Beckville vs Harleton

Harleton’s Grayson Handlin hands off against Beckville on Sept. 4

Keeping fans holding tight to the edge of their seats has been the norm for the Harleton Wildcats in their 2-0 start to the football season.

It took a goal-line stand to best Beckville, 23-20, two weeks ago. Friday night, the Wildcats needed last-second heroics to top Rivercrest, 33-26.

“I’ve aged about 20 years in the last two weeks. I think I had about three heart attacks last night,” said Little, tongue-in-cheek. “We have the fight and the grit and our kids battle. That’s something we can’t coach. You either have it, or you don’t.”

Instinct was the key in Harleton’s three-point nail-biter against Beckville when Van Ring successfully read a halfback pass and broke up the play on fourth down.

The excitement in Friday’s homecoming overtime win over Rivercrest was filled with many peaks and valleys before the end result was reached.

Harleton saw a 26-12 lead evaporate before Justin Davidson’s six-yard TD in the extra session lifted the Wildcats to victory. It still took another defensive gem, however, from Harleton to preserve the win.

“If you don’t have heart and you don’t have fight, we can’t do much with you,” Little said. “Our kids have that and we fight til the end. It’s been proven the last two weeks that we’re not gonna give up. We’re gonna keep battling and keep fighting and stay in it.”

Little came over to Harleton last season after serving as an assistant at Hallsville. He took over a program that had struggled through a 1-9 season in 2018. His charge was to turn the thing around and he did to the tune of a 10-3 2019.

“I didn’t believe we had 1-9 talent when I got here. We had talent out there. It was just a matter of getting things situated and headed in the same direction,” Little explained. “I saw how hard these kids worked and told them multiple times ‘you’re not a 1-9 football team.’ I think they finally bought into it.”

After back-to-back 1-9 seasons in 2017 and 2018, Little led a resurgence as Harleton captured a share of its first district title in four seasons and achieved its most wins in 15 years.

“We now have the confidence that we can go out and play with anybody. We go in believing that we can win. That’s very important,” Little said. “There’s still a lot of areas we need to improve on, but we’ve got tough, hard-nosed kids that will fight you to the end.”

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a season-long series on key games and happenings around East Texas Friday night football.This week, we take a look at Harleton’s Kyle Little and his Wildcats’ heart-stopping 2-0 start to the 2020 season.