CLIFTON, Texas — For nearly a decade, the Clifton Cubs have developed a storied football tradition up in Bosque County built around winning and competing in the postseason.
That all changed in 2020, when the Cubs missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
"You look at our seniors, they've never been a part of this program when we were not in the playoffs," Clifton Head Coach Chuck Caniford said. "The last time that happened, they were in elementary school. So, that's very unfamiliar territory, and that's very unacceptable."
A large reason for the Cubs' demise was the overall strength of their district. All four teams from District 13-3A made the regional semifinals before knocking each other out. District champ Franklin came one point shy of winning a state championship.
"Our fans like to give us excuses, senior J.P. Gardner said. "We've got a tough district, but that doesn't matter to us. Our standard is to make the playoffs and that's what we're gonna do."
The early end to the season has served as a major source of motivation for the Cubs this offseason.
"We have a banner [with playoff appearances] and this past year hasn't been up there," senior Will Simmons said. "We don't want to be the senior class that didn't get our year on that banner up."
To get into the playoffs, the Cubs will have to unseat one of the four powers to qualify in 2020: Franklin, Lexington, Rogers and Buffalo. The first three all enter the year ranked among the Top 20 teams in 3A-II.
Clifton is projected to finish the season fifth in 13-3A II.
To overcome the odds, they will rely on speed along the edges as they rebuild their interior line presence.
Clifton opens the season at home in a matchup with Bosqueville.