REFUGIO - Two of Refugio's touchdowns in its 21-14 Class 2A, Division II regional playoff win over Rice Consolidated were scored by a freshman.
The third touchdown came on a pass thrown by a junior. The Bobcats stopped a potential go-ahead drive by Rice Consolidated with an interception in the end zone by a sophomore.
Youth has served Refugio well this season as its 13-0 record indicates.
The Bobcats will start eight underclassmen on defense and will have six or seven underclassmen on offense on the field in its quarterfinal rematch against Blanco (12-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Victoria.
"I've always been a believer that you put the best on the field," said Refugio coach Jason Herring. "You owe it to the community and you owe it to the rest of the kids. The best kids you can put out there gives you the best chance to win."
Herring doesn't baby his underclassmen and isn't shy about relying on them in critical situations.
"We expect a lot," said junior lineman Taylor Henning. "We're expected to be the best we can be on the field and in the classroom.
"To me, it all comes down to trust and if you trust them you know that they're there for you all the time and they'll do their job whenever you need them to."
Draigon Silvas was watching the playoffs last season after finishing his eighth-grade season.
The freshman scored Refugio's first touchdown against Rice Consolidated on a 1-yard run and the decisive score on a 20-yard run in the fourth.
"At first, I didn't think I was going to play that much because there were going to be a lot of good people," Silvas said. "I worked hard and got a chance. I felt comfortable with my teammates. I knew they weren't going to let me down and they were going to be there for me."
Silvas' adjustment was helped by fellow running back Terrence Smith, who started last season as a sophomore and leads the Bobcats with 798 rushing yards. He had 71 yards on nine carries against Rice Consolidated.
"The people who are better than the other people get to play and the people who do the right things get to play," Smith said. "It doesn't matter if we're underclassmen or seniors. We're all equal."
Herring attributes the progress made by the underclassmen to the strong leadership exhibited by the senior class and the continuity of his coaching staff.
"We've got a great group of senior leaders and a great group of coaches," Herring said. "Almost every one of these coaches has been with me for three years. When you have a senior like Dylan Klare telling you what to do, you're going to listen. The underclassmen have fallen right in and done what we've wanted them to do."
Herring's willingness to trust his underclassmen has won their appreciation and their respect.
"It's not just because we're good," Silvas said. "It's the way we act and how we practice. We're focused and we do things right in school."