John Bachtel jokes that his Fairfield Eagles didn’t know how cold it could be to play a Texas high school football playoff game in December.
“By this time of the year, we’re usually practicing inside and watching everybody else,” he said with a laugh. “So it’s been a lot of fun to see all the Christmas lights and still be playing.”
The Eagles (15-0) had only reached the state quarterfinals once in 19 previous playoff appearances since 1942. But they are undefeated this season and won’t have to worry about the weather for their next— and final —game of the season. They’ll be inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington to battle another undefeated Eagles team, this one from Argyle, for the Class 3A Division II state championship.
While the Eagles from Argyle (15-0) have been a perennial state playoff team — this is their third trip to the state finals since 2005 — Fairfield has established itself this season with a high-scoring offense that has led the program to its best season ever.
Fairfield won just one game in 2009, but won 27 over the next three years.
“We knew we had a good group,” Bachtel said. “They’ve been good since the seventh grade. We were ready to set that goal that we could go further. These guys set that higher goal. They’ve really matured. Sure, we’ve got a lot of good athletes and we knew that, but to be really honest, it was the whole team chemistry that came together.”
Winning big games helps, too. Like in late September when Fairfield took on defending 3A state champion Navasota, a team that had allowed only one touchdown in four games and was on a 20-game winning streak.
Enter Larry Rose, a 5-foot-11, 168-pound running back. He started the game with a 51-yard scoring run and finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 44-24 victory.
“I think that’s when we knew we had something special,” said Bachtel, in his second season as head coach and sixth at the school.
Fairfield went through the regular season undefeated and rarely threatened, outscoring opponents 576-86. The closest any opponent came was Navasota.
The Eagles’ 860 points (average of 57.3 per game) is a state record for most points in a season, breaking the record of 803 set by Southlake Carroll in 1992.
Rose, who has rushed for 2,659 yards on 210 carries and scored 47 touchdowns, leads Fairfield’s high-scoring spread offense. This week he was named The Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year in Class 3A.
“His vision is really good ... he can see things before they happen,” Bachtel said of Rose. “He’s a student of the game. He studies the film and he prepares himself. He’s a special one.”
Senior quarterback Jacob Gallegos, who has thrown for 2,288 yards, 26 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, directs the offense.
The Eagles play a 3-4 defense led by tackles Danny Cockerell and Dedrick Garner and junior nose guard Jose Gallegos.
Fairfield will be facing an equally potent team in Argyle, which has averaged 51.7 points per game while giving up 12.7.
Bachtel also wants to make sure his team doesn’t get lost in the awe of playing at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“We’re going to try to get there early and get all those ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ out of the way,” he said. “The thing about playing Argyle is it won’t take a lot of effort to get focused.”