By Conner Mullins

            The Eagles finished the 2019 season with an overall record of 3-7 and currently place sixth in District 3-6A during their bye week with a district record of 2-4. The Eagles are out of playoff contention, finishing ahead of only L.D. Bell.

The Eagles started the 2019 season 1-3 and were unable to secure a victory until week four against the Midland High Bulldogs, a 28-7 win. The Eagles lost to Tascosa 19-14 at home in week one, Midland Lee 35-21 at home in week two, and Abilene Cooper 23-14 at home in week three.

“We played good non-district teams,” Fullen said. “Teams that all had deep runs in the playoffs the year prior with Tascosa getting beat in the semifinals last year and Midland Lee getting beat in the quarterfinals last year, and obviously Cooper is a really talented football team.

The Eagles played these teams to prepare themselves for district.

“Our district is very competitive,” Fullen said. “We just stayed the course and the team knew they wanted to win these games but at the same time you want to prepare yourself for district. Our guys never wavered. They showed up every day with a good attitude and work ethic and I was extremely proud of them for that.”

The Eagles were able to secure two victories in District 3-6A with wins over Haltom and Bell, but four district losses, three of which were on the road, eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention.

“We got to get off the bus ready to play but a lot of that doesn’t have to do with travelling, it’s more about the competition,” Fullen said. “We’ve typically travelled very well, so I don’t use that as an excuse. A lot of it is just the team we played was better than us.”
            Injuries also posed a problem for the Eagles specifically at the quarterback position. Eric Abbe, a senior who started the first three games of the season at quarterback, was rotated around at different positions offensively and defensively. Matthew Ezzell, a junior who led the offense in passing yards, missed a total of three games due to injury. Abel Ramirez, a sophomore, started the last game of the season against Trinity due to an Ezzell injury.

“It’s unfortunate because that’s a position that you can’t afford to have people hurt,” Fullen said. “But we as a staff did a good job of working around that and we were able to still put a product on the field that was competitive. You’ve got your next man up mentality which all teams have and I thought our coaching staff did a good job of managing that.”
            Fullen’s team had 40 seniors on the roster this year.

“You don’t replace that kind of leadership,” Fullen said. “You hope they’ve laid a foundation. When you have that many seniors end up in a program our size, that speaks volumes. They’re a special group because they’ve stayed together for so long and they’re pretty bonded, so I’m going to miss them. These guys are going to be apart of me forever because they’re my first senior class and me being the head coach and knowing them since they were freshmen. They’re a group I’ll always remember.”
            Fullen joined the Eagles in the 1997 season when he was hired by Steve Warren as an associate football coach. Fullen’s teams won numerous district championships and even a state title in 2009.  After a disappointing end to this season, Fullen and his staff remain optimistic about taking the Eagles back to the playoffs, somewhere the Eagles haven’t been since 2016 in a different district than the Eagles are in now.

“I wanted to get this program back to a level of play where we’ve been in the past,” Fullen said. “We’re always going to be competitive. It doesn’t matter what district we’re in or who we’re playing, competitiveness is built into our culture. Sometimes people look at how we’ve had a skid the last couple of years but a lot of that has to do with the people that you play. Your record doesn’t always look as good because when you get to a level that we’ve gotten to, the teams that’ll play you are typically teams that other teams don’t want to play, so you play them but to better yourself. I think we had the ball bounce against us a couple of times and there were injuries we could’ve avoided to have a different year but you’re never going to blame anything. All you can do is learn from it and move forward and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Offensive lineman Khalil Spivey believes Fullen will accomplish great things with the Eagles.

“This team still has something special,” Spivey said. “Don’t count it out for next year. Coach Fullen is going to put them to work. This offseason is going to suck but they’re going to be back on top soon.”