CROWELL, TX (KAUZ) - We finish our look at District 9-1A Division II with the defending district champions, the Crowell Wildcats. After being hit hard by graduation, they're looking to reload this fall.
"We know this year's going to be a little different than normal," admits head coach Nathan Hayes. "Our senior class is not very big."
His Wildcats have only 3 seniors with playing experience heading into the 2017 season. But they're still aiming high, despite losing 6 letter-winners from last year's state semifinalist team.
"Not a lot of playing time with some of these guys," Hayes said. "But they're our new leaders. It's going to be little different. We're going to count on them to guide us and lead us a little bit. But what we lost were some heavy hitters."
Gone are stars like Tristen Hayes, Tyler Durham, Danny de la Pena and Javier Aguilera. Just a pair of two-way starters remain.
"Evan Santos was our center last year, a big-time player for us," Hayes said. "He's going to step up and play a new role, probably at running back. We've got Nick Gonzales coming back, he was one of our ends, a defensive end. Both of them were two-way starters for us last year."
Coach Hayes says he has three juniors vying for the quarterback position, including his son Skyler.
"His role is going to change as well, you know," Hayes said of his son. "[We're] missing a quarterback, so we're going to kinda see what we can get there. If we can get someone to throw the ball, he may be a receiver. If not he may have to be the quarterback.
"We've got Ruskin Turula, who we'd been kinda grooming him to be the quarterback, maybe he can do that for us. Another kid coming back, a junior. And then we have Michael Reeves, another junior coming back who's going to hopefully be a big-time player for us."
While he's not sure which one will wind up in the backfield, all three will contribute on offense.
"I've got a battle for quarterback, and I'm going to pick the best one out of those three," Hayes said. "And then the other kids I'm going to mold around there, but we've got to find a quarterback for us."
In the second year of this realignment, the Wildcats are playing basically the same, loaded-up schedule they had last year that was meant to get a state title contender ready. They're not shying away from a list that includes powers like Gordon, Happy and Valley.
"We're going to get better from every game," Hayes said. "I haven't gotten better from many wins, really haven't. So we take a few losses, knocks early on, we're going to be just fine."
The Wildcats open their season at the Jayton Gridiron Classic, Saturday September 2nd against the Motley County Matadors.
Saturday we'll take a look at the rest of Class 1A Division II, with the Benjamin Mustangs and Throckmorton Greyhounds.
Crowell Wildcats 2017 Schedule
Sept. 2 vs Motley County, 3 p.m. in Jayton
Sept. 8 at Gordon, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs Knox City, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs All Saints Episcopal, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Happy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs Turkey Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 BYE
Oct. 20 BYE
Oct. 27 at Chillicothe, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 3 vs Harrold, 7:30 p.m.* (If Harrold plays this season)
Nov. 10 at Northside, 7:30 p.m.*