For Tigers, high expectations make 2009 a disappointment
It started way back in July, when pigskin bible Texas Football declared that the Rockdale Tigers were worthy of winning District 24-3A and also of a No. 15 in its pre-season poll.
You'll have to classify that game as one that got away.
In between the Tigers soared to a 7-0 record which included a convincing win over archrival Cameron that earned them a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
They reached as high as No. 5 in two other polls.
While the offense struggled, the defense held steadfastly in close wins over Lampasas, Marlin and Madisonville by a total of seven points.
And in the blink of an eye, the class that was supposed to lead the Tigers back to championship glory, is gone.
"They had a great year and we will miss them," Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller said. "They are better young men than they are football players."
The Tigers were 23-21 in the Men of '10s four-year span.
The Tigers will return 10 evenly distributed starters (five on offense, five on defense) next season, including a bevy of players who played a lot, including sophomore running back Daniel Brooks, who showed flashes of greatness.
Brooks finished with 682 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, but wasn't the same after suffering a hip pointer injury against Madisonville.
He had racked up 596 yards and eight touchdowns up to that point and finished with 86 yards and one score in the last five games while playing sparingly.
On offense it's a given that junior Tyler Wright will assume quarterback duties.
Four of the five returnees are in the line in juniors Sal Bishop, LaRaven Clark and Dillan Schnerr and sophomore Patrick David.
Bishop, Clark and Schnerr are all over 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.
Defensively the Tigers will lose anchor Logan David, but their strength will be in the defensive backfield in 2010 with Wright, Terral Dixon and sticker par-excellent Casey Burrough.
Two-way starter Clark will represent the linemen returnees, while sophomore Derek David will come back after exciting play at linebacker this season.
Like his brother before him, David has the ability to play at the next level.
However, Logan David has played his last game of football. Despite offers from numerous colleges, the 6-foot- 4, 300-pound all-state senior has informed Miller he is not interested in playing college ball.
The Tigers will face a brave new world in more ways than one next season after the University Interscholastic League's bi-annual reclassification in February.
While no one knows anything for certain, Cameron and Bryan Rudder are unlikely to be included with Rockdale in any new district alignment.
Cameron is certainly going to drop down to Class 2A and Rudder is for sure going to become a Class 4A school next season.
You can look for Taylor to jump back up to Class 4A as well. There is also an outside chance that Navasota could be bumped up to 4A.
"We have to celebrate our success," Miller said. "I know that's difficult right now, but we had a great year and these guys fought hard all year long."