• September 23, 2014

FAST & FURIOUS: Football season begins at Salado with new boss, quicker mind-set

It's opening day on the gridiron for small schools

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Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 9:26 am, Thu Sep 11, 2014.

Brent Graham spent about an hour Monday morning spelling out his philosophies and expectations. Then, the Salado Eagles’ new athletic director and head football coach mashed the gas, getting the season going in a hurry.

“I think the way that we operate on a daily basis is a little bit different speed. We like driving in the left lane and putting the hammer down,” Graham said. “We want to try to be the best-prepared team that we can be, but we’re going to do it at the fast pace.”

Monday was the first day of fall workouts for small-school programs in classes 3A and below, and for 4A and 5A teams that did not participate in spring drills.

For Graham and the Eagles — at Lampasas and across the state, as well — Monday was a new beginning.

“It’s new for everybody,” said Graham, who took over at Salado in March following Glenn Talbott’s resignation in February.

“It’s a little bit different tempo than we’re used to, here — it was shocking — but it was definitely upbeat and I think that our kids are excited about what’s going on.”

Brian Emerson was named Lampasas’ head football coach and athletic director also in March after Jimmy Randolph resigned in January for personal reasons.

In addition to coaching changes, the University Interscholastic League announced last month four teams from each district in classes 2A and 3A will qualify for the playoffs instead of just three.

Regardless of how many teams can now make the playoffs in those classifications, getting there and being successful is just an expectation now at Gatesville.

The Hornets were state quarterfinalists in 3A last season and won a staggering 13 straight games before losing to Graham in the Division II-3A region I final with a senior-heavy squad. Gatesville has to replace its quarterback and a great number of playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the Hornets do not call 2013 a rebuilding year.

“Our slogan for the season is ‘Be the expectation.’ ... Obviously, we’re coming off a great year, but there’s an expectation that we’re going to have success on the field and off the field,” Gatesville head coach Kyle Cooper said. “They’re coming in with that attitude and that intent that it’s not going to be a rebuilding year. We’re going to go get it done, and we’re going to be what this program and what this community expect from us.”

Cooper said junior Collin Hallgarth and sophomore Jeff Speer are battling for the starting quarterback job, left open by the graduation of Cole Edmiston. And numerous others are fighting for their shots to replace receivers Tyler Jaynes and J.D. Nolte and a host of others, but Cooper said roles like those cannot be filled in the first day.

“Those guys had time to grow into their own and so, the guys that are stepping into their shoes will have to grow into their own, as well,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t have to happen by the first game against (Waco) Reicher, it doesn’t have to happen by the last nondistrict game against La Vega. But, when we open up against Lampasas that first district game, those guys have to have been seasoned. It’s not going to happen over one day.”

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