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Football Preview: Hopes high on the horizon

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There is just something special about high school football season in Texas.

The sights and smells at our local stadiums, tailgating with family and  friends, and cheering on your team as it fights for every fourth quarter yard inspire us to dream, if only for a few hours, that maybe, just maybe, it’s finally our year.

For two schools in southern Denton County, this was exactly the case in 2013, as the Argyle Eagles and Guyer Wildcats both brought home state championships to the region.

For the Argyle football team, the third time really did prove to be a charm, as Todd Rodgers’ Eagles hammered their way to a 38-33 state championship victory over upstart Fairfield.

Argyle had played in the state championship game twice before in 2005 and 2011, but came up just short in both games.

Rodgers said he is feeling pretty good about how things are shaping up for this coming season.

“We have several very talented players returning from last year’s championship team mixed with some talented but inexperienced young players,” Rodgers said. “We just need to gain some valuable experience early in the season so we can make a playoff run again this year.”

Key returning players for the Eagles include Nick Ralston at running back, JC Chalk at tight end, Matt Hiter and Matt Waggoner on the offensive line, Drew Estrada and Gage McCook as defensive back and wide receiver and Taylor Sweatt at free safety.

Argyle returns five offensive starters and six defensive starters from last year’s state championship team, but they also lose five division I players from the squad.

Rodgers said he sees Dallas Carter and Sanger as the teams to beat in district this season. For Argyle to repeat the type of success it had last season it will need to “gain valuable experience,” he said.

Just up the road at Guyer High School, the Wildcats brought home their second straight state championship trophy and looked impressive doing so.

Guyer outscored playoff opponents by an average score of 47-17, and enjoyed an epic performance from quarterback Jerrod Heard in the state championship game against San Antonio Brennan.

Heard rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and threw for a third touchdown to help lead the Wildcats to victory, but the Guyer standout is headed to the University of Texas this fall.

Key returners for Guyer this year include Alex Honey at wide receiver, defensive lineman Carl Thompson, defensive end Derek Watson, safety Jordan Wallace and corner back DeMarcus Owens.

The Wildcats also return with last year’s Defensive Sophomore of the Year, Michael Carillo, and look for running back Anthony Taylor and receiver David Haynes to also make significant contributions.

Ryan and Justin Northwest will be among Guyer’s more difficult district opponents.

For Liberty Christian, a 9-4 overall record and trip to the semi-finals last season has the Warriors hungry for more in 2014, but it will have to do so under new leadership.

Barton Hundley will take over the reins for Liberty Christian this year after four years as an assistant, and Hundley said he is optimistic about what he has seen from his team so far.

“Our players have had a good summer,” Hundley said. “They got after the weights this summer and were involved in 7 on 7. They made a lot of sacrifices to get themselves ready for the upcoming season. 

“We feel pretty confident about this season because we have boys that have bought in to what we are doing.  They have consistently shown up ready to work in order to make our football team better.”

Liberty returns four offensive and six defensive starters from last year’s team, and should face its most difficult games in Plano Prestonwood Christian, Fort Worth Nolan, and new arrival, Midland Christian,

Look for such players as quarterback Drew Hunnicutt, linebacker Hunter Griffith, receiver Justus Lee, running back and linebacker Kyleb Howell, and corner back Givon Washington to lead the way for the Warriors this season.

“For us to have a good season and make a run, we all have to be committed to a common goal and see it to the end,” Hundley said. “We are going to have to play for the person beside us and not for ourselves. We have to be consistent and persevere. We need to take advantage of every opportunity we have. Above all we want to glorify Christ in all that we do.”

For the Marcus football team, 2013 turned out to be a pretty strange season, as a 2-9 overall record yielded the fourth playoff spot after winning a three-way tie breaker with Flower Mound and Lewisville, all of which went 1-4 in district competition.

In his first year as the MHS head football coach, Gerry Stanford said he is not quite sure what to expect from this season and from his team.

“It will be a very interesting season in a very tough and consistent nine team district,” Stanford said.

Key returners for Marcus this season include offensive linemen Keaton Stutherland and Creighton Barr, defensive back and wide receiver Cade Erwin, tight end Kaden Smith and defensive end Andrew Fitzgerald.

The Marauders have 17 returning starters from last year’s squad and should face some stiff competition from Allen, the Plano schools, Hebron, and McKinney Boyd.

To have a good post season run, Standford said his team will have to have “good health and good fortune” this season.

Across town at Flower Mound, a 2-9 season was not what the Jaguar faithful were hoping for either, but second-year coach Dane Johnson is confident that his team is headed in the right direction.

Johnson said that, while there are some concerns heading into the season, he does expect a couple of players in particular to have big years.

“We are going to be pretty young on both sides for the ball, but I do expect Clayton Johnson to have a big year at defensive back and wide receiver,” Johnson said. “Logan Davis, our quarterback, is going to have to play well for us to have a chance, but I think he will because of our very solid offensive line. I believe this might be the best offensive line I have had since I have been here.”

Flower Mound has a total of six returning starters, and Johnson sees Allen as the team to beat.
To rebound from a disappointing 2013 campaign, Johnson said it will take a few things.

“We are going to have to play really well on defense and highly execute on offensive to give us a chance to make the playoffs,” Johnson said.

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