2015 Football Preview: Texans enter season hungry
By Richard Greene
The Northwest Texans finished off the 2014 season with a 35-33 victory over Keller.
But walking off the field, the Texans watched Keller celebrate earning a playoff spot out of District 5-6A by virtue of a tiebreaker. The Texans fell two points shy of the needed four-point victory.
“It was difficult. I don’t like to talk about it,” said Northwest senior defensive back Savion James. “You win but it was like you lose.”
The win over Keller capped a 6-4 season for the Texans that included a four-game winning streak to close 5-6A play. But it was the three straight losses to start league play against Fossil Ridge, Guyer and Keller Central that kept Northwest from the playoffs.
“No doubt they are hungry,” said Northwest coach Bill Poe, who is starting his second season on the Texans’ sidelines. “They want great things to happen. We had a great [opening] week with good retention from last spring.”
The Texans’ three district losses were by 10 points or less, including a 28-24 setback against Keller Central. By the end of district, the Texans started pulling out those close games.
“When we reflect on last year, one thing we learned is that one or two plays here or there and it’d be a different result,” Poe said. “Every play, we’ve got to be at our best.”
The Texans return the bulk of their starters on each side of the ball. But the offense will be trying to replace their top three playmakers from a year ago – receiver Emmanuel Moore, quarterback Jesse Drummer and running back Quentin Thorpe.
Moore caught 93 passes for 1,291 yards and 19 touchdowns. Drummer threw for 2,573 yards and 28 scores. Thorpe supplied 1,156 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns.
With eight starters back on defense, the Texans expect the unit to be better. It will need to be as the Texans face two of the state’s top quarterbacks in Arlington Lamar’s Shane Buechele and Guyer’s Shawn Robinson.
In a loaded District 5-6A with Guyer, Ryan, Fossil Ridge and rival Byron Nelson, the Texans know there will be a battle every week to make the postseason. But that’s not the team’s only goal.
“We need to prove we can make the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs,” said senior Hunter Johnson, who is taking over the quarterback job.
There’s no doubt they have two points of motivation.
Texans retool offense
Last season, Jesse Drummer and Emmanuel Moore formed one of the area’s top passing and catching tandem.
Quarterback Drummer connected with Moore 93 times for 1,291 yards and 19 touchdowns. Drummer threw for a total of 2,573 yards and 28 scores.
Now, Drummer is at Angelo State and Moore runs routes at the University of Kansas.
The Texans are looking to senior Hunter Johnson to take over for Drummer and a talented trio of junior receivers to fill the shoes of Moore and prove the cupboard is far from bare.
“We’ll feel the loss of E-man and Jesse, but we have all the faith in Hunter and the guys stepping in,” said Northwest coach Bill Poe. “There will be some different ways of doing things. There’s wrinkles we’ve added. Three of our four receivers are back, and overall as a unit we’re much further ahead.”
Johnson, who was reserve receiver last year, won the Texans’ quarterback job in the spring. So far, he’s turned in a solid fall showing off his ability to move the ball with his arm and legs.
“I’m slowly stepping into the role, but it’s going good,” Johnson said. “Jesse was such a great quarterback. I’m trying to step up and be a leader.”
Juniors Syrus Moore, Gavin Holmes and Emmanuel Ogunwolu caught a combined 81 passes last year for 808 yards and seven touchdowns. Syrus Moore hauled in 48 of those catches for 505 yards and five scores.
The Texans also graduated workhorse back Quentin Thorpe, who ran for 1,156 yards and 18 scores. Blake Ibarra and Deon Grayer take over the rushing duties. Ibarra rushed for 132 yards on 26 carries a year ago.
“We’re definitely deeper with Blake and Deon,” Poe said. “Both are strong and hard workers.”
The strength of the offense is up front on the line with big, 6’7″ tackles Matt Briggs and Darrell Simpson, along with guards Joshua Campbell, Talbot French-Folsom and Antonio Chavez and center Brandon Keck.
“It’s one of the bigger offensive lines we’ve had,” Poe said. “We’re looking forward to working with them. They are without a doubt the strength of the offense.”
The big line should give a new group of skilled players a chance to get comfortable, make plays and possibly approach the 411 yards average of last year.
Defense returns majority
Saveion James entered last fall as the lone experienced starter for the Northwest Texans’ defense.
The unit’s youth showed at times as it allowed 426 yards per game and three times gave up 40 points or more.
This year with eight starters back on the defensive side of the ball, James expects much different results.
“We’ll be a lot better,” James predicted. “We’re more physical. We also have better chemistry. No one wants to let anyone down.”
After a rough couple of games against the explosive offenses of Fossil Ridge and Guyer, Northwest coach Bill Poe points out the improvement the unit showed down the stretch in the Texans’ four-game winning streak to end the season.
“We got better. We’re very fortunate to have eight of those guys back,” Poe said.
James is part of a secondary with Tyler Weaver that is expected to be quick and challenge opposing passing games. James made 25 tackles and broke up five passes last year. Weaver made 24 tackles.
After starting last year at defensive end, Caden McDonald moved to middle linebacker, posting 56 tackles – four for losses – six sacks and picking off a pass. He returns alongside linebackers Willie Callum (81 tackles) and Liam Ryan, who is moving from the defensive line to linebacker.
“We’re looking really good,” McDonald said. “We’re more aggressive.”
Up front, senior TyVaughn Gamble (6’4″, 240) leads the defensive line. Gamble caused three fumbles with nine tackles for losses and two sacks last year.
“We’ve got bodies up front that can take on blocks and keep linemen off the linebackers,” Poe said.
The Texans’ defense will again face several tough challenges, including two of the state’s top-rated quarterbacks in Arlington Lamar’s Shane Buechele and Guyer’s Shawn Robinson.
Poe is confident his group can hold up to the challenge, especially after last year’s experience.
“When you’re young and inexperienced you overthink things and move slower,” Poe said. “Now, they are better at adjusting. It’s a matter of playing fast and making plays.”