They're sick of losing. Absolutely tired of it.
One win, total, in 2019 and 2020 will create that sentiment within players competing for a program typically rich in tradition and success.
Words are one thing, however, but Cinco Ranch is going out and doing something about it, off to a 2-0 start after Saturday's 20-15 win over Aldine Davis at Legacy Stadium.
"We're tired of losing," junior quarterback Gavin Rutherford said. "We've been putting in the work, like 7-on-7, building that chemistry that started last year. We just keep building. This year, everybody's bought into the same goal, and that's to win every game we can, compete every play, every second of the game. Win."
.@cincofb junior QB @GavinRutherfo12 discusses the Cougars’ 20-15 win over Aldine Davis tonight and the 2-0 start to the season. #txhsfb @KatyISDAthletic @CougarnationJ @ChrisDudley40 @CRFB_Recruiting pic.twitter.com/8OFOtcDP7u— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) September 5, 2021
The most telling sign things are different in Cougar Country? Cinco Ranch won a game because of strong defense and despite a subpar showing from a prolific passing attack. A year ago, a bad passing game would have been cause for defeat, as the defense was far from reliable.
But this isn't last year.
The Cougars held the Falcons to only 4.3 yards per play. On Davis' final drive, starting with good field position on its own 42-yard line and trailing by five points with less than three minutes left, the Cougars forced a turnover on downs on four consecutive incompletions.
Whether it was senior linemen Zach Dycus and Bowen Cheng up front, or senior linebacker Kasey Murry and a physical secondary highlighted by senior Fordham Parks and sophomore Taytum Johnson, the defense relentlessly swarmed the ball and held an opponent to 15 or fewer points for the second consecutive game.
"They are hungry for running to the ball," said acting head coach Curt Faigle, who led the Cougars in place of head coach Chris Dudley, who was absent for undisclosed reasons. "There's a tightness to them. We had a great opponent tonight, and our offense didn't have the best night. That had everything to do with our opponent. But we still found a way to eek it out."
Last season, if Rutherford and junior receivers Noah Abboud and Seth Salverino weren't lighting up the scoreboard, Cinco Ranch was in for a long night.
Times have changed.
Rutherford completed 14 of 26 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and the offense had only 196 total yards, but the defense stepped up and kept the Falcons at bay.
"We've got a lot of guys who are sick of losing," Murry said. "All kinds of guys stepping up who want to win. It's been a drought two years in a row. We're just sick of losing."
The Cougars also got some semblance of production from the run game, which compiled 26 yards on 20 carries. It's not much, but the positive yards were timely, as Cinco Ranch used junior Sam McKnight, who has admirable instincts and does well protecting the ball, to sustain drives, keep the chains moving and drain clock whenever the passing game wasn't happening.
McKnight, who grinded out 17 yards on 15 carries and caught five passes for 64 yards, rushed for two touchdowns, and has three this season. That already matches the Cougars' entire number of rushing touchdowns last season.
"It's so good," Rutherford said of the run game, practically letting out a sigh of relief. "We know that if we can establish the run, the passing game is through the roof. I think a lot of credit goes to the offensive line. They've been putting in the work. In the weight room, outside of the weight room. It's a brotherhood. That's what I love to see. It rubs off on everyone else. We pick each other up and lift each other up."
Cinco Ranch has a pair of nice wins to its name. The Cougars beat a 2020 district champion in College Park handily, 35-14, in Week 1. Rutherford threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Then Cinco Ranch earned a tough win against an athletic Davis team.
"We feel like we deserve this," Murry said. "We've put the work in all offseason, and we deserve to win."
>> MURRY'S BACK: Murry suffered a torn ACL injury around this time last year that kept him out of the 2020 season. He said he's taking it day by day and is not yet 100 percent healthy but getting there. Murry had 16 total tackles and a sack in Week 1 and 12 total tackles against Davis. "It's rare to get a guy like Kasey, as an underclassman, to be the voice, the leader, the alpha," Faigle said. "He was that before his injury, and he still had captain status all last year, even going through the injury. So, to have him healthy is invaluable."
>> NOT EXACTLY: Faigle, who has been coaching at Cinco Ranch since 2013, said 2020 did not feel like the one-win season that it was. There was a lot to build upon. "There was a lot of adversity," Faigle said. "We felt like we had a great plan, we were in a lot of the games. As coaches, we knew we were playing a lot of young guys. Everybody comes back, and we're excited. There's a lot of guys that have seen a lot of live bullets and had some skins on the walls. I think it just feels different knowing that everybody's back, and that bunch of young kids we had last year are now veterans, and the right types of veterans."
>> CROSBY STARS: Senior receiver Dylan Crosby had a great game for the Cougars, catching four balls for 78 yards and a touchdown.