WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - We're almost done with our Training Camp Road Trip. We've come to our final district, 5-5A, and the Coyotes of Wichita Falls High School. They brought in a new head coach fairly late in the spring, but they think they'll be ready when the season kicks off.
"It's an exciting week," said new coach Paul Sharr. "It's an exciting time."
The Coyotes are the area's only 11-man team with a new head coach. Sharr comes in from Marshall, where he was offensive coordinator for 3 seasons. Before that, he was head coach at White Settlement Brewer. Since arriving, he's built an almost entirely-new staff at Old High.
"They came in with great energy," said senior linebacker Trey Hatton. "They were ready to go, and we were already ready to go because we had a rough season last year. So we wanted to get to work and prove that that doesn't define us. And we wanted to be a better team this year, so they came in with the same mindset, so it was kinda easy."
The strength of the team is expected to be on the defensive line, where they'll move to a 3-4 front to emphasize nose guard Michael Nash, and defensive ends Aeneus Nash and Jesus Silva. Hatton moves from end to outside linebacker in the new scheme.
"I feel like we had the best D-line last year, in the district," Hatton said. "So having those guys back, we really didn't lose anybody. [We] lost one senior, but we have guys like Mike Nash, Aeneus, Ca'Maruie [Johnson] and all them. I feel like they'll be a big part of our team."
When asked what made the Coyotes' defensive front so tough, senior center Alvaro Vazquez said it was a combination of factors. "How athletic they are," he said. "How quick off the ball, how good they work their hands and everything. They're a good defensive line. Just outstanding."
Vazquez said going against that d-line in practice can only make him and his unit better, and that's important to Coach Sharr.
"You win football games up front," Sharr said. "So if your O-line and D-line are playing good, you've got a chance to be successful. Which opens up your run game, and your passing game, and also it hopefully lets your linebackers and secondary kids fit off the line."
In addition to their stout front-3, new defensive coordinator Andy Modica also likes to bring pressure from all over the field.
"We're always going to bring some type of pressure from somewhere," Coach Sharr said. "So you really don't have just 3 d-linemen all the time. You could be bringing 4, 5 and possibly 6 at times."
On offense, the Coyotes haven't officially named a starter, with Coach Sharr saying his new offensive coordinator Grant Freeman will make that decision Friday, but all signs point to senior Cornelius Phillips, at least for now. Junior Marcharie Johnson is also under consideration.
"They all bring intangibles to the table," Sharr said. "So it's basically who Coach Freeman feels good with, that's who we're going to roll with."
Whoever starts will have some speedy receivers like senior Anthony Black and junior Jordan Hatton, plus a 1,300-yard rusher in senior Stephen Gaines. His teammates describe Gaines as an upbeat leader of the team.
"Just his attitude and his work ethic," Vazquez said. "He just never gets tired. He's always out here on the practice field just full of energy."
With eight starters returning on each side of the ball, the Coyotes hope the experience they gained last year will lead to a more prepared team on the field this year.
"I feel like we just matured a little bit," said Hatton. "Last year we had a couple young guys play in big-time things, so we had little mental mistakes. I feel like this year, we got better as a team and we're more focused."
They hope that focus will lead them to bounce back from last year and climb to the top of their new, competitive district...
Vazquez didn't mince words on his team's lofty expectations: "District champs. That's our goal, and just move on to the playoffs and keep going from there."
The Coyotes head out on the road Friday night, as they face the #6 (4A Div. II) Sweetwater Mustangs at the historic Mustang Bowl.
Friday night on Newschannel 6 at 6, we'll wrap up our Training Camp Road Trip with the Rider Raiders!
Wichita Falls Coyotes 2016 Schedule
Aug. 26 at Sweetwater, 7:30
Sept. 1 vs Cleburne (Thursday), 7
Sept. 9 at FW Arlington Heights, 7:30
Sept. 15 vs Haltom (Thursday), 7
Sept. 23 vs Denison, 7*
Sept. 30 at Rider, 7*
Oct. 7 vs Denton, 7*
Oct. 14 vs Denton Braswell, 7*
Oct. 21 vs Denton Ryan, 7*
Oct. 28 at Sherman, 7*
Nov. 4 BYE