The Wichita Falls Coyotes were Texoma's biggest surprise story a year ago. This season, they enter the year with an unfamiliar target on their backs.
WFHS Head Coach Danny Russell sums it up best: "Our expectations have gone up."
It's amazing how things have changed for the Coyotes. A year ago, they hadn't won more than three games in their past five seasons, and they were trying to prove doubters wrong.
They definitely did that, advancing to the state quarterfinals. This year, they're picked by many to win their district. So now, the challenge is to stay hungry.
"We're just trying to keep our heads on straight during practice," says senior Walt Penn. "Not really pay attention to the news or anything like that. And just kinda stick with the team and let our minds stay on the team."
"We got most of us coming back, the 2015 class coming back," adds Tristan Sosa. "So I expect us to be really good."
"We come in, we put the work in every day," adds Garron Nash. "So I see no reason why we shouldn't go to at least the point that we were at last year."
The key to success for the Coyotes last season was an efficient, but not flashy offense, and a standout defense. Coach Russell, who in just his second season is now the "dean" of Wichita Falls ISD football coaches, says not much has changed.
"I think the recipe's pretty much the same as it was last year," Russell said. "We want to control the football, not turn it over, not give up any big plays defensively, and then win on special teams."
Still, the Coyotes will be able to put a bit more responsibility on senior quarterback Eric Butler.
"We're much further along right now than we were at this point last year, both offensively and defensively," Russell said. "So as you get into the season, that's going to allow us to do some things that we couldn't do last year."
"Eric's a great leader," Penn said. "He really does a lot more action, more than he does talk, which I love. I love a player that won't talk, just play a good game."
But as was the case in their playoff run last year, the Coyotes will go as far as their defense will take them.