A familiar face now leads the Bowie Jackrabbits. Special teams coordinator Dylan Stark inherits head coaching duties after Josh Castles left to coach his alma mater Archer City.
Stark now leads a team that finished 6-4 last season, but missed the playoffs because of a 2-3 district record. A big plus for the new coach, he inherits a team with nine returning starters on defense.
"We're going to have a real quick defense, a real fly-to-the-ball defense," senior cornerback Tanner Monroe said.
The old sports cliché is "defense wins championships." Whether or not Bowie truly believes the phrase is irrelevant. Coaches and players say the experience of playing together provides confidence and comfort going into the season.
"You're not worried," senior defensive end Payton Betts said. "If I miss this block, you know there's definitely someone there to make the tackle. It makes it easy, makes it fun."
But experience doesn't guarantee improvement, and Bowie needs to improve, especially against district opponents. The Jackrabbits gave up more than 40 points to Graham, Iowa Park and Burkburnett, the three playoffs teams from District 6-3A. The team's first chance to test themselves against one of the trio is in week six when Bowie heads over to Graham.
Stark knows the district will be tough, but making the playoffs is still the goal. Bowie opens the season on the road against Fort Worth Christian on August 26th. When the Jackrabbits take the field for the first time, Betts will simply take it all in, as his final year of high school football begins.