GLEN ROSE — In his first season as the head football coach at Glen Rose High School last year, Cliff Watkins was expecting a certain amount of growing pains.

After all, not only was he new, but he added some new members to his staff while also implementing new offensive and defensive schemes with new terminology. 

Although his team started 0-4, he knew the Tigers would have the chance to be good, and he was right. 

“The good thing is we could see progress on film. We were getting better, but we were still killing ourselves,” he said. “We weren’t losing because we weren’t good. We were losing to good teams, but we were also killing ourselves. We knew if we could cut some things out and continue to get better then we were going to be a good football team.”

The Tigers opened the season with losses to Grandview, Waco Connally, Mineral Wells and Carrollton Ranchview before posting their first victory of the season, 48-7 over Lake Worth in the final non-district game of the year.

“When we stopped killing ourselves and turning the ball over and started creating turnovers, that’s when everything started to change,” Watkins said. 

In their first four games, the Tigers surrendered 34 points or more four times. 

In district play, the Tiger offense scored 44 points or more four times with a high-water mark of 62, while defensively, they held their opponents to 14 points or less three times. 

Glen Rose strung together a six-game winning streak to end the regular season and capture its first district title since 2007 with a 5-0 record.

The offense continued to hit on all cylinders with 56 and 57 points, respectively, in wins over Vernon and Bushland in the first two rounds of the state playoffs to extend the winning streak to eight before falling 44-14 to Sweetwater in the regional semifinals.

The Tigers lost 11 starters to graduation from the team that finished 8-5. But Watkins said they had eight sophomores and a freshman who got valuable playing time last year, and he is hoping it will continue to pay off this year.

“We grew together and now we understand each other, and now being Year Two, we have had an offseason together and a coaching staff that pretty much stayed together,” Watkins said. “Not only do we know our kids, our kids know us and what to expect and how we want to do things.”

But most importantly, Watkins said, his team knows how to trust the process and stay the course after suffering through a bad start.

“We know now not to panic if things don’t go well right away. They know they can turn it around and we can get things on the right track,” he said. “It took a little bit and once we got to know each other and came together, we finally flipped the page and got things going.”

The Tigers will open practice for the 2017 season on Monday. There will be an intrasquad game at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, beginning with the JV followed by the varsity around 10:30 a.m.

Glen Rose will host Gatesville in the first preseason scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 18. After a scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Waco La Vega, the Tigers will open the regular season at Grandview on Sept. 1.