WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - We continue our 2017 Training Camp Road Trip in TAPPS Division 2 District 1, with the Notre Dame Knights. The Knights went to their 2nd-straight TAPPS Division 3 State Title game a year ago (TAPPS splits Division 2 into 2 more divisions for the playoffs) and bring back 3 starters from that team.
"Those guys have high expectations," said head coach Don Carlson. "We lost 3 really good football players: Marc, Clayton and Skyler. But we've got 10 lettermen coming back. We've got 6 seniors returning, and those 6 seniors have played twice in the State Championship Game."
Marc Schafer, Clayton McElroy and Skyler Whitten were all big pieces for the Knights on the football field, and made up three-quarters of a state record-setting 4x100M relay team. But the fourth member of that team will be back in sophomore Thomas Koch. His twin brother Andrew, along with junior Jaycob Ysasaga and Jack Trivette also went to state in track.
"We've got some kids that were on our State Championship sprint relay team coming back, and we also qualified a mile relay and an 800-relay team last year," Carlson said. He said while he won't have the star power this year with a somewhat-young team, they're well-balanced and that will make them harder to game-plan against.
"I think this is a year where we're going to play very well as a team," he said. "We have no individual standouts. There's not going to be one person that's gonna score all the touchdowns or one person that's gonna make all the tackles."
As usual Notre Dame will play a challenging non-district schedule with five local public-school teams plus former district rival, and frequent playoff opponent, Granbury NCTA. But they view those games as little more than a warm-up for the games that really matter.
"We basically think our season doesn't even start until district starts," Carlson said. "Once district starts, we think we'll do well. Of course, when the playoffs start, that's a whole other season."
And of course one of those district games, as much as you try not to look ahead, always looms a little larger than the others: the Knights will host Wichita Christian on November third.
"It is a rivalry," Carlson said of the series which has seen the Knights win all 12 meetings as 6-man schools. "I know Coach Johnson doesn't like hearing that, but it is for us. It's a big game for us, and it's a big game for them. We look forward to that game every year."
We'll see if someone emerges as another Notre Dame star this season. But until then, Carlson is fine with the shared responsibility.
"We don't care who gets the credit," he said. "We've just got a group of guys that play together, work hard together and play as a family."
The Knights will open their season Friday, September 1st at Forestburg. They will also host the Longhorns later in the season, in a somewhat-rare home-and-home series.
Thursday night, we'll start our preview of UIL schools, in Class 1A Div. II, with the Northside Indians and Harrold Hornets!
2017 Notre Dame Knights Schedule
Sept. 1: at Forestburg, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8: vs Bryson, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15: vs Benjamin, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22: vs Chillicothe, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs Forestburg, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Granbury NCTA, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13: BYE
Oct. 20: vs Plainview Christian*, 7:30
Oct. 28: at Amarillo Holy Cross*, 2 p.m. (Saturday)
Nov. 3: vs Wichita Christian*, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10: at Lubbock All Saints*, 7:30 p.m.