This is the 17th and last in a series of stories previewing high school football teams in the Bi-City area.
It wasn't the effort, but maybe it was the energy.
Harris County football coach Tommy Parks said his teams had put forth the same effort as always the past two seasons in which both missed the state playoffs.
But something had been off.
"I think maybe we've been missing that energy the last couple of years," he said. "We've focused on that this offseason, on playing hard and having a lot of energy each time out."
Perhaps, with energy restored, the Tigers can get back to where they belong.
"We've been on a two-year hiatus from the playoffs," Parks said. "We're just trying to get back to what we do best."
To do that, the team will have to dodge the negative effects of losing several key defensive players.
The Tigers lost all but one individual from their linebacker corps and the pulse of the defense in Jordan Jenkins, who has moved on to Georgia.
"Losing those guys, of course that hurt," Parks said.
Despite the losses, though, the coach still thinks his defense can rebound.
Jay Ellison, a defensive end and tight end, is a Ledger-Enquirer Dandy Dozen pick and has started each of his four seasons with the team. Tyler Denova, a senior, is the only remaining piece to last year's linebacker corps, but he, along with Chavez Holt and Brandon Culverson, should be more than adequate replacements.
"We've got some new faces that played in some other positions, but the core of the defense is there," Parks said. "We're just trying to make sure we've got the right fit."
Offensively, the team will return a little bit more, including starting quarterback Justin Wright, who Parks said has taken over as the leader on that side of the ball.
He was a first-year starter as a junior in 2011.
"It's made a big difference for us," Parks said. "We kind of lacked that leader on offense the past couple of years, but he's handled it with open arms. And he's getting better every day."
Parks said Wright's leadership has improved off the field as well. He is better in the film room, better in study sessions, better everywhere.
DiQuan Roberts, the team's leading rusher last season, will return at running back. Parks expects even more out of the senior this year.
"We expect a lot of productivity," he said.
Even with a strong core of players, though, it's difficult to project how a season will go, Parks said.
Take last year, for example: The Tigers began the season 4-2, looked destined for a playoff spot but struggled down the stretch due in large part to injuries. In the final two games, the team was without Roberts, its leading rusher, and Jenkins, its leading tackler.
Parks said, to combat that problem, he and his coaches have focused more on training the backups as well.
"We want to give them as many reps as we can so that they're more prepared to come in when we do face those injures," he said. "We want to coach tomorrow's team today."
The result of that is helping to improve the team as a whole, rather than individual players.
"I think when we've had playoff teams in the past, we've been more focused on the team rather than how individual players do," Parks said. "We really want to get back to that team concept again."
If the Tigers can do that, playoffs are certainly within reach.
Even then, though, Parks said there are no guarantees.
"There are a lot of factors," he said. "And it takes a lot of luck."
CLOSER LOOKNickname: Tigers
Head coach: Tommy Parks
Region: Region 1-AAAAA
Last season's record: 5-5, 3-3 in Region 3B-AAAA
Last season's playoff record: 0-0SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 Houston Co. 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 at LaGrange 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Veterans 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 Callaway 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 Douglas Co. 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 Bainbridge 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Northside 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Lee Co. 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 Hardaway (K) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Thomas Co. Ctrl. 7:30 p.m.