Joe Randall made a huge splash as a freshman for the Alvord Bulldogs, rushing for 543 yards and eight touchdowns.
Now after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark the past two seasons, Randall prepares for one last season in the Alvord backfield.
“Time flies,” Randall pointed out. “I still feel like a freshman sometimes. It’s hard to believe I’m already a senior.”
With 2,879 yards and 37 touchdowns over the first three years of his career, Randall knows expectations are high for him entering this season, especially with the Bulldogs moving into the new Class 2A Division I.
Alvord will be one of the larger schools in what was previously Class A Division I. Since Randall’s freshman year, Alvord was the small school in 2A Division II.
“I just put it all in God’s hands. It’s not all me,” Randall said.
And instead of focusing on the expectations, he’s more interested in proving wrong any doubters about the 5-11, 178-pound back’s ability.
“I want to show that I’m not overrated,” Randall said. “I want to prove people wrong.”
Since breaking out with a 134-yard performance in his first game (against Electra) his freshman year, Randall said he’s learned a lot to become a better back.
“I learned not to sprint out, take off and go,” Randall said. “Things have slowed down. Now, there’s time to see where you are at and go.”
Randall is determined to carry the Bulldogs into the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“We’re ready this year. We’ve finally got everyone on board,” he said.
He is quick to point out that success will not be determined strictly by him. While opposing defenses are focused on him, the Bulldogs will put the ball in quarterback Cassidy Patterson’s hands to get it to weapons on the outside.
“(Offensive coordinator) Coach [Nate] Skelton said I may not run as much as we spread it around,” Randall said. “That’d be better for the team.”
Head coach Pete Hart doesn’t try to deny that Randall will see the ball plenty.
“Joe will have his touches and he will be the main focus for our opponents,” Hart said.
But stopping Randall will likely be the issue for opponents for one more year.
Alvord senior Joe Randall is closing in on 3,000 career yards. Here’s a look at his first three seasons with the Bulldogs:
As the smallest fish in the District 5-2A Division II pond last season, the Alvord Bulldogs came up just short of making the playoffs with losses in their final three games.
Alvord ended the year 3-7 for a second straight season.
Now after a realignment that knocked the Bulldogs to the new 2A Division I, which was previously Class A Division I, a re-energized program enters 2014 with lofty expectations.
“We can surprise people and go to the playoffs and do some damage there,” said Alvord quarterback Cassidy Patterson.
The Bulldogs return eight starters on each side of the ball but will hit the field under a new coach. After three years on the Alvord sidelines, Curtis Enis resigned in June to take the girls basketball job in Burleson.
Pete Hart, who spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach in July. Hart was the head coach at Chico for eight seasons, going 12-68.
Despite the changes, Hart was encouraged by the work in the offseason.
“The kids worked out all summer,” he said. “Everyone is excited. After what they’ve gone through the last two years in non-district and in district, the move to the lower class has everyone excited, especially with the kids we have back.
“We have a large senior class that has paid their dues. They believe they have a chance to be successful.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs bring back a majority of their skill players, including all-district running back and four-year starter Joe Randall, who rushed for 1,251 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. He has more than 2,800 yards in his career.
The Bulldogs will be led by a three-year starter (Patterson) at quarterback.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will have more experience after playing several freshmen and sophomores last year on a unit that gave up 326 yards per game. The Bulldogs bring back a pair of starting linebackers and most of their speedy secondary.
“We have every reason to be optimistic about our team,” Hart said.
The Bulldogs will be tested in non-district against Nocona, Grapevine Faith, Leonard, Muenster and Wise County rival Paradise. Only Paradise was not a playoff team in 2013.
“It’s not a cakewalk. We’ll deal with non-district and try to get better each week,” Hart said. “Our real focus is to develop as a team and get ready for the district season.”
In the new 5-2A Division I, Alvord opens with Trenton at home Oct. 10. They will take on Blue Ridge the following week at home before heading to Valley View. Alvord ends with Chico at home and then Bells on the road.
