Not much was guaranteed to Dallas Jesuit head coach Charles DeLong before the 2012 season.
Two seasons removed from a 5A state title, he faced the dread of losing some of his players to Academy soccer and then, at times, had to put five sophomores on the field.
Looking back, it worked out pretty well for DeLong.
He tallied his 500th career win in district play, separating him as a Dallas coaching legend. Those five sophomores held their own, along with the majority of veteran players returning from last season, to put Jesuit back in the regional tournament this weekend.
Working on Jesuit’s side is decent continuity from the previous two years, but that doesn’t grant DeLong any more confidence in a return to the state tournament with the parity that exists now that Academy players no longer play.
“I’m not downplaying anybody, but I don’t think there is a super-powerhouse team,” DeLong said. “I think every team out there, on any given day, could beat each other.”
Jesuit is the lone area team playing in the 5A Region II tournament at Round Rock’s Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, paired against The Woodlands in Friday’s semifinal match. The winner of that game will play either Midland Lee or Austin Westlake in the region final.
Two teams represent the area in the Region I tournament -- Plano and Mansfield. Plano’s chance at a berth in the state tournament last season was crushed by Southlake Carroll, who would go on to claim the 5A title.
Mansfield was also knocked out by Carroll in the area round of the playoffs last season and has not advanced past the area round since 2007.
Plano West began its 2010-2011 campaign as the top team nationally out of the DFW area.
That momentum slowed through district play and came to a screeching halt when West saw its season end in bi-district to Coppell.
This year, West enters the regional tournament as one of the most battle-tested teams in the state, surviving playoff matches against nationally ranked Grapevine and Flower Mound.
West’s path to Georgetown in 2012 must go through El Paso Montwood in the regional semifinals. West would then face the winner of Arlington and Flower Mound Marcus.
Marcus is the highest nationally ranked team still alive in the playoffs, sitting at No. 3 in the Week 19 poll, but West isn’t too far behind at No. 6.
The only area team in the Region II tournament is Sachse, who has gradually improved its playoff run every season since 2008-2009 and would continue the trend with a regional semifinal win over Georgetown on Friday.