MARLIN, Texas — When Ruben Torres III was named the head coach of the Marlin Bulldogs, he knew he was taking over a sleeping giant. Now, in his first year at the helm, Torres III and the Bulldogs are making history.
"Its really exciting," Marlin junior Zha'Mauryon Lofton said. "We have not done this in a very long time, so to do it with all of my brothers, it feels good."
A little less than two years ago, a playoff run like this did not seem possible. In fact, it seemed unlikely there would be a school in town where the kids could play.
In February of 2020, Marlin ISD lost its accreditation status from the TEA. It was rumored students would have to transfer to other nearby school districts.
But, in the year that followed, Marlin ISD made wholesale changes and kept its doors open.
As if that was not enough, the city took another major blow during the winter ice storm at the beginning of 2021 when the town's water plant froze. The resulting damage left the town without water for days.
Combined with the overwhelming stress placed on local businesses by COVID-19, these major setbacks left the town in desperate need of a win.
"[Our players] have overcome a lot outside of football and I think we've really done a good job of explaining that to them," Torres III said. "You are winners. You can persevere. You can push through. The game of football is going to be that much easier for you. Look what you've done in life."
The players have responded to that message, rattling off three consecutive playoff wins over Bosqueville, Lindsay and Tolar.
"We came out early and everybody was a little skeptical and unsure of what we were getting," Torres III said. "But them seeing the work these kids have put in, the coaching staff. I think all of those things contribute to our success."
The Bulldogs have become a bright light in an otherwise dark year in Marlin, and fans living in their community have rallied behind them throughout the playoff run.
"Everybody is just coming out, showing love. Marlin hasn't really had that in a long time, so its good for the community, good for us, and it helps us get the wins on Friday," Lofton said.
The support has not gone unnoticed by the Marlin coaching staff.
"It's been great. It's been huge. And like I said, it's bigger than football here," Torres III said.
Marlin will try to punch its ticket to the state semifinals Friday night against Crawford. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.