It’s nearly the end of July, which means it’s about time to get ready for a new school year (Fun!). This also means that you are probably emptying your bank account on school supplies that your children will hardly ever use (Seriously, in elementary school, I lost all my new pencils by the third day of school).
But most importantly, it means that high school football practices are about to start.
Our Lady of the Hills hosts its first practice on Thursday. The local public schools, meanwhile, begin practicing next Monday on Aug. 5. This is excellent news because football is awesome, and also because every team in Kerr County is expecting to accomplish big things this year — it should be an exciting season in the Hill Country.
The Kerrville Daily Times will continue to provide coverage on area teams leading to the season opener on Aug. 30. But for now, here’s three storylines to watch as we enter preseason practices. (I’m only mentioning three because I’m still in summer mode, and have yet to embrace the grind of football season).
1. A Corner crisis?
Tivy football has advanced to the postseason during the last 22 seasons, one of the more impressive current streaks in Texas football. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the Antlers extend that number to 23 during the fall.
If you’re a Tivy fan, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The Antlers return both quarterbacks (Cole Miears and Trapper Pannell) from last season, possess two of the best wideouts in the area (Colten Drake and Brooks McCoy) and have a defensive line flush with talent. And oh yeah, their place kicker, Jared Zirkel, can kick 59-yard field goals and has already committed to Georgia.
There is one area of concern: The Antlers lack depth at cornerback. At the moment, they have just three players at that position (Zach Layton, Damian Hernandez and Jack Patterson). All three are good football players, but if any of them suffer an injury at any point this season, the Antlers will be somewhat in a jam.
This isn’t exactly a new predicament, though. The Antlers were thin in the secondary last year as well, and found ways to overcome it. Then senior Josh Vela played at both receiver and corner, and Patterson was moved to varsity before Tivy’s 56-28 win over Uvalde.
Expect Tivy to play a receiver at corner, or promote a JV player again this season if one of its corners suffers an injury
2. Who will be OLH’s new starting quarterback?
Similar to Tivy, OLH enters 2019 rich with talent. The Hawks return eight starters from last year’s playoff team, including all-state receiver James Ibarra.
There is one problem: The Hawks have to find a new quarterback after graduating Hunter Taylor.
Taylor was the leader on the 2018 OLH football team. He also happened to be a pretty good quarterback as well — collecting 1,041 rushing yards, 2,492 passing yards and 65 total touchdowns to earn first-team, all-state honors.
OLH coach Chris Ramirez has yet to name a successor to Taylor, saying that he will hold an open competition during preseason practices. That ought to add a little intrigue to August practices.
“From Hunter’s point of view, we are looking at a quarterback who was a dual-threat, a very accurate quarterback,” Ramirez said. “It’s a very important position for six-man football and for all football teams … There’s a couple of kids that I am looking at right now. Whatever direction we go with, that is definitely going to dictate a lot of our play calling and our offensive philosophy. We are hoping someone steps up there.”
Fortunately for the Hawks, they have had plenty of players step up this off-season, with Ramirez specifically praising the efforts of rising seniors Brian Casillas, Cody Davis and Jake Chapman.
“Those three guys — it’s easy to tell just by looking at them that they have spent some time in the weight room,” Ramirez said. “They are excited about the start of their senior season.”
As well they should. If the Hawks can find a quarterback to distribute the ball to their play makers, they could have another special season.
3. Can Center Point take the next step?
Coach Bubba Walters and his players deserve a lot of credit for turning around the Center Point football.
The once stagnant program has now made the playoffs for three straight seasons. Last year, they churned out a 46-38 win over Harper, a signature victory for the program.
This season, the Pirates are hoping to take the next step: Becoming a contender in the postseason. During their current playoff-streak, Center Point has yet to win a playoff game. This might be the best year to earn that elusive victory, as the Pirates return 15 starters, including running back Cody Daily, who gashed opponents for 669 yards and 10 touchdowns on 80 carries in just five district games. They also return their quarterback Kolten Kitchens, who rushed for 720 yards.
If the Pirates can remain relatively healthy this season, expect them to extend their playoff streak and position themselves to make a run in the postseason.