By any measuring stick, the Andrews football program has come a long way since second-year coach Steve Blanchard took over in early 2009.
But when the benchmark is perennial state power Timberland, the Yellow Jackets still have ground to make up.
The visiting Wolves capitalized on two special teams miscues by Andrews to take a 26-7 victory Friday night in the Region VII-AA opener for both teams.
"I don't think that we are at the place that we measure ourselves against other people at this point," Blanchard said. "We are just trying to get better."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sun News
But both coaches Friday night can see the change under way at Andrews.
"I see huge gains, leaps and bounds from where we have come from since I got here," said Blanchard, who took over a program that struggled to be competitive in the few years prior to his arrival. "To be able to compete against a Timberland, No. 3 in the state. We are getting there."
Timberland coach Art Craig agreed.
"Coach Blanchard has done a great job with this program from where it was two years ago. They are definitely going to be contending," Craig said. "... The physicality and the no quit [are the obvious differences in Andrews]. Even when they got down 26-7, the kids didn't quit playing."
Timberland took the opening kickoff and ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by junior Taylor Elizondo.
But the Yellow Jackets responded immediately. A long run by Jamie Singleton helped Andrews move into Timberland territory and on a 3-and-7 from the Wolves' 9, senior quarterback Ken Funnye found junior Larry Brown for the game-tying score.
The teams traded punts over the next four possessions before senior Byron Mayes got going for Timberland. On a third-and 5, Mayes took a handoff up the middle and made several Yellow Jackets miss on his way to a 48-yard touchdown run with 3:31 left in the half.
"He is a good football player, I have known him since he was in the ninth grade," said Blanchard, who was an assistant at Timberland before coming to Andrews. "[Mayes has] got some wheels and he can run."
The Yellow Jackets were undone by special teams miscues in the second half. On the opening possession after intermission, Andrews went three-and-out and was forced to punt. The Wolves' blocked the kick and Diquan Richard returned it 28 yards for the score to make it 20-7 after a missed extra point attempt.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Yellow Jackets lost the ball on the return and Timberland took over at the Andrews 19. Four plays later, sophomore Adam June punched it in from two yards out for the final score of the game.
"The two special teams touchdowns we gave up, I am not happy about it," Blanchard said. "And that was the big difference in the football game."
The Yellow Jackets had their chances after that. Andrews had drives to the Timberland 24 and 11 but a turnover on downs and an interception in the end zone ended those threats.
Despite the loss, the Yellow Jackets still have a lot to do this season.
"I told the guys [after the game], we are going to the playoffs," Blanchard said. "We aren't settling for nothing less than the playoffs."
That would be a big step for the Yellow Jackets, but that's the kind of change Blanchard expects.