DeKALB, Texas — With a new season comes a vast improvement in strength and confidence for DeKalb.
"I go into each season with the same goals," Bears' head coach Buddy Griffin said. "I want us to improve from what we did a year ago, and we want to take each day one at a time. We want to constantly improve. Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs and then go as far as we can.
"I have very high expectations. We want to get support where we expect to win every time we step on the field. We made strides last year toward the end, but we made some mistakes that we beat ourselves. Our kids are much stronger and much more confident. They now have a year under their belts with this system."
DeKalb's team philosophy is 'Ride for the Brand'. 'Ride for the Brand' means that the coaches and players are in it for each other and are all pulling in the same direction.Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
DeKalb runs a triple-option offense. Kole Dooley and Ramaj Vaughn are both expected to play at quarterback.
"Kole was our starter last year," Griffin said. "In the spring, we converted Ramaj to quarterback. He is learning the system and is doing quite well. With our style of offense, we have to have two solid quarterbacks."
The Bears' greatest depth is at running back. Timon Proby, Mike Wherry, Ty Olson, and Jamar Vaughn will all get carries this season.
DeKalb will run the ball more than pass. Most of the passes that the Bears completed last year were for big plays. Defenses stack up to try to stop the run, and the look opens up DeKalb's passing game.
Riley Starrett and A.J. Burgin are the main receivers with J.T Williams returning at tight end. Brian Eubanks makes the change from offensive line to tight end.
Anchoring the offensive line are Dillon Kizer at center, Londell Howard at guard, Whitt Sparks at tackle, and Christopher McDaniel at tackle. Kizer and Howard made the all-district team last season.
"Christopher is probably our best prospect to play at the next level," Griffin said. "He moves really well and has good size. He is out of commission at the moment."
Newcomer Paul Leal will play at guard, and there are two players in Jonathon Briggs and Devon Gaffney.
The Bears are going to run a bear-front, aggressive defense.
"There will be a lot of man-to-man coverage in the secondary with a lot of pressure from the interior of the defense with our defensive ends," Griffin said.
Many DeKalb players will be starting on both sides of the ball this season.
Howard makes a change from defensive end to middle linebacker and was the Bears' leading tackler last year.
Arie Love will play on the defensive line as will Payton Yandle and Leal. Out on the edges will be Williams and Wherry at defensive end. Kizer will figure in at linebacker, and Olson will play at inside linebacker. Olson will also play some on the line.
Dooley starts at strong safety, and Proby and Starett play cornerback. Twins Ramaj and Jamar Vaughn play at free safety as well as Burgin.
Returning to punt and kick is first-team all-district player senior Daniel Espinoza.
"Daniel is deadly from about 30-35 yards on field goals," Griffin said. "The kicking game helped keep us in games last season, and this year I am hoping that it will help us win more games."
"We had an outstanding offseason," Griffin said. "Our strength is increased and our confidence is better. We have great leadership, and I am really excited about this year."
CONDITIONING AND COMMITMENT
"We aren't going to get beat because we are tired," Griffin said. "We do a lot of running and wind sprints to get into shape. Our weight program is year-round. I feel like we are going to be strong in the fourth quarter. We do different things each day to break boredom, and we challenge the kids.
"We are the smallest school in our district, so depth is an issue. We aren't going to worry about that. We have to get better defensively, and practice will make us better. The kids know what to expect from me. We are going to outwork everyone we play, and we are never going to give up.
"I like practice and the every day interaction with the players. It's extremely rewarding to see the players getting better. It's good to see improvement in their physical development, mental health, and social skills. It is important that when they leave us, they are productive members of society—a good husband, employee, or employer. Coaching is not easy, and it's really hot outside. Everyone has to work together."
Aug. 30, at Prairiland
Sept. 6, at New Boston
Sept. 13, Linden-Kildare
Sept. 20, x-Daingerfield
Sept. 27, x-at Queen City
Oct. 11, x-Waskom
Oct. 18, at Paul Pewitt
Oct. 25, x-New Diana
Nov. 1, x-Ore City
Nov. 8, x-at Elysian Fields
x-Denotes 11-3A game
All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.
— SCHOOL: DeKalb
— 2018 RECORD: 4-6
— HEAD COACH: Buddy Griffin
— YEARS AT SCHOOL: 6th
— COACHING STAFF: Troy Zeringue, def. coordinator/linebackers/tight ends; Brad Griffin, off. coordinator/off. line/def. ends; Joe Anderson, secondary/cornerbacks/running backs; Zac Denson, def. line/off. line; Tyler McDaniel, receivers/safeties; Kevin Hartwell, receivers/linebackers; Clay Williams, safeties/running backs; Edwin Mims, junior high head coach; Patrick Durbin, junior high assistant head coach.
— LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: 4/18
— STARTERS BACK: 7 offense, 9 defense
— PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB/LB Kole Doley, RB/DB Timon Proby, RB Mike Wherry, RB Ty Olson, OL/DL Christopher McDaniel, LB/OL Londell Howard, WR/DB Riley Starrett, OL/LB Dillon Kizer, QB/DB Ramaj Vaughn, OL Whitt Sparks, RB Jamar Vaughn.
— TOP NEWCOMERS: OL Paul Leal, TE Brian Eubanks, OL Devin Gaffney, OL Jonathon Briggs.