WACO, Texas — The Mart Panthers are getting set for their third-straight State Title game appearance, on Thursday.
The Panthers set their goals very high to end up here every year, and even with a young team this year they were able to grow up quickly and ingrain that Mart mindset within this team.
“They don’t think of themselves as sophomores, they don’t think they’re, young,” Head Coach Kevin Hoffman said. “They think they can play with anybody. They probably think they could play against Baylor, we got some talented kids, they just have to put the work in day in and day out, along with the coaching staff and believe in trusting what we’re doing.”
That belief is important so is their familiarity with the enormity of AT&T Stadium. The older guys have been here three straight years, and even the younger guys know exactly what to expect and how it feels to be on that big stage at AT&T Stadium.
“Last year they [Sophomores] were freshmen, and they actually played the whole for the whole fourth quarter of that game [against Gruver],” Hoffman said. “They made a ton of mistakes but they learned from those things and for them to be able to play the fourth quarter of a state championship game as freshmen, just gave them a ton of experience now they also played in a total of five of the six playoff games last year which is a ton of experience. When they were eighth graders, when we went in 2017, they were ball boys and managers and they rode with the team and they did everything.”
Now those sophomores have grown up to be big time contributors on this team, learning hard lessons from a massively difficult non-district schedule that included a pair of 2A division-one teams in Holland and Refugio, anbd even had 3A division one Franklin.
“Losing three games in non district which I thought that could happen, especially with a young team, but what the team did is the young guys that grew up, though they matured. They learned from those losses they learned from watching the film and going through the game and playing in an atmosphere, like Refugio which is an unbelievable place to go play. It’s a playoff-type atmosphere. The place was packed and it was a great game on both parts so you know we use all that to our advantage.”
Mart and Hamlin will kick off at 11:00am on Thursday morning inside AT&T Stadium, in Arlington.