Neither Leander nor Rouse made the playoffs this season, continuing a drought for both teams.
The Raiders last made the postseason in 2014, while it has been a three-year gap for the Lions since 2013 when they won their final three games of the season before falling in the first round.
“It was a season that got us back in the right direction,” Rouse head coach Josh Mann said. “To make the playoffs three years in a row and then have a down season last year, we got back in the playoff fight. The consistency of the program came back.”
It was still an overall successful season for Rouse, which won its final two games of the year and finished with six wins in a season for just the third time in school history.
The offense took a huge step forward as multiple school records were broken. Michael Forster threw for 1,569 yards and 19 touchdowns. Chance Cooper was his main target, catching 65 passes for 909 yards and 13 scores while Gavin Sharp caught six touchdowns and ran for another 10. Devin Tucker ran for 912 yards and 15 touchdowns and had four 100-yard games in the process. His backup Sanquintin McFarlan had 56 carries for 405 yards and four scores this year.
Most of the offensive weapons will leave via graduation aside from McFarlan.
Rouse will have experience up front with three of the four linemen returning next season. Sophomore Ethan Moore didn’t get a lot of playing time at quarterback but spent the entire year learning the system at the varsity level.
Now that the season is over, the Raiders will continue to keep up team activities after a week off to recharge. They might even get to go out and support some other LISD teams in the playoffs.
“If we’re not playing them, we’re pulling for them and we’ll help them however we can,” Mann said. “We’ll probably take the boys and go watch a playoff game and do some of the stuff you don’t normally get to do.”
Leander, meanwhile, competed in almost every game in its first season in 6A and played a meaningful game in its 23-21 loss to Lehman in the season finale.
“We didn’t meet our goal of making the playoffs,” Leander head coach Tim Smith said. “6A is a different animal. The kids competed at that level, we just kind of ran out of bodies. We’re the smallest school in our region.”
A win in the season finale would have created a three-way tie for fourth place. Because of tiebreakers and score differential, the Lions would have made the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The highlight of the season for the Lions came in their district-opening 44-28 win over Vista Ridge. Sophomore quarterback Rashad Carter put on a show, going 14 of 17 for 188 yards and a touchdown through the air and rushing for 160 yards and a score. The Lions lost to Westlake and Lake Travis, the top two teams in the district, by a combined score of 104-0. It’s not the prettiest stat, but for Smith, it’s an example of where he expects Leander to be in the future.
“I wanted our kids to see a state-caliber team and what it takes to get there,” he said. “We played some high-quality teams and they saw where we want to get. The other coaches do an excellent job with their programs. It’s a good indicator of where we need to go from here.”