Northwest Texans – Hoping to capitalize on experience

Replacing key starters on both sides of the ball last season, the Northwest Texans struggled to find their footing through a 1-9 season.

With the bulk of the starters returning on offense and defense, including several game-changing playmakers, and with a drop to 5A in realignment, expectations are high for the Texans entering 2016.

“The frustration of last year puts a fire underneath us,” said Northwest senior linebacker Caden McDonald. “We want to be able to win a playoff game and make a deep run.”

To get to the postseason for the first time in three seasons, the Texans know they must find a way to win the games that hung in the balance last year. Northwest lost a pair of games by less than five points.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t get into that routine that we did last year and basically trying to instill that mentality of finishing,” Northwest coach Bill Poe said. “We were in a lot of games and had the opportunity to win more than what we did. We just weren’t able to finish. Our mindset in practice and workouts all the time is about being a finisher. Finish everything you do and in the right way.”

The Texans have the weapons on offense to finish the job with Iowa-bound receiver Gavin Holmes and a huge offensive line led by tackle Darrell Simpson, who has received multiple Division I offers.

“We’ve got the best of both worlds with the big boys being able to run the football and with the playmakers on the perimeter,” Poe said. “We’re excited about it.”

The Texans also have an experienced quarterback to lead the offense in Prince Mavula. The signal caller played in eight games last year, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns.

Last year, the Texans returned one starter on defense and struggled most of the year. Now with seven starters back, including San Diego St. commit McDonald, Northwest expects to improve.

“Last year we switched over to a new scheme,” Poe said. “This year is our second year in it, which we’ll have a lot of benefit. We’re a lot further ahead than we were at this point last year. The kids have confidence in their assignments.”

Northwest starts the season with 4A Alvarado before taking on McKinney North. The Texans’ final non-district game is a rivalry game with Byron Nelson.

The Texans begin 6-5A play with the inaugural contest with Eaton.

Northwest will face Brewer, Saginaw, Boswell and Chisholm Trail before meeting Aledo, ranked No. 2 in multiple preseason polls. The Texans close out district at Azle.

“It’s definitely a district that is very formidable. We’ll have to go in and compete week in and week out,” Poe said. “We’re excited about that challenge.”

And the Texans expect the year to close with a chance to bring home an elusive playoff victory.

“We all want this really bad,” Holmes said. “Everyone has bought in and believes in what we are doing.”

HOLMES BRINGS ELECTRICITY TO FIELD

After sending dynamic receiver Emmanuel Moore on to the University of Kansas, the Northwest Texans began the search for another playmaking receiver.

Gavin Holmes quickly stepped to the forefront to fill those shoes. As a junior, the electric Holmes pulled down 59 catches for 830 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Personally I had a pretty decent year,” Holmes said. “I’d like to do better as a team this year. Personally it was a really good year for me. It helped jumpstart my recruiting. I’m really looking forward to this year.”

He more than doubled his receptions from his sophomore year and tripled his yardage total.

The big season put Holmes on the radar for several Division I schools. He committed to Iowa to play in the Big 10 earlier this summer.

“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Holmes said. “Now that I have that taken care of I can focus on the season and try to make a playoff run this year.”

Holmes expects a big year for the Texans’ offense with Prince Mavula taking over at quarterback full time after playing part time last year.

Holmes will also team with speedy receiver Syrus Moore, who caught 44 passes for 380 yards last year, to make a deep and formidable duo.

“We can be one of the best in the district and the state,” Holmes said. “I’m really confident in him and I know he’s confident in me. I think we’re going to have a great year receiving.”

For Holmes, he plans to continue playing receiver the only way he knows how, aggressive and fighting for every ball.

“Especially playing receiver you have to think when the ball is in the air it’s yours and you have to attack the ball,” Holmes said. “That’s what I strive to do especially because I’m not like a 6-4 guy. I feel like I play like I’m 6-4.”

TEXANS IN A CAPSULE

2015 Record: 1-9, 1-6
Head coach: Bill Poe, third season at Northwest (7-13)

OVERVIEW

The Northwest Texans struggled through their final season in 6A last year with a lack of experience of both sides of the ball. With a year of growth, returning Division I prospects at linebacker, receiver and on the offensive line, the arrow is pointing up for the Texans as they join 5A.

OFFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

With of a pair of big-play receivers in Gavin Holmes and Syrus Moore and a big offensive line led by Darrell Simpson and Josh Campbell, the Texans have the potential to be a dangerously explosive and balanced offense.

But for the offense to reach its potential, it will need a strong year from quarterback Prince Mavula, who saw time in parts of eight games last year, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns. He is now the unquestioned starter, and Northwest coach Bill Poe said he looked the part in the spring.

“He’s had a phenomenal spring with his maturity level, focus and understanding exactly what we’re trying to attack within our scheme,” Poe said. “Most of all he’s being a leader on the offensive side.”

Mavula, who completed 46 of his 91 attempts last year, admits he is more comfortable.

“It was crazy trying to get everything. Now, I understand things and it works easier,” he said.

He returns his two top targets in Holmes (59 catches, 830 yards, 8 TDs) and Moore (44 catches, 380 yards, 4 TDs).

