Legacy senior Lamarus Williams thinks he knows the foremost reason the Longhorns are making their first playoff appearance since 2009.
"No fear," Williams said.
Legacy (5-4) will take that attitude on the road when it takes on No. 6 Palo Verde (6-4) at 7 p.m. today in the Sunset Region quarterfinals.
Williams, a linebacker, said previous groups of seniors have "been scared, basically." But he said the team has a new attitude this season, and that's a big reason the Longhorns are back in the postseason.
"Every team's got those kids that play around, but we don't have as many of those as we usually do the last two years," Williams said. "We've got kids that actually have goals and want to do something."
Legacy lost its first three games on the field, though one ended up as a victory because of a Shadow Ridge forfeit. But the Longhorns closed the regular season strongly, winning three of their final four.
Coach Dave Snyder said defense has sparked the turnaround.
"They came together the last four weeks and played exceptionally well defensively," Snyder said. "So that's kept us in games and gave us the opportunity to win some big."
Since a 70-0 loss to top-ranked Bishop Gorman on Sept. 28, Legacy has allowed only 28 points in four games, posting shutouts against Desert Oasis and Cimarron-Memorial.
The Longhorns have allowed an average of 160.3 yards during that span.
"They're flying around and they're enjoying what they're doing more so in the last four weeks," Snyder said.
While the defense has improved, the offense has continued to click. Legacy began the season with back-to-back 400-yard games, and the Longhorns have continued to show a potent ground game. Legacy has rushed for 1,242 yards in the last four games and 2,550 for the season.
Pint-sized senior running back Charles Julian (5 feet 4 inches, 145 pounds) has led the way, rushing for 1,534 yards and 16 touchdowns in eight games. He has four 200-yard games, and at least 100 in every game except one in which he's gotten a carry.
"He has the biggest heart of any kid I've ever seen," Snyder said. "The offense, we clicked right from the get-go. We put up a lot of points."
Now the Longhorns have to see if they can be as productive against a perennial power, albeit one having a down season. Palo Verde's four losses this year matched its combined total from 2009 to 2011. The Panthers hadn't had a four-loss season since they went 9-4 in 2006.
"They haven't had as much success as they've had in the past, but they're still a good football team," Snyder said.
Julian said he knows Palo Verde will be viewed as the favorite, but that's OK with him.
"We're the underdogs, like always," Julian said. "It makes us practice harder and want to prove people wrong."
Williams thinks this team has a chance to do that with a win over the Panthers.
"We know we can win this game, it just depends on how players want to act and if they want to put forth the effort," Williams said.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.