HUGHES SPRINGS, Texas — Faith, family, and football are the most important aspects for Hughes Springs' team.
"During this time, we are all family right now," Mustangs' head coach Chris Edwards said. "Our goal is to win the district championship. We understand that Atlanta is the top dog, and they have probably one of the best running backs in the state. We feel like we are on our way up. We have several returning starters, and we will compete.
"We were a younger team last season, and we played well through the stretch. We had a great summer and we have 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen back. We have two tight ends, our quarterback, and our running back are all back. Our expectations are high. Our front eight on defense is as athletic as we've had in a long time."Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
Anchoring the offensive line are Skylar Henderson at right tackle, Jace Ratley at right guard, Tanner Byrd at center, Gustavo Soto at left guard, and Hudson Brabham at left tackle.
Hughes Springs runs a multiple Slot-T offense. The Mustangs like to get the quarterback out on the edge to have the option to run or throw the football. Andrew Gaul, a senior, is a 3-year starter and makes his return.
"Andrew has a lot of experience," Edwards said. "I think he put too much pressure on himself as a junior. He looks comfortable, relaxed, and sharp. He has command of the offense and he is getting after it in getting all of the small things right."
Isaiah Bolden is the leader of the team. Bolden returns to play outside linebacker and running back. This season is Bolden's third year as a starter.
"Isaiah is in the best shape of his life," Edwards said. "He runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, is physical, and has command of what is going on."
Trayvonn Kennedy will get a lot of carries at fullback and also plays defensive end. Kennedy is 6-foot-3 and weighs 225 lbs.
"Trayvonn's size alone should help us out," Edwards said. "One thing that he had to grow out of was he would try to lower his shoulders to keep kids from diving for his legs. I told him to watch some Roger Craig highlight videos and to try a little high steppin'. He is a punisher; he does not try to run around anyone."
Patrick Boyd and Caden Edwards are expected to be two of the big targets for Gaul at tight end. Cooper Perry will see playing time at tight end as well, and possibly Collin Cook. Either Cook or Bolden will handle the kicking duties.
"Our base formation is double tight, but we split the tight ends out also," Edwards said. "They will line up all over the field. We get in twins, trips, and pro also in our multiple Slot-T offense."
The Mustangs run a 4-2-5 defense. At defensive end are Boyd and Kennedy with Nacorey Lee at defensive tackle.
"Nacorey has the quickest step in football," Edwards said. "He really gets off the football. I would like to say that I coached that, but it just comes naturally for him."
Hughes Springs is looking at sophomore Mikey Lanier at the other defensive tackle. Skyler Henderson is expected to see some time there as well as Brabham, and sophomore Matthew Zaparippa.
Both of the Mustangs' guards play at inside linebacker—Ratley and Soto. Bolden and Tyson Daigle complete the linebacking corps at outside linebacker. Daigle will also get time at the halfback position on offense.
"Bolden is our leader on the defense," Edwards said. "He is not vocal but through his play, coachability and athleticism, it is inspiring to the other kids."
Quarterback Gaul will start at free safety. Coach Edwards is looking for a good backup to Gaul. Denver Flournoy will start at cornerback, and the Mustangs are looking to fill the second cornerback spot.
EARLY PLANNING TO YIELD SUCCESS
"Our biggest challenge defensively is our size; we aren't really big," Edwards said. "On the positive side, we are athletic and mobile. Our style is deception, so we are going to try and fool the opposition while executing flawlessly. The big question will be how well can we execute.
"We have six or seven kids going both ways. We want to sustain some depth so that some of those two-way guys can play into the fourth quarter."
Aug. 29, y-Hamshire-Fannet
Sept. 6, Arp
Sept. 12, at Waskom
Sept. 20, Tatum
Sept. 27, x-at Mount Vernon
Oct. 4, x-Jefferson
Oct. 11, x-at Atlanta
Oct. 18, x-Hooks
Oct. 25, x-at Redwater
Nov. 1, x-New Boston
y-at Lufkin High School. x-Denotes 7-3A game
All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.
— SCHOOL: Hughes Springs
— 2018 RECORD: 5-6
— HEAD COACH: Chris Edwards
— YEARS AT SCHOOL: 21st
— COACHING STAFF: Brandon Green, def. coordinator/def. line; Jeremy Phillips, off. coordinator/quarterbacks; Patrick Dukes, running backs; James Reagan, tight ends; Kerry Walker, def. backs; Chris Castle, linebackers; Drew Dunn, off. line; Jeff Pilgrim, junior high head coach.
— LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: 9/16
— STARTERS BACK: 7 offense, 6 defense
— PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB/DB Andrew Gaul, RB/LB Isaiah Bolden, OL Skyler Henderson, OL Jace Ratley, C Tanner Byrd, OL Gustavo Soto, OL Hudson Brabham, LB Tyson Daigle, DL Nacorey Lee, DE Trayvonn Kennedy, LB Jace Ratley.
— TOP NEWCOMERS: TE Caden Edwards, OL Texan Lancaster, DT Mikey Lanier.