Henry: New Diana moving on very quickly
Dec. 6, 2017 at 10:04 p.m.
DIANA — It's a thin line to attempt to forget a forgettable moment. That's where the New Diana Eagles find themselves.
Part of it is about moving on, in this case a winless football season just two years ago. The second part of that equation is to keep it close, as a badge, perhaps, to remind you of where you've come from, what it's taken to overcome that and, in New Diana's case, how fast you've been able to do both.
"It's always going to be there because those kids have come so far," New Diana head coach Robbie Coplin, in his second year as the Eagles' head coach, said. "It's one of those deals where you never forget.
"It's like anything else in life, you never really forget where you come from in the past but you also want to keep your eyes looking forward and that's what this team has done."
Two key ingredients have helped the Eagles move past that 0-10 season in 2015 very quickly: Speed and grit.
Above Coplin's desk in his office in the New Diana field house is the word 'Tempo' and, if you've seen the Eagles play this season, a season that includes its first district championship in 15 years and its first trip to the state quarterfinals in 45 years, you know they take it to heart. If not, believe me, the Eagles, who are averaging 46 points and 500 yards per game, move in a hurry. It's bigger than simply an offensive approach, however.
"It was a new system on both sides of the ball when we got here," said Coplin, who went 3-7 in his first season a year ago. "It was a new way to do things but on top of that, it was a new mindset.
"A lot of it was that we had to earn their trust. They needed to know that we were going to be here, we were dedicated to work hard and we wanted to win just as bad as they did."
This team, particularly the senior group, Coplin said, grew up winning, especially on the baseball field.
"That leadership made the transition a lot better," Coplin said. "These kids are hungry to be winners and they were hungry to work to make that happen on the football field."
It's taken them all to do so. With a number of contributors with an impact both on offense and defense, the Eagles (10-3) have reached double-digits in the win column for the first time since 1995, the last district title to come back to the field house.
Senior quarterback Jackson Sampson, who has passed for over 4,500 yards with 61 touchdowns, is the "cool, calm and collected" maestro of the 'Eagle Tempo' offense.
Sampson, who is one of 10 finalists for Dave Campbell's Texas Football's Mr. Texas Football Player of the Year, has weapons everywhere, like the senior wide receiver duo of TJ Rogers and Cody Payton, who have a combined 43 touchdown receptions this season.
Senior Cole Willeford has 122 tackles and 14 tackles for loss on defense to go with eight total touchdowns on offense.
That's just a small sample because, at New Diana, it's an all-hands-on-deck effort.
"It's taken every single person on this team to get to this point," Coplin added.
They're fast, yes, and that's paying dividends but the second part of the mix for the Eagles, who have six games on its season determined by fewer than six points, including a 49-48 win in the third round a week ago, is something deeper: Grit.
"I just think a lot of it is their determination, they don't want to stop and they're going to keep going until the end," Coplin said. "They're going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
"These guys, they'll just fight you tooth and nail until the end."
And that's how you turn the forgettable into the unforgettable.
(Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h; For a complete preview of New Diana vs. Gunter (13-0) in the Class 3A, Division II, Region II final, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Royse City ISD Stadium, see Friday's News-Journal)