GRAHAM, Texas (TNN) - The Blitz on six preseason previews takes us to Graham where the Steers have a lot of expectations this year.
After winning their second straight district title and sixth this decade, the Steers bring back a lot of really good players that have a history of success.
“Last year was a little different year, we had a lot of experience," Graham head coach Kenny Davidson said. "They got some invaluable experience; to be able to have that much playing time as sophomores, so I think that will help us a lot this year.”
“There was a big difference from my freshman year to sophomore year," Graham junior LB Corey Ballew said. "Now that I have the experience playing on Friday night lights, we are all just used to it now and it’s still going to get way better than what it’s been.”
The biggest returning group of players comes on the defensive side with nine players returning from the squad that allowed just 15 points a game during district play.
But maybe the best place to have experience is at the quarterback position and the Steers have that in Hunter Lanham.
“The good thing about having a sophomore quarterback like Hunter, in a good district that we are in, for him to do what he did to have 2,800 yards," coach Davidson, who’s entering his 10th season, said. "Then you move into the summer, how you can do 7-on-7 and you practice reading coverages and going against different looks. I think he’s way ahead of the game coming into this year, his junior year, because of that.”
“People doubted him at first," Graham junior WR/RB/DB Daniel Gilbertson said. “I was there, I was like ‘oh no you are about to see what he’s about to become’. We used to go to camps and I was like ‘oh he’s crazy, he’s crazy good. You don’t understand.’
"He has grown up, he’s matured into the varsity quarterback and I think he can be one of the best quarterbacks Graham has ever seen.”
Lanham threw 29 touchdown passes last season, but one of the reasons he was able to be so good was because of Daniel Gilbertson.
The district’s preseason offensive MVP does it all for Graham, but this year will be relied on even more after Graham lost running back Chase Gilmore to graduation.
Last year, Gilbertson caught 63 passes for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This year he will be asked to go from the backfield as well; but he attributes his success to the teams chemistry.
“It’s crazy how far chemistry goes, I think it’s everything in football," Gilbertson said. "You have to trust those guys up front that they are going to block, you have to trust those guys that they are going to get you the ball and you have to trust the defense that they are going to get stops.”
But now, the Steers need that chemistry to be combined with strong leadership from their large junior class, which makes up half of their roster.
“Last year we had some good seniors, they led us, they were amazing and I treated them like older brothers," Ballew said.
“My first year they taught me hard work is going to get you a long way," Gilbertson said. "There will be people that will have more talent than you but you will have to outwork them to be better.”
Week 1: F 8/30 @ Hirschi 7pm
Week 2: F 9/6 vs. Mineral Wells 7pm
Week 3: F 9/13 @ Brownwood 7:30 pm
Week 4: F 9/20 vs Decatur 7pm
Week 5: F 9/27 vs Springtown 7pm
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: F 10/11 @ Iowa Park 7pm
Week 8: F 10/18 vs Bridgeport 7pm
Week 9: F 10/25 @ Krum 7pm
Week 10: F 11/1 @ Aubrey 7pm
Week 11: F 11/8 vs Vernon 7pm