Football: New districts mean new opportunities for local teams

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Lake Dallas coach Michael Young has plenty of reasons to be excited and optimistic as the Falcons begin football workouts today.

For starters, a lot of his sophomore starters from a 6-4 2013 campaign are now juniors with more experience under their belts. Also, while there are not a ton of new faces on the roster, the Falcons have fresh faces to go up against once the season begins in less than three weeks.

Gone from the schedule are powerhouses like Guyer and Wichita Falls Rider, as well as a talented Trophy Club Nelson squad and a Wichita Falls team that went four rounds deep in the postseason a year ago. They have given way to unfamiliar foes like Grapevine, Birdville and a quartet of Fort Worth ISD schools.

“We’ve had a tough road in our district the last four years, but it’s nice to go into a district knowing we have a good chance to win the district championship if we play well,” Young said. “Before, it seemed there were two spots claimed [by Guyer and Rider] and everyone was fighting for third and fourth. It’s nice to have that change to where, if we play well, we can compete for a district championship.”

Lake Dallas, Guyer and Denton begin fall workouts today because they participated in spring football.

Teams that bypassed spring workouts were able to begin practice a week ago.

Aside from the more preferred district slate, Young’s enthusiasm heading into today’s first practice is boosted by the fact that he believes the 2014 Falcons could be one of the better teams he’s fielded, thanks in large part to his returning players.

Young brings back his quarterback Dagan Haehn, who is coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him toss 24 touchdown passes, with nearly 2,000 passing yards. Haehn will have back his favorite target, junior do-it-all threat Keegan Brewer, who racked up 800 receiving yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.

“We had a bunch of sophomores [last year] that were going to have to start,” Young said. “To have as many people as we have with experience is big. There’s such a big jump from sophomore to junior year, and we expect a lot out of those kids.

“There’s no doubt this could be one of the best teams we’ve ever had, if things go well and we stay away from injuries and the kids work the way we think they will.”

Lake Dallas isn’t the only program with a new feel as practice begins today. Former district foes Denton and Guyer are also going their separate ways, as the Broncos remained with several teams from the old District 5-4A and Guyer moved up to the state’s largest classification in the newly named Class 6A.

Guyer coach John Walsh and his team are coming off two straight Class 4A Division I state championships and will open the season against two-time defending Class 5A Division I state champion Allen on Aug. 29 at UNT’s Apogee Stadium.

That, along with the jump in classification, is enough to make Walsh’s job of keeping his players focused in the coming weeks an easy one.

“The game against Allen is a great way to start,” Walsh said. “We’ve always had a big game to start the season. It keeps the kids focused in camp and keeps them motivated. They know what’s in front of them — one of the best programs in the country. From a coaching standpoint, we’ll find out early what we’re good at and what we’re not so good at.”

The Broncos enter workouts today with lofty expectations in a wide-open district and as one of the state’s largest Class 5A schools in terms of enrollment. Denton has perhaps the most talented group its had in a while in coach Kevin Atkinson’s third season, even though he’s already been dealt a big injury blow.

Senior offensive lineman Rowdy Clark, who has an offer from UNT, is likely out for the season due to injury — a big blow for the Broncos up front despite the presence of fellow UNT target Judd Terry.

“We’ve already been struck with adversity on the offensive line and in the receiving corps,” Atkinson said. “The bad part is that we have a couple players that aren’t going to get to play, but the good thing is — if you can find a positive in that — is that we know now so we can take all of fall camp to find people to fill their shoes.”

If things go well for the Broncos this season, they could find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2010, when they made the playoffs despite a 4-6 record and lost in the opening round.

“Everybody has anticipations of having a playoff run at this time of year, so I think spirits are going to be high,” Atkinson said. “They understand that we’ve been building this thing and that it’s going to be a good year for us.”

Walsh said he is ready to get back in the season routine after a week of anticipation while other schools around the area were already practicing.

“This week before is always a fun week because it’s like waiting for Christmas,” Walsh said. “We put a lot of hard work in from August to December. Actually getting the kids out there and then getting the pads on [on Friday] is rewarding for everyone — players and coaches.”

ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.


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