“All the teams are pretty even, and it’ll be a battle every Friday night,” Hart said.
“One thing I tell the kids is that just because we dropped down in class, no one on the schedule is going to give us anything.”
But the team enters the season believing they will win.
Aug. 29 … Nocona … Home … 7:30
Sept. 5 … Grapevine Faith … Home … 7:30
Sept. 12 … Leonard# … Away … 7:30
Sept. 19 … Muenster … Away … 7:30
Sept. 26 … Paradise … Home … 7:30
Oct. 3 … Open
Oct. 10 … *Trenton (HC) … Home … 7:30
Oct. 17 … *Blue Ridge … Home … 7:30
Oct. 24 … *Valley View … Away … 7:30
Oct. 31 … *Chico … Home … 7:30
Nov. 7 … *Bells … Away … 7:30
# at Gainesville, HC Homecoming
* Denotes District 5-2A Div. I game
The Alvord Bulldogs’ defense started 2013 strong, holding their first two opponents under 200 yards.
But as the season wore on, the Bulldogs had to put more young players on the field and began to wear down. Alvord gave up more than 400 yards in three of its final six games. Opponents averaged 326 yards per game against the Bulldogs.
“We played a bunch of freshmen and sophomores,” explained Alvord coach Pete Hart.
As Alvord starts the 2014 season, the unit expects to be stronger with a majority of the defense coming back.
“We have everything we need,” said senior linebacker Troy Morales. “We’re bringing up some good kids, and it helps we have a lot of returners.”
The strength of the defense is the secondary with strong safety Jose Luna, free safety Joe Randall and corners Jaylon White, Heath Walker, Ryan Villarreal and Josh Malone.
“The secondary is the strongest part of the defense,” Hart said.
Randall picked off five passes last year, and White grabbed two.
In the Bulldogs’ 4-3 front seven, they return several key people, including Morales and Damon Ledet at linebacker. Morales was in on 102 tackles last year and Ledet 81.
“The third [linebacker] spot, we’re looking hard to find the right person,” Hart said.
Up front, Blake Martin, Bryce Bull and Jaxson Williams return at the tackle spots. Bull had a pair of sacks and nine tackles for losses in 2013.
“We’re coming together. We shuffled the defensive line,” Bull said. “We’re not big. We rely more on speed than weight.”
Tristen Palmer and Brett Martin are manning the end spots. Martin was a safety last year.
“We moved him to defensive end to get more speed there,” Hart said.
Morales and Bull are confident the defense can get the job done and get the ball back to a potentially explosive offense quickly.
“We should be able to fly to the ball and get everyone to the ball,” Morales said.
Alvord 31, Millsap 7
Ponder 13, Alvord 6
Alvord 28, Krum 21
Bowie 42, Alvord 24
Gunter 40, Alvord 7
Nocona 35, Alvord 21
Alvord 29, Holliday 7
Jacksboro 42, Alvord 16
Henrietta 28, Alvord 25
City View 38, Alvord 35
Final record – 3-7
2 … Mason Clower … 12 … RB/DE
5 … Ryan Villarreal … 12 … REC/DB
8 … Tyler Machal … 10 … RB/DE
9 … Jose Luna … 11 … RB/LB
11 … Cassidy Patterson … 11 … QB
12 … Jaylon White … 11 … REC/DB
13 … Connor Patterson … 10 … QB/LB
16 … Allen Campbell … 10 … REC/DB
18 … Riley Davila … 12 … TE/LB
19 … Brett Martin … 12 … REC/DE
20 … Josh Malone … 12 … Rec/DE
25 … Joe Randall … 12 … RB/DB
26 … Bobby Mckinnon … 12 … REC/DB
28 … Damon Ledet … 11 … RB/LB
32 … Andrew Walter … 12 … REC/DB
35 … Tristen Palmer … 10 … TE/DE …
38 … Heath Walker … 12 … REC/DB
40 … Ethan Machac … 11 … RB/LB
51 … Tyler Littrell … 12 … OL/DE
52 … Troy Morales … 12 … OL/LB
53 … Joe Talamantes … 11 … OL/DL
54 … Evyn Beasley … 12 … OL/DL
55 … Bryce Bull … 12 … OL/DL
56 … Hunter Kittrell … 10 … OL/DE
60 … Seth Chandler … 11 … OL/DL
62 … Hunter Tallon … 10 … OL/DL
63 … Cody Newby … 11 … OL/DL
64 … Blake Martin … 10 … OL/DL
66 … Jonah Hancock … 11 … OL/DL
74 … Hayden Tillison … 12 … OL/DL
77 … Tyler Yzaguirre … 10 … OL/DL
79 … Jaxson Williams … 11 … OL/DL
Entering the season with more than 2,800 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career, Joe Randall will be expected to carry a heavy load for the Alvord Bulldogs in 2014.
