NEW BOSTON, Texas — The Lions are focused in on making the playoffs after a dismal 2018 season.
New Boston looks to bounce back in a big way as it tries to reach the post season under second year head coach Justin Waltz.
"Our team philosophy is 'believe'," Waltz said. "The players have to believe in the process, themselves, and in each other. If we can believe in those three aspects, then I think we have a chance to turn some heads and have confidence in each other. Our goal is to make the playoffs, and I expect the players to get better each day."Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
The Lions have two prominent senior leaders in Tyler Strain and Trent Graham. Starting at quarterback is 3-year starter Strain, while Graham is a 3-year starter and plays full back and linebacker. New Boston will run the Wing-T offense.
"Tyler knows how to manage the offense, and he is seasoned," Waltz said. "I am expecting big things from Tyler and Trent. Experience is one of our greatest strengths. This is my second year, so the players know what to expect. Last year, they didn't trust because they didn't know if I was going to pack up and run. This season has a different feel than last year.
"We went trough growing pains, and the players were testing me. I stuck to my guns, and I showed them that we are going to do the little things right. I am playing the long game. I am not here to win a bunch of games and move somewhere else; this is where I want to be."
Matt Dunn will start at strong safety and get carries at running back. Treycen Thomas along with Dunn will get the majority of the carries. Graham will also get many totes.
Receivers Braden Grider, DeAndre Haywood-Jones, and Tre Lewis-Colbert will be Strain's top targets.
The Lions' offensive line is still coming together. New Boston returns just two players on the line from last year's team in Cody Rutherford (tackle) and Aaron Strom (center).
"Our biggest challenge as a team is confidence," Waltz said. "It's learning how to do the little things, being patient, and not beating ourselves. We want to have long drives, so we can't beat ourselves. I expect us to have drives of 12 plays or more, and usually the way a team gets stopped is by stopping themselves. We can't do that."
On the defensive side, the Lions will run a multiple odd set. They will have an odd number of guys up front and multiple looks.
"Kyle Atkinson, who plays safety and running back, is a leader for us on defense," Waltz said. "He is also our backup quarterback, and was our only first team all-district player last year as a sophomore."
Brian Reid is a junior linebacker who is expected to take a leadership role. The other linebackers are Graham, who also plays full back, and Zack Nevels. Seniors Damien Lozano and Ja'veon Brown have stepped up big for New Boston and will anchor the defensive line.
Haywood-Jones, Angel Recendez (who also plays wing back), and Lewis-Colbert will play in the secondary. Matt Dunn will play at strong safety, while Caden Glass and Dylan Brown will see a lot of playing time on defense.
IT'S ALL ABOUT EFFORT
"Our biggest challenge defensively is learning to play for each other," Waltz said. "We want to see these guys give a lights out effort all of the time. I brought in a new defensive coordinator, and he has really fired these guys up. It's looking a lot better and the team is doing a lot better.
"The guys are jelling together really well. The team has responded well and it is a night and day difference from last season. It's more of one group of guys out there being a team instead of a bunch of individual guys. It's football season in Texas, and I like everything about it."
Aug. 30, at Paul Pewitt
Sept. 6, DeKalb
Sept. 13, at Daingerfield
Sept. 20, Carlisle
Sept. 27, x-at Jefferson
Oct. 4, x-Atlanta
Oct. 11, x-at Hooks
Oct. 18, x-Redwater
Nov. 1, x-at Hughes Springs
Nov. 8, x-Mount Vernon
x-Denotes 7-3A game
All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.
— SCHOOL: New Boston
— 2018 RECORD: 0-10
— HEAD COACH: Justin Waltz
— YEARS AT SCHOOL: 2nd
— COACHING STAFF: Michael Hill, assistant head coach/secondary; Michael Mason, def. coordinator, linebackers; Fred Thrower, def. line; Daniel Thompson, outside linebackers; Jamey Thomas, off. coordinator/quarterbacks; Gary Miller, receivers; Stasik Vaughn, running backs.
— LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: 9/18
— STARTERS BACK: 6 offense, 6 defense
— PLAYERS TO WATCH: C Aaron Strom, OT Cody Rutherford, QB Tyler Strain, FB Kevon Thompson, TB/S Kyle Atkinson, WR Braden Grider, LB/FB Trent Graham, LB Brian Reid, DL Khode Buchanan, CB/WR Tre Lewis-Colbert, S/TB Matt Dunn.
— TOP NEWCOMERS: RB Treycen Thomas.