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Decatur Eagles: Decatur offers pure determination

Decatur-Football

By Clay Corbett, ccorbett@wcmessenger.com

It’s hard to imagine a football team anticipating the 2013 season more than the Decatur Eagles.

After high hopes last season, the Eagles saw it come crumbling down with a disappointing 4-6 record and no playoff appearance.

Decatur head coach Kyle Story is determined not to let that happen again. He’s brought in new offensive coordinator Jayson Lavender and has worked to shore up a defensive unit that struggled last season.

“We feel good about it so far,” Story said about the progress. “With the learning we’ve been able to do and the retention they’ve had back from the spring, things are off to a good start.”

Certainly the pieces are in place for the Eagles to get back on track. Senior and TCU verbal commit Grayson Muehlstein returns to lead the offense with a talented receiving corps. Levi Rust leads the backfield and four talented juniors will start on the offensive line.

Defensively, leading tackler Cory Durdon returns at linebacker.

Now the Eagles just have to find a way to pick up some wins in a difficult schedule.

They started 0-2 before getting their first win a year ago.

“The first two games, Trinity Christian and Springtown, are going to be tough,” Story said. “We are going to have to play well early. We won’t have time for growing pains.”

The road gets a little easier the next three weeks, before Alvarado comes in just before district play. Decatur finished 2-4 in the non-district stretch last season.

“The biggest thing is to continually improve throughout the non-district schedule,” Story said. “We saw a lot of mistakes in the blue-white scrimmage and then that Monday we saw a lot of kids correcting those mistakes in practice. I want to see that continue throughout non-district play.”

Decatur will open district at home against Gainesville. The Leopards were District 9-3A champion in 2012 and are heavy favorites again.

Krum and rival Bridgeport follow with an open date before the regular season finale at Sanger.

“I think everybody is better than they were last year,” Story said.

Class 3A districts will send four teams to the playoffs this year. That means four of the five 9-3A teams will make the postseason.

“In a five-team district, four teams making the playoffs is too many,” Story said. “The good side about it is more kids get to experience a playoff game. It probably waters down the playoffs. If you have seven or eight I think it’s great.”

QUICK PACE

When new offensive coordinator Jayson Lavender came on board the first thing he did was find an offense to fit his new team and talented quarterback.

It didn’t take him long to make a decision after seeing Muehlstein.

“It’s the best thing for him [Muehlstein],” said Story. “That’s what Coach Lavender did coming in was get a feel for our personnel, and Grayson particularly. Then he tailored our offense to fit our best assets.”

A lot of things are similar with the new system – but many have different names.

“Blocking schemes and routes are similar, but we are using different terminology,” Story said. “It’s been a little bit of a learning process, but they are getting used to it.”

Muehlstein threw for 1,414 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. Cain Lowe, last season’s leading pass-catcher with 532 yards, heads the receivers. Austin Givens and Gage Frank are also top targets for Muehlstein, and Rust should find plenty of room to run behind a talented offensive line.

Story is happy with the progression of his big guys up front taking in the new offensive philosphy.

“They have a great attitude and love being offensive lineman,” Story said. “They go out there and get after it every day.

“They are younger and have a lot of enthusiasm about them. They have the possibility of being the strength of the offense right now.”

If that offense is consistent and can move the chains, it should be a big boost to an Eagle defense that struggled in 2012.

Although the unit improved throughout the season, they still gave up 366 yards per game and ranked next-to-last in the county in passing yards given up.

Story wants to improve things in the secondary after allowing too many big plays through the air.

“We’ve got to continue getting better at cornerback,” Story said. “We had some long passes in our blue-white scrimmage, that we have to work on.”

Some of the help may come up front. The Eagles are going with four defensive lineman instead of the three they used a year ago.

Durdon will anchor the linebacker corps. Wade Laughlin is moving to linebacker from offensive line and new addition Cole Vaughn should be a big boost, too.

“I feel a lot better about our defense,” said Story. “We’ll have more flexibility of sending pressures and stunts. We played a lot of man last year, but we won’t as much this season.”

If the defense rebounds from last season the Eagles could make an impact in District 9-3A.

PROJECTIONS

District 9-3A

1. Gainesville – Athletes, speed and a new talented quarterback. The old Gainesville is back.

2. Krum – A lot of talent returns for the Bobcats from a 9-2 team in 2012.

3. Decatur – The offense should be dangerous, but the defense has to improve from last season.

4. Sanger – A winless and injury plagued 2012 should give the Indians motivation. Sanger returns eight offensive and 10 defensive starters.

5. Bridgeport – The Bulls are depending on a lot of unproven players. A seventh straight playoff trip is in jeopardy.

2013 SCHEDULE

Aug. 30 … Trinity Christian … Away
Sept. 6 … Springtown … Home
Sept. 13 … Burkburnett … Away
Sept. 20 … WF Hirschi# … Home
Sept. 27 … Iowa Park … Home
Oct. 4 … Alvarado … Away
Oct. 11 … Gainesville* … Home
Oct. 18 … Krum* … Away
Oct. 25 … Bridgeport* … Home
Nov. 8 … Sanger* … Away

Games at 7:30 p.m., except Iowa Park at 7 p.m.
# homecoming
* district game

TEAM ROSTER

1 … Cain Lowe … WR … 12
2 … Christian Carrillo … LB/ RB … 12
3 … Tanner Shields … DB/REC … 11
4 … Justin Myers … DB/ REC … 11
5 … Aaron Shetter … DB … 11
6 … Jacob Kevetter … DB … 11
7 … Gunnar Parker … WR … 10
9 … Gage Frank … WR … 12
10 … Austin Givens … WR … 12
11 … Clark Allen … DE/K … 12
12 … Grayson Muehlstein … QB … 12
14 … Colby Brown … WR … 12
15 … Hunter Aragon … DB/RB … 12
16 … Felix Guerrero … DE … 11
17 … Taylor Shields … DB … 12
18 … Cory Durdon … LB/WR … 12
19 … Ryan Durdon … DB … 10
20 … Tyler Wier … RB … 12
21 … Eddie Martinez … LB/RB … 11
22 … Carsen Medlin … DB … 11
24 … Cole Vaughan … LB … 10
26 … Garrett Blevins … RB … 11
31 … Levi Rust … RB … 12
33 … Junior Alvarez … DE … 12
35 … Kyle Carr … LB … 11
38 … Brandon Boswell … WR … 12
50 … Brock Reaves … OL … 11
51 … Mason Del Castillo … DL/OL … 12
53 … Matt Cedrone … DL/OL … 11
54 … Nolan Stone … OL … 11
55 … Cody McElhaney … OL … 11
58 … Wade Laughlin … LB/OL … 12
59 … Dakota Williams … DL/OL … 11
60 … Dylan Cole … DL … 12
64 … Mike McMillian … OL … 12
67 … Izaiah Flores … OL … 12
68 … Mario Gomez … OL … 12
70 … Nick Rios … DL … 11
72 … Michael Taylor … DL … 11
74 … Ricky Roberts … DL/OL … 11
75 … Daniel Flores … DL … 11
76 … Jacob Hartsell … OL … 11
77 … Billy Carr … OL … 12
78 … Blake Hailey … OL … 11
79 … Graham Cowdrey … OL … 12
80 … Dakota Gilmore … WR … 11
82 … Mike Ramos … WR … 11
88 … Angel Gomez … WR … 11