“They make me look good,” Mavula said.

Holmes, who is headed to Iowa next year, is confident Mavula can lead the offense.

“You can tell he’s getting a lot more comfortable. He’s making tough throws,” Holmes said.

“We’re looking sharp. We get better every day.”

Deon Grayer, who ran for 132 yards on 36 carries last year, will be the Texans’ feature back and run behind Simpson (6-7, 295) and Campbell (6-4, 310).

DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN

The Northwest Texans allowed 413 yards per game last year during a 1-9 campaign with only one veteran returning.

With seven returning starters back, the Texans expect to turn it around this year.

It will help that the Texans are in the second year in their scheme. As linebacker Caden McDonald said, everyone is comfortable now and not trying to overthink their positions.

“The experience is really going to help this year. Now we have that experience behind us, and we’re going to play a lot better,” he said. “We’re just playing now. We already know our assignments and know where we are supposed to be. We can just play and have fun.”

McDonald, who committed to San Diego St., is in his second year at linebacker. He is expected to build on a standout season in which he made 82 tackles and caused a pair of fumbles.

“He’s definitely the leader on the defensive side of the ball from a work ethic, physicality and aggressive standpoint. He’s definitely leading the way,” Poe said.

Up front, the Texans don’t have a lot of size, but Poe expects the group to play bigger.

The Texans have plenty of experience on the back end of the unit.

OUTLOOK

The Texans should benefit from moving down to 5A, but will face a tough challenge in 6-5A with Aledo and Boswell. The Texans can drastically improve their chances for a playoff victory by finishing in the top Division I spot and avoid a potential bi-district game with No. 1 Denton Ryan.

2015 NORTHWEST RESULTS

Corsicana 34, Northwest 28
Prosper 29, Northwest 14
Arlington Lamar 43, Northwest 6
Fossil Ridge 27, Northwest 26
Denton Guyer 48, Northwest 3
Northwest 34, Keller Central 18
Byron Nelson 28, Northwest 10
Timber Creek 45, Northwest 21
Ryan 40, Northwest 23
Keller 47, Northwest 21

NORTHWEST TEXANS 2016 ROSTER

2 … Syrus Moore … WR … … 12
3 … Gavin Holmes … WR … … 12
4 … Jordan Ames … WR … … 12
5 … Daniel Bin-Mitende … DB … … 11
6 … Emmanuel Ogunwolu … WR … … 12
7 … Kasey Belcher … LB … … 12
8 … Jacob James … QB … … 12
9 … Koby Belcher … LB … … 12
10 … Leo Saldana … WR … … 11
11 … Prince Mavula … QB … … 11
12 … KC Hicks … QB … … 11
13 … Carson Hickman … WR … … 12
14 … Alex Arellano … WR … … 12
15 … David Wilson … DL … … 11
16 … Peter Lester … WR … … 12
17 … Trey Brown … DB … … 12
18 … Zach Bates … DB … … 12
19 … Jack Prosise … DB … … 12
21 … Deon Grayer … RB … … 12
22 … Matt Musgrove … LB … … 12
23 … Charles Cannon … K … … 12
24 … Eliseo Cooper … DB … … 12
26 … Bryce Hayden … DB … … 12
27 … James Gilbert … RB … … 12
28 … Tanner Savoy … DB … … 12
29 … Dawson Street … DB … … 12
30 … Michael Holt … RB … … 12
31 … Michael Phillips … LB … … 12
32 … Bryce Rodgers … LB … … 12
33 … Tyler King … DB … … 12
34 … Nick Ignacio … DL … … 12
37 … Francisco Lopez … LB … … 12
38 … Jacob Powers … LB … … 12
40 … Lane James … LB … … 12
44 … Caden McDonald … LB … … 12
45 … Carson Lane … LB … … 12
49 … Jacob Gibson … DL … … 11
50 … Micah German … OL … … 12
51 … Anthony Crawford … DL … … 12
52 … Kyle Fryer … OL … … 12
55 … Landen Crosland … LB … … 12
57 … Gabriel Christman … OL … … 11
59 … Adrian Valenzuela … LB … … 12
60 … Spencer King … OL … … 11
61 … Collin Michalski … OL … … 12
62 … Cody Crawford … DL … … 12
63 … Luis Samarripa … DL … … 12
64 … Jerod Netherton … DL … … 12
66 … Travis Worthen … DL … … 12
70 … Jacob Avelino … DL … … 12
71 … Joel Adkins … OL … … 12
72 … Joshua Campbell … OL … … 11
74 … Zach Newman … OL … … 11
78 … Cole Green … DL … … 11
79 … Darrell Simpson … OL … … 11
80 … Jeremiah Hardin … WR … … 12
83 … Jared Hobbs … WR … … 12
84 … Yasin Khan … WR … … 12
86 … Jevon Willingham … WR … … 12
87 … Samuel Smethers … WR … … 12
88 … Tavian Walters … WR … … 12
89 … Lowell Roberts … WR … … 12
90 … Clay Sitton … DL … … 12
97 … Malik Moore … DL … … 10
99 … Damonte Brooks … DL … … 12