There is a fresh start on tap for Texoma Christian, a program which has seen a couple of those since it reinstated football back in 2016.
This latest hiatus for the Eagles lasted just one season and was a decision that came almost down to the last minute while Texoma Christian was working towards its goal of a third straight postseason appearance following a 3-8 campaign in 2018.
But after the known (graduating seniors) was followed by the unknown (several transfers) during the off-season, the Eagles’ roster shrunk to the point where playing as an 11-man squad wasn’t going to be feasible. There also wasn’t enough time to make an immediate switch to the six-man ranks and try to put together an outlaw schedule. During the past year the transition process has been underway and a slimmed-down version of the Eagles is ready to go.
"We want to get the program going again and thriving, and we think we can sustain it," TCS head coach Matt Townsend said. "We introduced it to the kids and there was strong interest from them."
Coming with the changes is another at head coach. Townsend takes over for Mark Ellison, who will remain as the assistant athletic director and head girls basketball coach, and is the fourth coach for what is going to be the fourth varsity season for the program since the return. The games will also take place on campus for the first time instead of at the Center Street Sports Complex.
This is Townsend’s first opportunity to be a head coach after previously serving as a football assistant at S&S and Bonham. Last year, he was a basketball assistant at TCS and worked with many of the same athletes who will take to the gridiron.
"I’ve seen them compete. I just haven’t seen it with a football in their hands," Townsend said. "A lot of the skills they’ve learned in basketball will translate to football."
There are only six Eagles with high school football experience because of the two-year gap between seasons. But with a new approach and a strong junior core to build around, it shouldn’t be much of a hindrance, though there is the learning curve about the differences between six-man and 11-man football.
The Eagles are expecting to enter the year with 16 players — none of them seniors — on the roster, which provides some depth and guards against attrition throughout the season.
"We have a starting point with personnel we feel pretty good about, going two deep, but we will see what happens when we get out there," Townsend said.
TCS is going to run the Obier veer option, which bases its principles off the triple option.
"I wanted to run an option offense, something akin to what Gunter is doing," Townsend said. "When we went to six-man, I wondered if there was an equivalent to that."
Texoma Christian is expected to turn to sophomore Kason Williams as its quarterback to lead the offense.
There will be several Eagles who will see time in the backfield alongside Williams, including juniors Carson Russell and Cody Keller and freshman Dax Foster.
At receiver, junior Jonah Barker gets the nod while classmate Thomas Barnett is going to be the tight end. Sophomore Hayden Turner could see snaps at both of those positions.
Junior Michael Tan will serve as the center but classmate Clay Whitson might be another option along the offense line.
On defense, TCS will go with a 2-3-1 alignment. Foster and Barker will be the defensive ends. Tan and Russell are the linebackers and Thomas Barnett will be the nose guard. Williams is slated to the free safety.
When it comes to special teams, the kicker will be either Russell or Chase Whitson, while the punting job is still up for grabs.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, TAPPS made the decision to push back the start of high school athletics until September 8 and the Eagles will be able to practice in pads the following week. There will be a scrimmage which can be held before Sept. 21 and then TCS will open what will be a six-game season against Irving Highlands on Sept. 25.
"TAPPS is letting them do some stuff; it’s mostly strength and conditioning. We can have meetings and watch film," Townsend said. "We are doing everything we can to be ready for when we can practice."
After contests against Grayson Christian and Rockwall Heritage, the Eagles open TAPPS Division III District 2 play and face three opponents— Fort Worth Covenant Classical, Dallas Fairhill and Irving Faustina— in a battle for three playoff berths.