Sanger running back Derek Shelby remembers exactly where he was during the Indians’ games last season.
It wasn’t in the backfield. It wasn’t on the bench. It was behind then-running backs coach Jim Cain, tugging at his shirt, making the coach aware of his presence.
“Coach, I’m right behind you if you need me,” Shelby would say to Cain on a regular basis.
Shelby was the backup for Brock Squier, Sanger’s all-district running back and 9-3A’s co-offensive player of the year. The voice called upon Cain if Sanger’s offense had overpowered its opponent, a regular occurrence last season. Most times Shelby asked to enter the game, he was told to wait until the next series.
This season, Shelby will be called upon to lead Sanger through a period of transition and youth. Sanger’s switching from the spread offense to the hybrid Wing-T, shifting the offense’s emphasis from the pass to the run. There won’t be much waiting around on the sidelines this year for the junior tailback.
“I kind of feel like I was missing out a little bit, but I expect to be great this year,” Shelby said.
Shelby’s the kind of kid who was in the weight room all summer and lifted weights religiously, and he’s not the type to miss workouts either. His work ethic has turned him into one of Sanger’s biggest and strongest players.
The Indians need Shelby’s enthusiasm and skills to help carry an offense returning junior offensive lineman Kyle Scheffler as the only senior, and Scheffler’s status heading into the season is in question due to injury.
The last two seasons, Sanger’s relied on its passing attack, led by Dane Evans, who may have been one of the best quarterbacks in the state last season and went on to Tulsa. Dane’s father, Damon Evans, was the team’s offensive coordinator but left the school over the summer for an assistant coaching job at Arlington Lamar.
Cain stepped in and installed a new offense Sanger hopes will help the Indians claim their first district title since 1999. The offense plans on using motion, sweeps and misdirection plays. Sanger head coach Chuck Galbreath described the new system as an attacking and downhill offense. The sixth-year head coach said he still plans on throwing the ball, but not with the same frequency as in previous seasons.
“We just feel like it fits our personnel better,” Galbreath said. “We want to have a little different mentality on offense. We want to play hard and fast, and we feel like we can do that in this offense.”
Junior Wyatt Broxson and sophomore Brandon Mann will split time as the team’s starting quarterback.
Behind Broxson and Mann in the backfield is Brice Escobedo, who will be asked to help lead Sanger’s defense as a linebacker as one of four returning starters. Contrary to his reserved and respectful persona, Escobedo said he’s fonder of hitting people than he is of running into them.
“We need Brice to certainly step up and lead our defense,” Galbreath said. “That will be his main role on this team. He will play some running back, but certainly his main role, the way I see it, is to be a great leader on defense, kind of be the quarterback of the defense and show great leadership, and we need great play out of him. He needs to be a playmaker.”
The Indians will need great play out of both Escobedo and Shelby if Sanger hopes to be a contender for the district crown.
2011 record: 9-2 (4-1, District 9-3A)
Coach: Chuck Galbreath (33-19 in five seasons at Sanger)
Returning starters: One on offense, four on defense
Key players: RB Derek Shelby, LB/RB Brice Escobedo, OL Kyle Scheffler, QB/CB Wyatt Broxson, QB Brandon Mann, DB Brennan Bloom
Offense: Hybrid Wing-T
School enrollment: 722
Stadium: Indian Stadium
Keys to a historic season
TWO QBs, ONE ROLE
Sanger is using two quarterbacks to fill the void left by Dane Evans, who is now a freshman at Tulsa. Junior Wyatt Broxson and sophomore Brandon Mann will split time at quarterback. Indians head coach Chuck Galbreath said both will see plenty of action. Mann has a strong arm, while Broxson stands at 6-3, 190 pounds and can run well. Broxson will also play cornerback and is one of four returning starters on defense.
LEARN THE SYSTEM
With Jim Cain taking over for Damon Evans as the team’s offensive coordinator, Sanger’s going to need to adapt to the new hybrid Wing-T offense Cain is installing. The new offense is built to cater to its current group of players, including starting running back Derek Shelby. A successful ground game will make passing the ball that much easier, and it also helps teams hoard the ball and keep their defense cool on the sidelines.
FEAST ON PARITY
With Argyle and Celina grouped in District 10-3A, the chase for the 9-3A crown is going to be wide open with the likes of Gainesville, Krum, Decatur and Bridgeport. Krum moves up to Class 3A from 2A, Gainesville missed the playoffs last year and like Sanger, Decatur and Bridgeport were both bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. A few key district wins could set Sanger up for a shot at the district title.
PEAK AT THE FINISH
The season may start on Aug. 31 against Dallas Madison, but the key section of the schedule really doesn’t begin until Oct. 19. That’s when Sanger opens its District 9-3A schedule at home against Gainesville, marking the beginning of a four-week stretch of district play. With the low number of district games, it’s imperative the Indians play their best football in those final four weeks, where the margin separating teams from the playoffs is very slim.