MURRELL COLUMN: Party in Sabine Pass coming, but not like it’s ’83
**MINOR EDITS from original posting**
This is it.
Friday is the night Sabine Pass gets to rewrite its football history. With a win over winless Colmesneil, the Sharks (5-3, 1-2 in 12-2A Division II) will have only their fifth winning record, their first since restarting the football program, and qualify for their fourth playoff appearance and first since 2011.
Mere months ago, it was hard to fathom the Sharks achieving any of this.
If they don’t do anything else this season, 2016 will always be remembered as a watershed year in the history of their second coming. They avoided a losing season for the first time since winning the district championship in 1983, but have yet to secure their first winning season since then.
They won two games of one of more overtime periods and three each by eight points or fewer. For the locals, that’s been a pleasant helping of breaking news.
For all of Southeast Texas, the rising of the Sharks has been the feel-good story of the year. For 18 games prior to Week 2 this season, they came up on the losing end.
My, how the story of a football program can change.
Head coach Jason Thibodeaux was there for the reboot of Sabine Pass football in 2006. Ten years later, he has the Sharks on the cusp of the playoffs.
Playoffs? I’m not kidding.
Colmesneil is 0-8 and 0-3, and a win will allow the Sharks to stay at least a half-game ahead of Burkeville (0-8, 0-3), which they defeated 34-26 in triple overtime on Oct. 7. That was their most recent victory.
Colmesneil would have to beat Sabine Pass and Burkeville next Friday to advance, and if by some stretch of imagination the Sharks did lose, they would have to pray for a win over Evadale (7-1, 2-1) and a Burkeville win over Colmesneil to get in.
The Sharks have done too much to let their season be reduced to a game of mathematics. They are still very talented on both sides of the ball and can explode for a big play at any time. They know how to win games, even one that matters. (Refer back to Burkeville.)
It doesn’t take going back in time to realize this is Thibodeaux’s best coaching job yet, but let’s go back anyway. Sabine Pass went 2-7 the last time it qualified for the playoffs and hadn’t won four games in a season since 1984. (The 1983 team went 9-2.)
The 2016 Sharks have outscored their opponents 275-227 — the last time any SP team accomplished such a feat was Thibodeaux’s first season in 2006 — after losing their prior 17 games by an average of 41.1 points. The 18th consecutive loss was a 12-6 decision to Pasadena First Baptist in Week 1 this year.
The Sharks know where they stand against the district’s elite, but no one will remember that after this season. No, the Sharks themselves have had enough smarting from back-to-back blowout losses to Iola and Hull-Daisetta.
But everyone in Sabine Pass will remember a team that won six games, maybe more. They’ll also remember the night the Sharks made the playoffs.
The Sharks won’t exactly party like it’s 1983 when they win, and they shouldn’t (although Thibodeaux said many players from that year’s team will be in attendance). That was a championship year.
Making the playoffs again and waiting 33 years for a winning record are worth a whole new celebration on the Gulf. A sweet ’16 party.
I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at email@example.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews