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Stronger Together

Varsity Football takes the field in Friday’s home opener prepared, unified and ready for a State run.

August+practice+means+drills+and+conditioning+to+ready+the+Lions+for+their+fall+schedule.+The+early+6+a.m.+start+required+discipline+and+dedication+from+the+players.
August practice means drills and conditioning to ready the Lions for their fall schedule. The early 6 a.m. start required discipline and dedication from the players.

August practice means drills and conditioning to ready the Lions for their fall schedule. The early 6 a.m. start required discipline and dedication from the players.

photo by Nathaniel Sladky

photo by Nathaniel Sladky

August practice means drills and conditioning to ready the Lions for their fall schedule. The early 6 a.m. start required discipline and dedication from the players.

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photo by Nathaniel Sladky
The lines do battle during the early morning of summer practice.

The scorching, Texas sun beats down on the blue, yellow, and red jerseys that contrast the bright green turf of Lions Stadium. All movement stops as the offense lines up to run a play. The ball is snapped and the pass is completed. The whistle blows and Head Coach Chris Cunningham tells the team to run the play again. Practice makes perfect, and perfect is what the Lions need to be to make another State Championship run this season.

Last season, the Lions advanced all the way to the State semi-final game. But, Bishop Lynch’s solid defense kept the Lions at bay, edging the Lions in a close game, 48-43. This season, the team has regrouped and come together stronger and more cohesive than in the past. Preseason rankings show others consider the Lions improved and ready for battle. SportsDayHS ranks the Lions first in the area while MaxPreps ranks them third in the state.

The team faces solid contenders right up front with All Saints’ Episcopal out of Fort Worth this Friday, September 1, and Episcopal High School from Houston on September 8. All Saints is new to TAPPS and is the reigning 4A State Champions of the SPC conference. Coach Cunningham said, “We open against All Saints, which is a good team. They beat Episcopal, who we lost to last season, twice that year. Our second game is against Episcopal, who always plays tough.” The Episcopal game is set for next Friday, Sept. 8, at Lions Stadium.

photo by Nathaniel Sladky
Quarterbacks Senior Wiley Green and Freshman Daniel Greek look for the quick pass during summer drills.

The Seniors are looking to improve on last season and stressed unity and teamwork from the beginning of August workouts. Captains Jake Kell, Wiley Green, Jeremiah Lewis and Harrison Haynes all commented on the importance of having each other’s backs. Jake said, “One thing that I think the team this year is really focusing on is being good teammates to each other. The chemistry of this year’s team is great, and I really think that it will help us go far in the playoffs.” A four-year Varsity starter on the offensive line, Jake knows the value of a unified front. This dedication to one another has carried over into practices and must remain firm as the season begins if the Lions hope to bring home a championship.

When two-a-day practices began in early August, athletes had to hit the field at 6 a.m. Now, during afternoon practices, temperatures hover near 100 on a daily basis. The tough play, long hours, and beating sun actually bring the team closer. Wiley, the team’s starting quaterback, said, “Honestly, it really is a mindset. If I go into practice with a good attitude, I can learn something new and have a good time with my teammates.”

As the season moves on, the Lions will face the Parish Episcopal Panthers on Homecoming. Senior Duke commit Jeremiah Lewis said, “The best part of all of football is the feeling of playing under the lights. The feeling surrounding games like Homecoming is electric, and it really helps us to play our very best. I am not concerned about winning a game like that at all, not with all of that momentum from the crowd.”

Other games against competitive teams such as current State Champion Bishop Lynch will push the team to work their hardest. As a district rival, Bishop Lynch brings a team deep in players with years of Varsity experience, returning 15 starters from their championship team. However, the Lions are determined to prove they are not the same team from last November. Coach Cunningham said, “We are not trying to win the State Championship. We are trying to become State Champions, and that is what sets us apart.”

photo by Nathaniel Sladky
Sophomore Riley Wilson comes down with the long ball near the end zone during team drills.

Freshmen Chase Lowery and Gabe Gorman continue to show promise. Sophomore standouts Luke Savage and Riley Wilson have gained experience from a year on Varsity and look to prove they mean business by producing impressive stats and competitive plays. Though Junior University of Oklahoma commit tight end Austin Stogner is currently out with an injury, up-and-coming Juniors Parker Panetti and Matthew O’Reilly have stepped in to fill his shoes as leaders among the Juniors.

Most importantly, Senior leadership is solid. Coach Cunningham praised the Seniors and their willingness to encourage and reach out to younger players. Senior Sam Boese said, “I feel like all of us have really made a point to mesh well with the underclassmen and push them to be the best players they can be on and off the field.”

With their focus always just on the next game, the team has chosen to build close bonds that will affect not only how well they play, but how well they compete with other teams in the district. Lions fans can expect a season full of exciting games, memorable moments and definitely a competitive Varsity team who will be in the running for State playoffs.

Coach Cunningham said, “We have high expectations this year from critics and fans alike. People want to see us winning; they want to see us make it to the State playoffs. We really are a special team this year.” The Lions not only face a much-anticipated season, they face a much-anticipated season together.

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