When Mayde Creek running back/receiver Daniel Huery and his Class of 2020 peers stepped onto campus as freshmen in August 2016, they walked into a demanding, no-nonsense culture that coach Mike Rabe had initiated just a year earlier.

“That freshman year, with the summer programs and workouts, we had to show up early in the mornings,” Huery said. “The workouts were tough, hard. Coach made sure nobody quit. Nobody slacked off. He made us hold each other accountable. He made sure we understand our responsibilities.

“Every time we go out on the field now, we’re playing for each other. We’re playing for all the hard work we’ve put in.”

Little did Huery and his teammates know that that was the start of something special, an exhaustive grind of a process, full of losing season after losing season, that has culminated in an epic season so far.

Mayde Creek is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, courtesy of an 8-2 regular season that produced the program’s most wins since 1997, and hosts a playoff game Thursday, Nov. 14, versus Fort Bend Bush (5-5) at 6:30 p.m. at Legacy Stadium.

It’s quite a climb for a program that had won seven games in the previous three seasons combined.

“The playoffs have been a dream and a goal since junior high,” senior offensive lineman Curtis Stripling said. “This year, we really locked into just doing our job, everybody doing their part. We understand that when that happens, good things will happen.”

Rabe praises his team’s “finishing mentality.” He loves its never-too-high, never-too-low approach.

It was all on display during Mayde Creek’s 47-27 regular-season finale win over rival Morton Ranch on Friday, Nov. 8.

Ahead 28-27 at the half after letting a 21-0 advantage slip away, the Rams dominated the Mavericks in the second half, outscoring them 19-0 and holding them to 24 total yards in eliminating Morton Ranch from playoff contention.

“The way they’ve handled the victories and the way they’ve handled defeats, as the season goes on you start to feel really comfortable with them, because it doesn’t affect them one way or the other,” Rabe said of his team. “They play with a workman’s attitude in practice and do the same things over and over the right way. The moment is never too big for them.”

There’s a plethora of reasons why Mayde Creek is one of the feel-good stories in all of Texas high school football this year.

>> The aforementioned culture Rabe has implemented since his first year at the helm in 2015 has been vital. Marcie Impastato, the athletic secretary who is in her 10th year at Mayde Creek, said the discernible difference is togetherness. “Coach Rabe and the staff have created a culture of family,” Impastato said. “We are much more cohesive. The boys really care about each other, and that’s made all the difference in the world.” Senior defensive lineman Victor Holdman agreed. “All the other years, we had the talent but never really played together,” Holdman said. “This year we’re playing as a team.”

>> The defense is drastically improved from years past, allowing 22.1 points on 268.5 yards per game and compiling 14 takeaways (four interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries). The Rams ranked third, statistically, in the district in defense. “They’re all real fast to the ball,” Huery said. “Every rep, they’re going 100 percent. Everybody. There’s no slacking.”

>> Newcomers Julius Loughridge and Donte Jones, both juniors, have been game-changers. Loughridge is the Rams’ workhorse with 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns.. “I love it here, man. It’s fun,” Loughridge said. “These guys are my boys. My teammates trust me to make the right decision every time, so I’m going to go out there and play for them.” Jones is a versatile athletic talent that can play quarterback, running back and receiver. Against Morton Ranch, Loughridge rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Jones threw two passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 144 yards and another touchdown, and caught a pass for eight yards. “They’re good,” Rabe said in a humorously understated fashion. “They run the ball well. They run the offense well. They’re a good combination back there together.”

Holdman said when the Rams beat Taylor, 16-10, on Oct. 18, he knew this season could be great. Impastato said once the team got to district play, and won games against teams like Cinco Ranch and the Mustangs, she knew things were going really well.

Rabe said he knew this season could be special because of the junior and senior classes.

“This group of seniors right now did well as freshmen. The group of juniors did well as freshmen,” he said. “You could see those two classes coming together, so we had a pretty good idea we could be successful.”

Stripling agreed. The Rams have relied upon the experience and leadership of 15 starters and 22 lettermen that returned from last year.

“I knew we could be special since this Class of 2020 won district our seventh grade year,” Stripling said. “It was just about putting all the pieces together and playing for each other this last year. Giving everything we’ve got.”

Indeed, “we’ve come a long way,” Huery said. “We made it happen.”

“Bringing a winning atmosphere back to Mayde Creek has meant a lot,” Stripling said. “The teachers this year are telling us good luck or patting us on the back. It’s never been like that in the past. There’s just more support, and because of that you want to work that much harder for your school.”