After the Quanah Indians board a bus for road district games this season, they'll be heading east for the first time in a long time.
Quanah joins Windthorst, Seymour, Archer City and Olney in a newly-realigned District 3-A Div. I, meaning Quanah no longer plays teams in the Panhandle/Abilene area.
"It's going to be a challenge," head coach Jason Sims said about the tough competition. "Our kids are going to be prepared."
Sixteen starters return this year, including sophomore quarterback Clay Robertson.
He played far above freshman expectations last season, running for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns, while passing for 2,010 yards and 19 scores.
"He's learned a lot from last year, from going to state 7-on-7," Sims said.
Sims hopes Robertson continues to grow in 2012, wanting him to be more technical on the field to add to his natural athletic ability. Additional goals are to manage the game better and lower interceptions (11 last season).
Robertson will have the ability to change plays at the line of the scrimmage this season, a big plus when working with four senior wide receivers in Brandon Heard, Austin Williams, Austin Smith and Eric Alaniz.
"It speaks volumes when you've got every weapon back for him," Sims said. "He's got great chemistry with those guys. He knows where they're going to be. He knows where they like to catch the football, where they want it on every play, and he's able to deal it out to them."
Alaniz says it's their job to make Clay look good.
Offense shouldn't be a challenge in 2012, but questions about defense will be present. While Quanah averaged 26.1 points a game, the team gave up 33.8 a game.
Coach Sims has entrusted the D to his former high school coach at Childress, Richard Olson. The Indians will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 to better match their personnel.
Olson has simplified the defense, allowing players to read and react on the field.
"You just really have one job," senior lineman Zak Oseletto said. "Do that job, and you're okay."
Expectations are high for the team entering 2012. Players are looking for a district title and improving on an area round playoff run last season.
Aug. 31 at Wheeler, 7:30
Sept. 8 vs Miles in Abilene, 10:30 a.m. (Saturday)
Sept. 14 vs Tulia, 7:30
Sept. 21 at Henrietta, 7:30
Sept. 28 vs Childress, 7:30
Oct. 5 at Wellington, 7:30
Oct. 12 BYE
Oct. 19 vs Archer City, 7:00*
Oct. 26 at Seymour, 7:00*
Nov. 2 vs Olney, 7:00*
Nov. 9 at Windthorst, 7:00*
*District 3-A Div. I game