The Alvord Bulldogs begin the season with the same goal they’ve had the past two years.
“Every year we talk about putting a gold football in the trophy case,” said Alvord coach Pete Hart. “We want to win a district championship and if not get a playoff win.”
The Bulldogs are the only Wise County school to accomplish that goal the past two seasons – winning the 5-2A Division I title in 2014 and earning a bi-district victory last year.
Many of the Bulldogs’ 17 seniors were part of the two teams adding to the trophy collection and expect to continue Alvord’s growing tradition.
“We’ve made a good tradition. We need to step it up and continue the winning tradition,” said Alvord senior defensive back Alan Campbell.
The Bulldogs took an unconventional route to the playoffs last year. Playing a brutal preseason, an injury-plagued Alvord squad started the year 0-5. Then after a 54-18 loss to county rival Chico, the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes were put on the brink.
In a must-win situation, Alvord beat playoff-bound Bells 54-22 to make the playoffs. The Bulldogs then took down Boles 44-19 in bi-district.
The season came to an end with a 55-0 loss to Goldthwaite in the area round. It was the second straight year for the Bulldogs to lose in the round.
“Our goal is to get in the playoffs and make a run. If we get back to that point, we know better what we are facing,” Hart said. “We play a lot of spread teams in district and then face a smash-mouth team. We’ll do better to change our mentality to make a deep playoff run and be more versatile.”
With the deep senior class, the Bulldogs return the bulk of the starters on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, new offensive coordinator Danny Neighbors has a veteran quarterback in Connor Patterson to run his fast-pace system along with three returning linemen – Tim Sombathy, Clay Baker and Blake Martin.
“We have a lot of returning kids and have a good groundwork,” Hart said.
The Bulldogs did graduate their top rusher Damon Ledet and will look for Conner Parker, Crese Redman and Derrick Creek to step into the role.
Last year’s offensive coordinator Jeff Alexander steps over to lead the Bulldogs’ defense this year.
He inherits a veteran secondary led by safety Campbell and Kaleb Krejcarek.
The Bulldogs will be retooling in the front seven. Tyler Machal, Kalyb Beaver and Patterson will take over at linebacker. Up front, Alvord hopes to pressure quarterbacks with speedy defensive ends Parker, Tristan Palmer, Julian Tambunga and Hunter Kittrell.
The Bulldogs will not face the gauntlet it did last year in non-district when they took on bigger schools Grapevine Faith, Leonard and Paradise. This year, Alvord faces Nocona, Sacred Heart, Era, Electra, Petrolia and City View.
“With the schedule there’s a lot of potential to have a lot of success,” Hart said. “We’re playing people our size. Our schedule is not easy, but the numbers match up.”
Alvord steps into a new 5-2A Division I with Seymour, Windthorst, Olney and Wise County rival Chico.
“This will be a competitive district. If we stay healthy, I like to think we can be in the mix,” Hart said.
“Our kids now have expectations. A lot of this year’s senior class played on the district championship team two years ago. They expect to go out and win. We’ll focus on winning one game at a time and try to win a district title and make a playoff run.”
Alvord opponents over the past several years have gotten used to gameplanning to stop a Patterson as the Bulldogs’ quarterback.
Cassidy Patterson held the job for multiple seasons before Connor took over for his brother last year. To the younger Patterson it was an honor to inherit the role.
“It was a long time coming,” he said. “I played linebacker my sophomore year. Finally my brother left and I got to step up and try to prove myself.”
In his first season as the Bulldogs’ quarterback, Connor led Alvord to a bi-district title, throwing for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns.
He turned in perhaps his best game with the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes hanging in the balance in the regular season finale against Bells. Patterson completed all six of his pass attempts for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 103 yards in the 54-22 win.
Playing quarterback and leading the offense is not something Patterson takes lightly.
“As a quarterback you have to be a born leader. Coaches have put that role in my hands, and I have to capitalize on it,” he said.
As he stepped behind center last year, he didn’t feel he was in his brother’s shadow. He admits he looked up to his older brother who guided Alvord to the district title in 2014.
He points out they play the position differently.
“Cassidy was one of the best pocket passing quarterbacks I’ve seen in my life,” he explained. “I have to scramble a little bit more. It’s fun knowing he was there and I got to replace him.”
Running the ball is a strength of Patterson though he’d prefer to put in the air.
“I can definitely run more than people think I can think, but I’d rather throw the ball,” he said. “I like to get the ball down the field to receivers like Alan Campbell. If I need to get the yards and the first down, I can do it.”
In a new offense under offensive coordinator Danny Neighbors, Patterson expects to be throwing the ball more, attacking the edge of the defense with quick passes.
“[It's a lot of] quick passing and get the ball out quick and down field. I’m ready for it,” Patterson said.
Along with playing quarterback, Patterson will go back to playing linebacker on defense. Because of a nagging injury last year, he was limited to just playing offense.
“It’s nothing I can’t handle,” he said.
