Older Dogs ready for new tricks – Alvord hopes to build off experience

After graduating 20 seniors in 2016, Alvord head coach Pete Hart knew his team would be young last year.

“We had to be really careful to stay positive,” Hart said. “It’s one thing to chew a senior out when he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to, but it’s quite another when it’s a freshman or sophomore. The young kids tend to question themselves a lot anyway. If they made a mistake, we just tried to coach them up.”

The first three games of the season, the Bulldogs were shutout, losing by a combined 100-0.

Alvord finally broke through for its first points of the year in the fourth game against Electra and picked up its first victory a month later against Olney. In the regular season finale, the Bulldogs knocked off rival Chico 15-14 to claim the third seed out of District 5-2A Division I.

Alvord lost to Celeste in the bi-district round, making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

In stark contrast to last season, the Bulldogs return 10 starters on defense and several on the offensive side of the ball. With a year of experience under their belts, Hart is confident his squad will take strides.

“We hope with another year of getting older, they’re another year better and are able to handle more pressure,” Hart said. “We’re excited – cautiously optimistic.”

Alvord opens the season Aug. 31 at home against Electra.

The Bulldogs will compete in the newly re-aligned District 4-2A Division I with Chico, Olney, Lindsay and Seymour. Alvord went 2-2 in league play last season and finished the year 2-9 overall.

Senior linebacker Shea Buckaloo has much higher expectations for this year’s team.

“We will probably be way better than we have recently,” Buckaloo said. “We’re probably going to come into district 5-1, at worst. We have a bunch of people we can definitely beat. Coming into district, we’re going to beat Olney and Chico, for sure.”

ALVORD BULLDOGS IN A CAPSULE

2017 record: 2-9, 2-2

Bi-district qualifiers

Head coach: Pete Hart, fifth year at Alvord (19-28-4)

OVERVIEW

Alvord grew up last season, starting just one senior on defense and two on offense. The Bulldogs graduated 20 seniors after its 2016 campaign and were under the direction of freshman quarterback Corbyn Cornell in 2017. With a year of experience under their belt, many of the underclassmen should be ready to step up this season. Alvord returns 10 starters on defense, including hard-hitting, all-district linebacker Shea Buckaloo.

OFFENSE

Sophomore quarterback Corbyn Cornell returns as Alvord’s signal caller. Cornell threw for 1,732 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

One area Hart said Cornell has improved is accuracy. Cornell completed 45.9 percent of his passes last year.

“Last year, Corbyn tended to look down receivers a lot,” Hart said. “At our level, a freshman quarterback on a Friday night, everything happens fast. Now, through doing it more, he’s able to sit back there, see the field and have a mental clock.”

Tanner Richey returns as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher. He racked up 646 yards on 154 carries last season. Karson Parker was the team’s leading receiver, hauling in 12 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns.

Hart said the offense will have plenty of weapons this year.

“We just have to mesh,” Hart said. “It’s good that we have the timing down with our quarterback, receivers and running back. We’re going to try to get the ball to several people. We feel like we have kids that at any point can break away.”

Up front, Alvord lost senior center Cason Rangel and senior lineman Chase Barclay. The Bulldogs also had another starting lineman transfer.

“Our offensive line is a big question mark, but I’m not going to say it’s a concern,” Hart said. “It might be an interesting mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors. I think if we can shore that up – and that’s going to be a depth problem – we can walk five quality kids out there.”

DEFENSE

Alvord lost only one starter on defense and returns one of the best linebackers in the area in Shea Buckaloo.

The senior led the Bulldogs in tackles last year, tallying 117 to go along with two sacks. He is the anchor of Alvord’s defense that held opponents under 20 points four times last year.

“Shea is a big, physical linebacker,” Hart said. “He’s that guy we use to dare teams to run up the middle. We set our defense up to take things away from the offense, so they have to squeeze things into small areas in the run game.”

Dain Warnick and Zach Brown will be Alvord’s two interior defensive lineman used to plug up the opposition’s rushing attack.

Hart said between Warnick, Brown and Buckaloo, along with the Bulldogs’ other returners, Alvord should have a formidable defense this year.

“We feel like the defense should be the most mature part of our team,” Hart said. “With 10 guys coming back in a scheme they have run for four years, I’m very confident.”

OUTLOOK

In a five-team district, Alvord’s playoff hopes will likely hinge on its game against Olney Nov. 9. Depending on the result of the Bulldogs’ rivalry game against Chico, the regular season finale against Olney could very well be a play-in game for the final playoff spot in District 4-2A Division I. Alvord returns most of its starters from 2017, but the offensive line is a big question mark. Assuming they can protect Cornell and score points, expect the Bulldogs to be back in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

Record prediction: 4-6 overall, 2-2 in District 4-2A Division I for third place.

2017 ALVORD RESULTS

Nocona 42, Alvord 0
Sacred Heart 45, Alvord 0
Era 15, Alvord 0
Electra 17, Alvord 7
Petrolia 28, Alvord 8
City View 34, Alvord 14
Seymour 40, Alvord 6
Alvord 50, Olney 6
Windthorst 49, Alvord 21
Alvord 15, Chico 14
Celeste 48, Alvord 20

2018 ALVORD SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 … Electra
Sept. 7 … @ Archer City
Sept. 14 … @ Santo
Sept. 21 … Pantego Christian
Sept. 28 … Petrolia
Oct. 5 … Tioga
Oct. 12 … BYE
Oct. 19 … Seymour
Oct. 26 … @ Lindsay
Nov. 2 … Chico
Nov. 9 … @ Olney