The two Class 4A football programs in Denton have a lot of differences and have had different levels of success over recent years, but today marks a new beginning for both.
Denton and Guyer will play their spring games tonight to conclude the spring football season — the last official workouts the squads will get before fall practice kicks off in August.
Guyer’s game is set for 6:30 p.m. and Denton’s will kick off at 7 p.m., with the scrimmages set for the schools’ respective campuses.
For Guyer, the reigning Class 4A Division I state champion, the spring season has been a good chance for coach John Walsh to evaluate the depth of his program, and several starters won’t be available tonight after suffering minor injuries.
Guyer will be without six offensive starters and one defensive starter, but Walsh said that could end up being a good thing for the depth in the fall. Four of those missing offensive starters are up front in center Jordan Thompson, left tackle Bryan Barrett, right tackle Kyle Soltero and tight end Jonathan Pershall.
“It’s allowed us to play a bunch of young linemen and tight ends, and we’ve been able to see we have a lot of depth there,” Walsh said. “To make big runs in December, if you have injuries, you’d better have someone ready. It’s allowed us to see whom we can count on if those starters aren’t ready to go.”
Across town at Denton, second-year head coach Kevin Atkinson is seeing a transformation of his program continue after a 3-7 campaign in his first season leading the Broncos.
Atkinson took over a downtrodden Denton program last year and is trying to instill the qualities that make a winning program. He said the spring has gone a long way toward doing so.
“I’m excited about just the offseason we had and the commitment we’ve asked our athletes to have,” Atkinson said. “We talked to them in November, and before we could start talking about winning we had to eliminate the things that kept us from winning.
“It’s been nice to be out at practice and to see some of that hard work pay off to help make these kids better football players.”
Atkinson said he’s been especially pleased with quarterbacks Cy Ward and Christian Rodriguez, the offensive line and wide receivers.
Receiving was one of the team’s strengths last season, and Deandre Coleman, Ke’Von Buris and Key’andre Hearvey will return at wideout in Atkinson’s quick-hitting pass offense.
Atkinson also said another year under the current coaching staff will only help his players progress in 2013.
“We’ve had a year with them and they trust their coaches a lot more,” Atkinson said. “It’s hard coming into a new program to get their trust going. If the players don’t trust you, they don’t buy into what you’re telling them and they don’t execute fundamentals like you hope they would.”
For Walsh and the Wildcats, tonight’s spring game marks another step in the process to repeat as state champions come December.
“We’re a far cry right now from a repeat state champion, but I do see the potential to get there by October or November,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he’s been pleased with the play of his linebackers, a group that returns just one starter in Demontrie Taylor and features young standouts like Michael Carillo and Dante Ramacher — the brother of former Guyer standout Dominic Ramacher, who’s now a fullback for Oklahoma State.
Walsh also has raved about his secondary, which features three cornerbacks who have significant starting experience at the varsity level and some new safeties who have given the unit a boost.
“[Starting safeties] Ian Edwards and Jordan Wallace have really stepped us as far as being physical in coverage, and we have two others [Brandon Daniels and Logan Helal] who have played really well too,” Walsh said. “We should have a lot of depth there.”
One player who Walsh said has worked his way into a position where he’s given the coaching staff no choice but to play him is backup quarterback David Haynes, who has been highly touted by Walsh since he was a freshman but was stuck behind Texas commit Jerrod Heard under center.
Haynes, who will be a junior in the fall and should be in line to start at quarterback as a senior, will be playing wide receiver for the Wildcats in 2013 and should be one of Heard’s top targets in the passing game.
“He’s really made a big push on not only being our future quarterback, but he’s going to a big weapon on the outside,” Walsh said. “He’s gotten to where he’s running good routes. The combination of his speed and being strong will really give us a threat on the edge. He plays really physical.”
Haynes, however, won’t be at receiver tonight, as he’ll be the quarterback opposite Heard in the annual spring scrimmage, which Walsh said is all about fun with player evaluations taken care of prior to today.
“Our spring game has always been a great atmosphere,” Walsh said. “It’s populated in the stands and brings some excitement. Anytime you get a game going with lights on, it’s always good for south Denton, that’s for sure.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.