VERNON, TX (KAUZ) - Our Training Camp Road Trip rolls on in Class 4A Div. II, with the Vernon Lions! They are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 with a new head coach and a brand new offense.
"I waited for this day all year long," said first year Vernon head coach Matthew Hoover. "So from the time I got hired, until the day we got to strap it on, I was just excited and getting ready to get these kids out here and get them started."
Coach Hoover has spent the past ten seasons as an assistant coach for Vernon. Now this season he steps in as the new head coach to take over for his mentor, former coach Mark Bateman.
"With Coach Hoover being our new coach, more people are excited" said senior quarterback Brysan Garrard. "A bunch of people moving around, competing for positions, and every position is open. So everybody, there is a lot of energy at practice and Coach Hoover is really high on energy."
"One of the things I've been addressing really the most with the kids is just having fun out here," said coach Hoover. "You know, just having a good time every day that you come out here. And so they have responded well to it, and they have done a good job of doing it."
The Lions come off a disappointing 2-win season. But with 16 players returning, and a new coach, the Lions have a very positive vibe for this season.
"It feels real good, we've been working hard this off-season," said Garrard. "A lot of people have been going to camps, getting better, coming out here on the weekends. We have just been-- this group of guys is really good. It's really close. I think it's a good season coming up."
One of the biggest differences you will notice this season for the Lions is on offense. They will not be running the traditional Wing-T offense. This year they plan to open up the offense and be more balanced.
"This year it's going to be a little bit different," said senior offensive lineman Ramiro Solano. "We are not going to be running, mostly running. We are going to be doing a little bit of passing, a little bit of both, you know try to get down the field to score."
"I believe that with our new offense, we are going to spread people out more," Garrard said. "Try to even out the pass and the run, and with my ability I think I can pass the ball and run it efficiently through the offense."
"I hope that it gives us a little bit more versatility, where we can throw the ball when we want to," said coach Hoover. "Kind of keep people from packing the box on us. Because that was kind of the problem we would run into, where people were packing the box on us. It was getting hard to get lanes open for our running backs, so being able to spread people out and having the threat of running the ball is going to help us open up our run game."
To lead the new offense, the Lions will have to find a new quarterback.
"There is still a competition at the quarterback spot," coach Hoover said. "We've got Tyler Reeves and Brysan Garrard, both great leaders, great kids, and we are just going to let them keep fighting it out and see which one. If not, if one of them doesn't rise to the top, then it might be a two-quarterback system."
Despite only winning two games last year, the Lions led in most of those games at halftime. So Coach Hoover has one specific message for his team this year to turn it around.
"Got to finish," said coach Hoover. "There were seven games last year where we were ahead at halftime we just didn't finish those games. We've got to finish football games off this year."
The Lions will open on the road against Abilene Wylie on Friday, September 1st.
Sunday night, we'll continue in District 3-4A Div. II with the Iowa Park Hawks!
2017 Vernon Lions Schedule
Sept. 1 at Abilene Wylie, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 vs Altus (OK), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 at Burkburnett, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs Dalhart, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs Springtown, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Canadian, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 BYE
Oct. 20 at Iowa Park, 7:30 p.m.*
Oct. 27 vs Bridgeport, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 3 at Graham, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 10 vs Krum, 7:30 p.m.*