on both sides between two very good football teams,” the Crawford head coach said. “We made a play or two more than they did. That was the difference in the game. It could have gone either way.”
With the win over Mart, Crawford advanced to the state championship game where the Pirates fell, 23-20, to Refugio. It was tied with less than a minute to play before the Bobcat kicker nailed an 18-yard field goal with eight seconds left to secure the win for Refugio.
“Well, we always tell our team that last year’s success can only take you as far as you allow it to take you,” Kelm said. “We certainly have a different team this year that we had last year. Anytime you make a deep playoff run, it gives you a lot of extra practices. But if you don’t do what you need to do to let that help you, it’s immaterial. I think it allowed a lot of our young guys to get reps.”
For all the hype surrounding this rivalry match-up, there isn’t much history to it. According to lonestarfootball.net, the two teams have faced off on the gridiron six times with Mart holding a 4-2 all-time advantage.
The first contest between the two teams came in 1931, one the Panthers won 44-0. Mart won the next two contests in 1998 and 1999. The two teams didn’t play again until they were in the same district in 2014-15 when each team won one contest.
Mart comes into Thursday’s game with absurd numbers. The Panthers have outscored 12 opponents by a combined total of 646 points. Excluding Mart’s season-opening loss to Lexington (40-38), the Panthers have won 12 straight games by an average score of 60.9 to 7.1.
“Anytime you’re playing a team that has the tradition of Mart, it’s a big game because Mart is synonymous with success,” Kelm said. “They’re one of the most winningest football schools in the whole state of Texas. They’re a very fine football program year in and year out. Anytime we play them we know it will be a big challenge.”
Mart has five state titles — 1957, 1969, 1999, 2006 and 2010. Crawford, meanwhile, has one in 2004. But beyond the hardware, these two programs are consistently the best in Central Texas. Both programs have had winning seasons every year but two since 1986.
“We’re two small Central Texas schools that have a lot of tradition and history,” Hoffman said. “It’s great to play in these types of games no matter what time of year it is. When you throw it in December, obviously there’s a lot more at stake. Everyone knows what’s at stake. Other than that, Crawford and Mart, everyone knows about both the schools. It is what it is.”