The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) football team has been fun to watch all season.

Even in their tough four game losing streak early in the season, it was enjoyable to watch a team grow into what it has become today because it always felt like they were “right there.” Right on the cusp of putting it all together.

Their postseason play thus far has been a reflection of that growth.

The team as a whole has toughened up. The tough non-district schedule they played meant something. It was for their benefit to play teams that were established as good, tough teams to play. RFHS did not carry the same weight, preseason-wise, as a team that was “supposed” to have a deep playoff run such as La Vernia, Goliad, or El Campo (Campo did not make the playoffs, but suffered injuries later in the season and were noted as a top 20 4A-D1 preseason team in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine).

RFHS was viewed as a favorite to win their district, but they had to prove it against teams such as Sinton and Orange Grove.

Going into district, RFHS did not look good if one looked at their record at 1-4. However, the team was still in heavy growth then, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

While the defense played well in spurts, the offense was inconsistent. Garrett Loudermilk was still trying to grasp the reins at quarterback, Ryan Wells flashed but wasn’t there yet, and losing Will Smith at fullback didn’t help either.

The offensive line was also not there just yet, with Zach Pulido, Sway Zavala, and Zachary Zavala still growing into their new roles on the line at guard.

But lo and behold, once the district season began, they seemed to be hit their stride.

RFHS gut checked Sinton and put the rest of the district on notice.

On a rainy night, they were able to hold the highflying offense of West Oso and shredded their run defense with another big victory. It may not have looked big then with Oso suffering a one-point loss to Orange Grove in their prior game, but Oso has continued to fight and have fought all the way into the third round of the playoffs just as we have. They play Cuero this week.

RFHS continued to grow in its district season and won out for their first district championship in 18 years.

The offense found its way and the defense got stronger.

Loudermilk looks confident now running the offense and his leadership has always been a point of praise by RFHS Head Coach Jay Seibert.

Chase Rios has been breaking big runs all season, and since his line has found their footing, so as he’s found bigger lanes to run behind.

Wells has embraced his role in the slot-T offense and taken off on many big, bruising runs of his own.

After Smith’s injury, Ty Klender came in after and filled Smith’s role with bruising runs of his own.

In RFHS’ last game against Crystal City, Smith made a return from injury and was able to get some touches. He had been injured since Sept. 14.

And the defense, the defense has been getting better.

Since entering the postseason, the Pirate defense has not allowed a single point. Crystal City scored their lone points on a kickoff return. In fact, I think they’ve only allowed one trip to the red zone to the opposing team in the postseason … not sure about that, nonetheless, it’s been fun watching a dominant defense take care of business.

The Pirates will be put to their toughest test yet this week against Geronimo-Navarro.

A team that essentially runs the same offense and defense; it will be a tough, punishing battle for both teams. But this is why they played a tough non-district schedule, to prepare them for battle against a program that also went on a deep playoff run last year.

If the Pirates can succeed, they will match the only other RFHS football team (2000) to ever make it to the fourth round of the playoffs.

Will you be there this Friday? I will. These Pirates could use every ounce of your support, because this will not be an easy feat.

Steven Smith can be reached at editorial2@rockportpilot.com

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