GRAHAM, TX (KAUZ) - Our Training Camp Road Trip wraps up District 3-4A Div. II with the defending runners-up, the Graham Steers.
With 25 returning letter-winners, including 14 starters, they're loaded for a deep run, and it all starts under center, with senior quarterback Tucker Horn.
"Tucker, he runs the offense," said senior left tackle Hunter Dooley. "It's his. We play as a team, but Tucker, he leads."
Horn threw for over 2,600 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, in his first year as a starter. Now he's getting interest from multiple Ivy League schools and looking to lead the Steers back to state prominence.
"He's a high-character individual," said head coach Kenny Davidson. "He does the right things. He really takes the leadership of the team on his back."
"He's always in there with everybody," said senior linebacker Cy Holt. "He's not gonna skip any conditioning. He's gonna make sure he's getting as much as anybody. And he really does a nice job encouraging everybody and I think that's why he's stepped into the position so well."
Horn and the Steers won the State 7-on-7 title this summer in College Station, continuing a tradition of summer success for the Steers. It's their third title, to go with a runner-up finish and a consolation title, all in the past eight years.
It's not "real football", but coach Davidson says it still brings a lot of benefits to a program.
"It carries over into the game, as far as running routes, and playing defense, and breaking on the ball," he said. "And I think it's a great tool to improve your skill-set over the summer."
"They already have all their routes down," said Dooley. "They've already got all their plays down. They have all their [hot-reads] down. All that's already read, so they've kinda got a, I feel like it's a head start. And they won it, knowing they're the best at it makes it a lot easier."
"They're meticulous," Holt said. "They really run crisp routes. You know, we won State in 7-on-7, they're the toughest guys we ever had to cover all year long."
While the linemen didn't get to compete in College Station, the Steers will be loaded there, as well, returning four starters including Dooley, who is also getting Division-I offers.
"He's always been a big, strong kid," Davidson said of Dooley. "He's a tough kid, and those kind of linemen don't come around that often. So we're fortunate to have him for one more year."
Dooley said there's a lot of continuity on the line: "Returning center, returning right guard, returning right tackle, it's all the same but that left guard. And I feel like we're all super-close. I do the best that I can to lead them, but I feel like we all lead each other."
That line will also be blocking for running back Chase Gilmore. He's got big shoes to fill, replacing 1,500-yard rusher Jaxon Brockway, but the man they call "Tarzan" is looking good in camp.
"He's just the most beefed-up dude on our team," Holt said. "He showed up more 'swole' than everybody. And he'll put it on people, but he's also got a lot more speed than most people."
"He's waited his turn, he wants the ball and he's got something to prove," coach Davidson said. "So we're hoping he can get in there behind that line and relieve our passing game by helping us have a good running game."
The Steers are eager to return to the level they reached from 2012-14, when they won 39 games in those three seasons, reaching the State Semifinals each year. But it all starts in the district.
"You know, the bar's set pretty high because of the people that have gone on before," coach Davidson said. "And so our expectations are high, but we tell our kids, 'That's all talk.'"
"I just want to win district as a team," Dooley said. "I'd love to win the district. I feel like we cut ourselves short a little bit [last year]. I'd love to get it done this year."
The Steers will open their season with a revenge game Friday night, facing a Sanger team that beat them 45-7 a year ago.
Tuesday night we'll start Class 4A Div. I, with the Burkburnett Bulldogs!
Graham Steers 2017 Schedule
Sept. 1 vs Sanger, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Brownwood, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Hirschi, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs Burkburnett, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs Stephenville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Big Spring, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 vs Bridgeport, 7:30 p.m.*
Oct. 20 BYE
Oct. 27 at Krum, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 3 vs Vernon, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 10 at Iowa Park, 7:30 p.m.*