Randall ran for 1,251 yards on 224 carries last year.
But as opposing defenses center their focus on the Alvord workhorse, coach Pete Hart said opportunities will open up for the Bulldogs’ other weapons.
“Joe will be the main focus for opponents,” Hart said. “He’s talented, and I’m glad we have him. With our depth and skill level at the other positions, it’ll be hard to just focus in on Joe.”
The Bulldogs return a three-year starter at quarterback, Cassidy Patterson. Last year, Patterson threw for 1,604 yards, completing 117 of his 231 attempts with 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
“He came in and played for us as a sophomore and from then to now he’s really developed,” Hart said. “Coach [Nate] Skelton has been working with him.”
Patterson expects the offense to be balanced and able to make teams pay for stacking the box against Randall.
“It’s to our advantage that they are going to be keying on him. It’ll open up the pass a lot,” Patterson said. “We’re more confident, especially with so many players returning.”
Patterson will have several options on the outside in the passing game, including Heath Walker, Brett Martin, Allen Campbell, Josh Malone and Jaylon White.
“We’re very deep at receiver,” Hart said.
Ledet, who rushed for 235 yards last year, and Mason Clower will help spell Randall in the running game and catching the ball out of the backfield.
Riley Davila and Tristen Palmer give Alvord a pair of athletic tight ends.
With the vast number of skilled players returning, the success of the Bulldogs will hinge on the development of the offensive line.
“Without those guys, we’re not going anywhere,” Hart pointed out.
“The line is really meshing well. We have eight or nine linemen that we believe can perform at a high level.”
Three return from last year – center Evyn Beasley, guard Hunter Tallon and tackle Hayden Tillison.
“As time goes on, we’re getting better,” Beasley said. “We’re simplifying the blocking scheme.
“We need to hold for a few seconds and get some down-the-field blocks for Joe.”
5-2A DIVISION I
1. Alvord – Joe Randall is closing in on 3,000 career yards and should lead the Bulldogs to a playoff spot and possibly a district title in their new league. Cassidy Patterson should make enough plays in the passing game to open holes for Randall.
2. Chico – The linebacker duo of Hagen and Garon Davis is the best in the district and should put the Dragons on the path to ending the school’s playoff drought.
3. Valley View – The Eagles made the playoffs after winning four games last year. With only four starters back on offense, the Eagles may get off to a slow start.
4. Bells – Scott Ponder arrives from Iowa Park to lead the Panthers and brings a dynamic quarterback in his son Derrick, who threw for 3,310 yards and 28 touchdowns last year. Bells will improve dramatically from last year’s 1-9 finish.
5. Blue Ridge – There are loads of starters back on both sides of the ball for the Tigers. Ty Agan threw for 21 scores and 1,800 yards last year in 10 games.
6. Trenton – The young program went 0-10 last year and were shut out eight times. It should be another rough go in a strong 2A district.