By Clay Whittington
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS — Every season, football programs lose players.
Crops of seniors annually depart from their teams following graduation, leaving large voids in coaches' rosters.
Sometimes, the turnover creates problems, but it always provides opportunity.
After earning the school's first district championship in more than two decades, Lampasas lost 30 seniors, including nine offensive starters, during the summer.
First-year Badgers head coach Jimmy Randolph admits the situation creates challenges, but he is also certain his incoming senior class is capable of maintaining the competitive standard resurrected within the program after suffering through a 13-year stretch without a playoff victory and a 20-game losing streak prior to dropping down a classification to Class 3A.
"They are the defending district champion, and they are proud of that fact," the coach said following the second day of fall football practice Tuesday. "They know there is a target on their back.
"But (our seniors) know this is their time because they know what to do. This is all they know how to do. There is no change in (the team philosophy), so we just roll."
Although the offensive and defensive approach will remain relatively unchanged from the systems run under former head coach Joey McQueen, who oversaw the Badgers' reversal during his three-year stint, the production could take a step back, particularly on offense.
Quarterback Brandon Scott and running backs Secody Howard, Justin Maldonado and Marcus Kehoe were instrumental in successfully running Lampasas' slot-T scheme during their senior seasons in 2011. The trio ran for 1,000 yards apiece as the team averaged 33.3 points per game en route to a 10-2 season that ended with a regional-round loss to La Vernia.
But with the benchmark set, this year's team is determined to exceed expectations.
"It gave us the will to want to do better and go farther this year," senior tight end Tyler Perkins said. "We are focused on winning two years in a row and defending our (district) title."
Classmate John Cole Vann shares the opinion.
"I've just set my goals higher," the defensive end said. "I want to do at least (what we did in 2011) and better, especially for my senior year."
A repeat, however, could be difficult as UIL realignment relocated Lampasas to District 8-3A with Liberty Hill, Brownwood, Burnet, Gatesville and Llano. The Lions, Panthers and Hornets have a combined 10 state championships, while the Bulldogs reached the state final twice within the last nine years.
Early in the season, the defense could determine the Badgers' fortunes as the offense attempts to create cohesion. Lampasas returns seven starters to a squad inherited by David Brister, who overtakes the defensive coordinator position from Randolph.
"Last year, we had a really good offense, and this year, I think we are going to rely more on our defense," Vann said.
Regardless of how the team eventually defines itself, Randolph knows the Badgers' current senior class will create an individual identity on par with its predecessors.
"They've progressed to the point where they feel like when they take the field, they ought to win," the coach said. "This bunch of senior kids, they don't really care if people think they are third or fourth in the district.
"They think they should win, and that makes it a battle right there."