By Clay Corbett, firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2012, Chico put six wins on the board, but still missed out on that elusive playoff bid.
This year, with loads of talent on the roster, the Dragons are poised to finally break through for a spot in the postseason.
After ending last season with two straight district victories, they were just one win short of the playoffs. But head coach Stephen Carter feels the momentum from those last two wins will carry over into this season.
“Winning those last two district games last year helped with our kids confidence,” Carter said. “Our kids are starting to realize that we can go out and play with these teams. Our kids are on the right track.”
Those two victories gave the Dragons a 6-4 record – and a winning season was one of their goals for 2012.
They will need to hit the ground running, with Valley View, Lindsay and Collinsville making up their first three district opponents.
Odds are, they will have to defeat at least one of these teams to get into the postseason.
“Valley View in my opinion is the team to beat,” Carter said. “It’s going to be a tough district, but that is why you line up every week and play – anything can happen.
“I look forward to the challenge of our district, and I think our kids are hungry for a playoff spot.”
The Dragons built confidence in pre-district last year, winning four games. Those first five contests won’t be as easy this time around.
Chico picked up Wortham, Coram Deo and Brock in the preseason schedule to go along with Frost and Gainesville State School.
“It’s a much tougher schedule,” Carter said. “Frost and Wortham were both playoff teams. Brock is going to have a good football team.”
He hopes the stiffer competition will help his team prepare for a difficult district.
“Our kids know the schedule is tougher,” Carter explained. “We just want to get better every week. I’d like to win them all, but our goal is to get better and prepare for our district games.”
Chico’s aerial attack led the county last year, averaging 263 yards per game. That was nice, but it won’t be the plan this season.
The Dragons are in search of their new quarterback after three-year starter Hunter York graduated.
Freshman Cresse Redman and junior Jericoe McGuire are battling it out under center.
The passing game is coming along slowly, but Carter will look for a more balanced attack in 2013.
“It’s going to be the same offense but a more run-oriented team,” Carter said. “I’ve narrowed it down to two quarterbacks, and they are picking it up [the offense] and throwing the ball better.
“I”m very pleased with them right now.”
Carter hasn’t had this much team speed since he’s been at Chico. The Dragons are loaded at the skill positions and have an experienced offensive line.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our offensive line will be pretty good,” Carter said. “We are going to zone and sprint out some and play to their strengths.”
Darrion Riggs will start at fullback, and Jaston McBee will provide more speed in the backfield. Last season’s leading receiver, Matt Carter, will line up at wingback.
When the Dragons go to the air, also look for Marshall Anderle and Chris Gilmore to get some touches.
But Chico’s main strength this year may be the defense. The Dragons led the county in total defense last season. Don’t expect much to change.
This will be the second season under defensive coordinator’s Heath Tullous’ system, and a lot of key players are back.
“Our defensive leader by far is Darrion Riggs,” Carter said. “Teams ran away from him last year.”
Riggs will be joined by Bridgeport move-in Hagen Davis at the linebacker position.
Up front, Jimmy Schuetz will anchor the defensive line. At 6’2 and 300 pounds, he will demand a double-team every play. That should free up some teammates to get into the opponents’ backfield.
“We are better defensively. We are going to build our team around our defense, and it’s our strength by far,” Carter said. “With the progression our offense is making, I feel good about it.”
If everything comes together, the Dragons should be fun to watch this season – a season that could extend into the playoffs.
“What I preach to the kids is I don’t want to peak in the third game of the season – I think that is what happened last year,” Carter said. “I want to peak closer to district, and gradually get better every week.”
District 7-A Division I
1. Lindsay – The Knights have enough talent and tradition to hold onto the league’s top spot.
2. Valley View – The Eagles emerged last year as a playoff team and return a lot of experience.
3. Collinsville – District MVP John Lewis is back and if he stays healthy he can carry the Pirates back to the postseason.
4. Chico – Chico has the talent to reach the postseason in this tough district, but can they get over that mental hurdle?
5. Blue Ridge – The Tigers were 2-8 in 2012 and will have to depend on a bunch of young guys again.
6. Trenton – Trenton enters the second year of the program after only one win last season.
Aug. 31 … Frost … Bedford
Sept. 7 … Wortham … Burleson
Sept. 13 … Coram Deo … Coppell
Sept. 20 … Brock … Home
Sept. 27 … Gainesville State … Home
Oct. 11 … Valley View* … Home
Oct. 18 … Lindsay* … Home
Oct. 25 … Collinsville* … Away
Nov. 1 … Blue Ridge#* … Home
Nov. 8 … Trenton* … Away
All games at 7:30 p.m.
^ Saturday game
* district game
# homecoming game
2 … Corbin Blackwood … WR/DB … 11
3 … Brady North … WR/DB … 10
4 … Chris Gilmore … WR/DB … 11
5 … Jastin McBee … RB/LB … 10
6 … Derrick Creeks … WR/DB … 9
7 … Matt Carter … WR/DB … 12
8 … Ivan Segura … WR/LB … 12
11 … Creese Redman … QB/DB … 9
13 … Danial Salinas … WR/DB … 12
15 … Kalan Johnson … WR/LB … 10
17 … Jericoe McGuire … QB/DB … 10
18 … Armondo Salinas … WR/DB … 10
24 … Stephen Whatley … RB/LB … 10
28 … Marshall Anderle … WR/LB … 12
33 … Darrion Riggs … RB/LB … 12
42 … Cameron Weatherly … RB/LB … 9
50 … Michael Galindo … OL/DL … 11
51 … Cooper Edington … OL/DL … 12
52 … Joseph Evans … OL/DL … 10
54 … Hagen Davis … OL/LB … 11
55 … J.D. Parketon … OL/DL … 10
58 … Abraham Espinosa … OL/DL … 12
66 … Tyler Melton … OL/DL … 9
70 … Taylor Hood … OL/DL … 10
72 … Jimmy Schuetz … OL/DL … 12
74 … Shawn Lopez … OL/DL … 10
77 … Jacob Carter … OL/DL … 11