BULLDOGS IN A CAPSULE
2015 Record: 4-8, 3-2
Head coach: Pete Hart, third year at Alvord (11-12)
After an 0-5 start last year, the Bulldogs rebounded in district play to secure a second straight trip to the playoffs. Alvord returns the bulk of its starters on both sides of the ball to battle in a new District 5-2A Division I that now includes Wichita Falls area powers Windthorst and Seymour.
After three years out of football, former Paradise head coach Danny Neighbors takes over as the offensive coordinator. Alvord coach Pete Hart is excited to see how Neighbors uses the team’s returning weapons to attack defenses.
“The kids have bought into what we’re doing. Danny does a great job of organizing practices. The kids are excited,” Hart said. “The way the offense is designed, we’ll figure out how to attack what the defense is giving us.”
Connor Patterson returns at quarterback. He threw for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
“We’re picking up [the new offense] really fast,” Patterson said. “We’ve got a lot of quick runs and passes and are going no huddle.”
Crese Redman, who rushed for 294 yards last year behind Damon Ledet, returns to the backfield. He will be joined by Conner Parker, who missed time last year with a broken collarbone, and Derrick Creek.
The offensive line returns three starters – Tim Sombathy, Blake Martin and center Clay Baker.
“We’re looking good. We’re putting in a lot of hard work. We’re stronger and quicker,” Martin said about the line. “The offense is really fast paced. It fits us.”
The Bulldogs graduated two of their leading tacklers from a year ago in all-district linebackers Ryan Deweese and Damon Ledet, who accounted for 129 tackles.
Last year’s offensive coordinator Jeff Alexander is now in charge of the defense.
Tyler Machal is moving from defensive end to the middle linebacker spot. He will be joined by Kalyb Beaver and Connor Patterson. Beaver missed last year with concussion issues. Patterson, the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, will rejoin the defense after injuries limited him to just playing offense last year.
Up front, Blake Martin and Clay Baker man the tackles and will be flanked on the ends by a strong rotation of speedy pass rushers Conner Parker, Tristan Palmer, Julian Tambunga and Hunter Kittrell.
“We have a lot of potential,” Parker said. “Our defensive line hopes to be one the best in the district. All our defensive ends are quick. We’re not big but have good speed.”
Alan Campbell and Kaleb Krejcarek lead an experienced and aggressive defensive backfield. Campbell brings size at 6’3″, 190.
“We have the ability to affect the game. It’s basically the same defense with a couple of new things,” Campbell said. “We’re excited to see how it pans out.”
The Bulldogs have enough experience to challenge for the top spots in a tough District 5-2A Division I. They should make a return to the playoffs.
2015 ALVORD RESULTS
Nocona 26, Alvord 18
Grapevine Faith 56, Alvord 0
Leonard 47, Alvord 12
Muenster 54, Alvord 7
Paradise 45, Alvord 0
Alvord 42, Trenton 12
Blue Ridge 38, Alvord 21
Alvord 21, Valley View 14
Chico 54, Alvord 18
Alvord 54, Bells 22
Alvord 44, Boles 19*
Goldthwaite 55, Alvord 0*
2016 ALVORD SCHEDULE
Aug. 26 @ Nocona
Sept. 2 Sacred Heart
Sept. 9 @ Era
Sept. 16 Electra
Sept. 23 @ Petrolia
Sept. 31 City View HC
Oct. 14 Seymour*
Oct. 21 @ Olney*
Oct. 28 Windthorst*
Nov. 4 @ Chico*
HC Homecoming, * 5-2A I game
ALVORD BULLDOGS 2016 ROSTER
2 … Frank Williams … WR/DB … 12
6 … Derrick Creek … WR/DB … 12
7 … Tyler Machal … RB/LB … 12
8 … Corbin Cohoon … WR/DB … 11
9 … Clayton Machal … RB/LB … 10
10 … Hunter Kittrell … 0L/DE … 12
11 … Crese Redman … QB/DB … 12
13 … Connor Patterson … QB/LB … 12
14 … Braden Gonzales … WR/DB … 12
16 … Alan Campbell … WR/DB … 12
17 … Julian Tambunga … TE/DE … 12
21 … Conner Parker … RB/LB … 12
22 … Kalyb Beaver … RB/LB … 12
24 … Shea Buckaloo … RB/LB … 10
26 … Kaleb Krejcarek … WR/DB … 12
35 … Tristen Palmer … TE/DE … 12
50 … Tim Sombathy … OL/DL … 12
51 … Gio Alvarez … OL/DL … 11
52 … Clay Baker … OL/DL … 12
55 … Wyatt Lindley … OL/DB … 11
64 … Blake Martin … OL/DL … 12
65 … Cason Rangel … OL/DL … 11
72 … Jarrett Locklear … OL/DL … 10
80 … Kyler Russell … WR/DB … 11
82 … Javen Koger … WR/DB … 11
88 … Cody Putnam … WR/DB … 12