HOOKS, Texas Many puzzle pieces are in place for Hooks' football team.
The Hornets return many experienced players, and some starting positions are yet to be decided. Nevertheless, Hooks' goals stay unchanged.
"Our goals remain the same," Hornets' head coach Chris Birdwell said. "Our first goal is to win our first game, and then we want to go undefeated in preseason. Our third goal is to be in the playoffs, and the fourth goal is to win district.
"We have our offensive line back, and it is going to be one of the best ones we've had in a long time. We have skilled players, and we have a shot to get in the playoffs coming out of a tough district. The big part is staying healthy and maintaining depth."Gallery: Texarkana Gazette's 2019 Football Edition
Hooks runs a spread offense.
Senior Logan Richardson starts at center and is one of Hooks' leaders. Senior CJ Huey starts at right guard, senior Kevin Buck plays left guard, senior Matthew Estes and junior Dawson Adams each start at tackle.
"I think Matthew and Dawson have a chance to play on Saturdays," Birdwell said. "Dawson has good size, moves good, and is really athletic. All of them are a good group of kids who work really hard and most of them were there all summer.
Senior Mason Vasquez is the starting quarterback. Vasquez was a running back last season, but played quarterback as a sophomore. Senior Marquiz Estell starts at wide receiver.
"The offensive line along with Mason and Marquiz are the nucleus and leaders of our team," Birdwell said. "Mason is a tough kid and is strong. Mason doesn't shy away from contact. He likes competition, and he will do everything he can to carry the team. Mason is one of the grittiest kids that I have been around in a long time.
"Marquiz does a little bit of everything for us. He punts, kicks, and returns kicks. Marquiz comes from a family of athletes and has started on both sides of the ball since he was a freshman. He will have a chance to play on Saturdays at receiver or safety. He plays four sports—football, baseball, basketball and track. Marquiz is a great athlete."
Also at receiver are junior Benji Johnson and sophomore David Johnson. Junior Davarious Clark will start at tailback.
"Davarious is a heckuva ballplayer," Birdwell said. "He has dealt with injuries and this will be the first season that we have him. He can go, and he can be a game-changer for us if we can keep him healthy."
TJ Rigsby started on defense a year ago as a sophomore. This season, Rigsby will be used as a tight end and in the backfield.
"TJ will probably start on both sides of the ball," Birdwell said. "He is a big, strong kid and is really smart. He gives a chance to get in a lot of different formations."
Either sophomore Xavier Huey or junior Miguel Herrera will be the likely starting kicker for the Hornets.
The Hornets run a 4-3 defense.
Estell, Vasquez, and Rigsby are three returning starters on defense. Last season, Hooks had a large senior class and many of the defensive starters were seniors. Estell starts at safety, while Vasquez and Rigsby are linebackers. Senior Kylar Matthews, who played defensive end a year ago, makes the move to linebacker.
The Hornets are in the process of building their defensive line as all of the line last year were seniors.
"We have some guys that can play on the defensive line," Birdwell said. "It's going to be a learning process. We have some big, strong kids that can play. We are looking at rotating quite a few of them. They just need to see that game speed, and the more they see it, the better they will get. By the time we get to district, I believe it will be a pretty good unit."
Benji Johnson and Xavier Huey will each start at defensive end.
FACING CHALLENGES AND FORMING A COMPLETE TEAM
"Offensively, we have a chance to be pretty good," Birdwell said. "One thing we are working on is teaching our young receivers. We have some inexperience at receiver, not counting Marquiz. On defense, our big challenge is to fill the spots on the line. We are looking forward to getting those guys some playing time and caught up to where they need to be.
"I enjoy the new start. The kids are excited coming in, and I enjoy spending time with them. The journey of a new season is enjoyable. As a coach, I get a new group of seniors. The seniors start to realize that they don't have much longer. I like seeing them grow, mature, become leaders, and become young men."
Aug. 30, at Linden-Kildare
Sept. 6, Paul Pewitt
Sept. 13, at Queen City
Sept. 20, Cooper
Oct. 4, x-at Redwater
Oct. 11, x-New Boston
Oct. 18, x-at Hughes Springs
Oct. 25, x-Mount Vernon
Nov. 1=x-at Jefferson
Nov. 8, Atlanta
x-Denotes 7-3A game
All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.
— SCHOOL: Hooks
— 2018 RECORD: 4-6
— HEAD COACH: Chris Birdwell
— YEARS AT SCHOOL: 5th
— COACHING STAFF: Pat House, def. coordinator; Todd Ledford, off. coordinator; Chris Fountain, off. line/def. line; Tony Hight, centers/receivers; Murphy Howell, def. ends/off. line; Reggie Smith, trainer; Jim Domanski, junior high coordinator; Tyler Garrett, junior high assistant.
— LETTERMEN LOST/BACK: 15/15
— STARTERS BACK: 7 offense, 4 defense
— PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB/RB/LB Mason Vasquez, WR/S Marquiz Estell, TE/LB TJ Rigsby, FB/LB Kylar Matthews, TB Davarious Clark, OT Matthew Estes, OT Dawson Adams.
— TOP NEWCOMERS: DE Xavier Huey, DE Fernando Duran, N Miguel Herrera, DT Brenden Orr, DT Dustin Mills, C Rhett Ashmore, WR Nathan Henry, WR David Johnson, RB Davarious Clark.