Oct. 28—EVERMAN — They're better.
The Corsicana Tigers are better.
Yup, you're Tigers are better.
It was easy to argue that Friday's 37-25 loss to Everman was the best game of the year for the Tigers. They didn't win but everyone knows you can play your best and still lose.
No one gave Aric Sardenia's kids a chance against Everman — except Sardenia and his coaches.
Here's why: Everman (6-3 this season) went 9-3 last year and was ranked in the state's preseason top 25 5A DII poll and an easy choice to finish in the top three teams in the District 5A DII meat grinder that has been called "The deepest" district in 5A football in Texas.
Everman is battling for a playoff spot against some powerful programs, teams that have handed the Tigers some lop-sided losses this season. All that and more said the Tigers were in for a long night.
But there they were Friday night, the same Tigers who are winless in this district and haven't beaten anyone in almost two months — those Tigers battled Everman and were in the game all night.
And they aren't better because they went out and hired a bunch of hired guns. Nope, they're getting better with kids, really young kids. Sardinea's youth movement puts anywhere from 14 to 17 freshmen and sophomores on the field every Friday night.
The idea is not to just improve, but to build — not rebuild — but build a winning tradition by raising a new crop of Tigers to lift a program that has been to the playoffs just once since Steve Hoffman left in 2019.
That's what Sardinea's team looked like Friday in Everman, where they made mistakes like all young kids make, missed assignments and had way too many penalties against an older, wiser and more experienced team — a team battling for a spot in the playoffs.
But there they were, those baby Tigers, looking Everman right in the eye threatening to steal this game and lock the Bulldogs out of the playoffs. It was 7-7 early and 14-14 after the first. Everman led 20-17 at halftime, and kept catching the Tigers in the rearview mirror for most of the second half.
The Bulldogs hung on to 28-17, 28-25 and 31-25 leads before Kyron Kennedy, who had a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, ran for a 29-yard touchdown in the final minute of the third to lift Everman to a 37-25 lead.
Neither team scored in the fourth.
The Tigers had plenty of highlights in the loss. Darelle Smith scored three touchdowns on a 4-yard run early and a 13-yard run in the third quarter to make it a 28-25 game, and he also scored on a little swing pass from sophomore quarterback Chris Martinez, that turned into a 70-yard catch-and-run TD in the second quarter when Smith broke free as he has often done this season and ran away from everyone.
Adrian Ibanez, a sophomore receiver/kicker who has been stellar all season, kicked a 28-yard field goal with 0:06 on the clock before halftime, and Dontay Thomas, who has battled injuries all season, made several standout plays, including scoring on a two-point PAT pass with a leaping catch from Martinez, who had his best game of the season.
Sophomore Markiece Cooks had the best moments of his short varsity career, coming up with two huge interceptions, and Montrey Bush, a sophomore defensive lineman, had a powerful game up front while sophomore linebacker Adrian Bivins continued to shine as one of the leaders on defense.
They're getting better all the time, and Friday was one of those times when the Tigers had a game to remember with growth spurts all over the field, where they won a lot more than they lost.
Yup, the Tigers are better ...