Jake Chapman and Cody Davis willingly suffered through the same trial every day during the summer.
The two Our Lady of the Hills’ seniors have experienced life together. They’ve been friends since they were 4 years old, went through the Hunt school system together and attended OLH when they were freshmen. Now, they’re hoping to experience the best senior year possible, striving to serve as leaders for OLH’s six-man football team.
And that’s why they powered through those trials together in the summer — they wanted to be in the best shape possible for the upcoming season. They traveled to Ingram’s track almost every day to run sprints; they drove east on Highway 27 to lift weights and toss the football at OLH. They then concluded with a two-mile run.
And naturally, they had to perform these workouts around lunchtime, so they could learn how to play in scathing temperatures.
“If you just sit around all day, eat and just relax during the summer, it’s going to hurt when you get out here in the heat and your body isn’t used to it,” Davis explained.
Neither he nor Chapman had to cross that bridge. The results of their hard quickly became noticeable. Every time they attended a strength and conditioning workout, OLH coach Chris Ramirez noticed they looked bigger and stronger. It made him even more excited about the upcoming football season.
That season arrived on Thursday, when the Hawks held their first football practice this season. Chapman and Davis remained energetic throughout Thursday’s practice, sprinting through drills and shouting encouragements at their teammates. It was finally their moment to be team leaders.
“Those are two great kids,” Ramirez said during Thursday’s practice. “We can count on them to teach these younger guys and also lead by example. They are well rounded, strong academic kids, strong in their faith. They are great kids, like all of our kids at OLH. It’s a great place to coach because you are surrounded by great kids and great families.”
At the moment, Chapman and Davis are trying to help the Hawks become a great football team this fall. It’s certainly an attainable goal. Both were key contributors on last season’s historic team. After winning only five games in their first two years at OLH, Davis and Chapman helped the Hawks snap a three-year playoff drought in 2018 and advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Hawks return eight starters from that 8-4 team, so they have players who know what it takes to win at a high level.
Davis, though, wasn’t satisfied with the final outcome of last season. Sure, it was a good season. And sure, they might have elevated the OLH football program, but he doesn’t believe they reached their full potential.
He doesn’t want that to happen again this season.
“I feel like we could have done more last year than we did,” Davis said. “With the team we have this year, I think we have another shot to make a deep run and just compete with everyone we play. We have a good group of seniors.”
He’s not wrong. OLH does possess the ingredients of a team capable of playing into December. Twenty-three players attended Thursday’s practice, so they have depth. And players such as Brian Casillas, Luke Martinez and James Ibarra give the Hawks the necessary speed to thrive in six-man football.
“We are lot faster, a lot more agile,” Chapman said. “We are a little raw, but overall we are a faster, quicker team to compete against.”
The Hawks still obviously remain a work in progress. Ramirez still has to find a consistent passer after graduating all-state quarterback Hunter Taylor. He also has to ensure his players’ continue laboring during fall camp to improve their strength and condition.
But the first day of the season was success. After he had finished addressing the team after practice, he asked OLH’s four seniors (Chapman, Davis, Casillas, William Cummings and William Tran) to break the team huddle.
The seniors had made the most of their last first day of practice, an important small step toward a promising season.
“If we want to win this year, it’s going to have to come down to how hard we practice,” Chapman said. “How we play communicates what we did on this practice field.