Lanier's Jordan Humphrey (28) tries to gain extra yardage as Mill Creek's Connor Cooper (65) gets a hand on him.
Like any first-year high school football program, the Lanier Longhorns went through some ups and downs during their inaugural season.
Still, despite the fact there were more downs on the surface, as reflected in the Longhorns 2-7 overall record, there were enough ups for coach Billy Wells and his staff to have a positive outlook heading into the offseason.
“All things considered, throughout the season building from the first game to the last game, you want to get better week to week, and I certainly feel like we did that,” Wells said.
The Longhorns couldn’t have closed the season schedule — consisted mostly of junior varsity games and one varsity contest — any better.
A 31-0 victory over Mountain View’s junior varsity last Thursday not only avenged a 55-7 loss to the Bears in Lanier’s only varsity game earlier in the season, but was also the Longhorns’ first home victory and first shutout victory.
More importantly from Wells’ perspective, it sent the young team into the offseason on a very positive note.
“Getting that win in the last game, you’re peaking at the right moment,” Wells said. “That’s exactly what you’re looking for as a coach. It definitely gives you momentum.”
Of course, that momentum only lasts as long as the team follows it up by continuing to work hard in the offseason.
Based on the Longhorns’ first workouts following last Thursday’s win, plus how many players will be staying competitive by playing other sports in the winter and spring, Wells is encouraged.
“The big thing was, we won that game on Thursday. On Friday, we were right back in the weight room, and they all showed up,” Wells said. “From a program standpoint, we’re looking to take care of some things like facility usage and equipment — things like that. From a personnel standpoint, in the offseason, you’re looking for that big gain between the first year and the second year. With 60 percent of our team freshmen, we know they’ll grow (physically) and get more mature.”
And with the majority of the team so young, most of the Longhorns’ top players will be back next season.
While a handful of seniors, like quarterback and team leader Courtney Witt will be gone, most others like leading rusher Onyx Berrios, who ran for 190 yards and his first career touchdown in last Thursday’s finale, plus other top individuals like junior linebacker Kelby Threlkeld, will return.
And Wells is exploring exactly what direction to take the Longhorns in Season 2.
He is hoping to be able to add a few more varsity games and fewer junior varsity games to the schedule, though with the state in the second year of a two-year cycle in contracts, he admits that may not be as easy as it sounds.
However, he is optimistic the Longhorns can take a step up in competition next year before jumping full-time into varsity and region action in Season 3.
“We are somewhat limited in scope to what we can do,” Wells said. “If we can add a game (after playing just nine this season), we’ll look into that. We’ll also look to teams in similar situations to us (new or second-year programs).
“I’ve already done some looking around and there may be an opportunity to add three or four (varsity) games. I think (next year’s schedule) will be a hybrid of varsity and junior varsity. By the third year, we’re looking at full region and varsity. I think we’ll be ready at that point.”