GLEN ROSE — This senior class of Glen Rose Tiger football players has seen 29 wins in the previous three seasons, and although they may be inexperienced and there are some big shoes to fill from last year, the one thing they do know how to do is win.
“I’m excited about the group we have coming back,” Glen Rose football coach Cliff Watkins said. “We have some good seniors who have been on the varsity and they are ready to take more of a leadership role. We have holes to fill, but the good thing about the practices we’ve had so far is we have guys stepping in and ready to take over those roles.”
Gone from last year’s team that went four rounds deep into the playoffs are three offensive linemen as well as an all-state quarterback and a 2,000-yard rusher, and a bevy of defensive talent.
“The big thing for these guys is they don’t have to be last year’s group,” Watkins said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. They are not those guys. They need to leave their own legacy and be who they are. We may look a little different offensively and defensively, but we’re going to do what fits us best to be successful.”
Replacing the likes of Cameron Griffin, Westen Halcom, River Costello, Jess Niedziela, Keegan Bunt, Hayden Shaw and Harrison Hawkins — just to mention a few — won’t be easy, but it will be doable, Watkins said.
“It will take a little bit to make sure we have everyone in the right positions,” Watkins said. “It’s a new season, and we’re finding new guys to play new positions, but we’re excited about the seniors we have.”
ACU commit Ty Smith and Saul Delgado return on the offensive line, and they will be the anchors at the tackles.
“We go with how they go. That’s what makes us, whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball, it all starts up front,” Watkins said. “Both of them are three-year lettermen, and we have a lot of experience at those two spots. Those are the guys who need to get everyone going up front.”
The Tigers will welcome a new interior line with Jacob Pena, who saw a little varsity action last year, Marc Moss and Tony Ramos, while Baker Butler will be at center. Jake Rollen and Brandt Moore will also add to the depth of the offensive line.
“Because of our big senior class last year, we had some juniors on the JV who were able to get every single snap and reps and get better to prepare them for now,” Watkins said. “They had a great year on the JV, and now they are ready to step in and play on Friday nights under the lights.”
Protecting quarterback Austin Worthen and opening holes for running back Nick Rebolloso, Britt Blanchette and J.W. Roper will be their main task.
Worthen saw a little action at quarterback last year, while back-up Tegan Stewart was the JV signal-caller last year.
“Austin is going to be able to throw the ball, and we’ll be able to do some of the same stuff, but we’re also going to do some new stuff that fits him better,” Watkins said. “The good thing is it’s not his first year on varsity. He’s been through it last year, and as a sophomore at safety and slot receiver. Now he’s in a new role running the offense. He’s got to take charge of those guys.”
Rebolloso, Blanchette and Roper will fill the void left by Halcom, Garrett Gilbreath and Sam McPherson.
“We have three guys mixing in. They haven’t played that position in the last year or so, so it’s been different for them in finding the hole and knowing where to hit it and what they’re looking for,” Watkins said. “The one thing about these backs is they will be hard runners and hard guys to bring down, and that’s what we’re looking for in the backfield.”
At receiver, it’s anyone’s position.
“We’re pretty much new across the board at receiver — just new faces everywhere,” Watkins said.
Nate Ferguson, Austin Roach, Drew Dunson, Blanchette will see work on the outside.
“We feel really good about all four of those guys getting in and being able to rotate, and when their number is called they are going to make a plays,” Watkins said.
Ricky Douglas and Preston Roberson will see time at tight end, and the slot position will be manned by Braylen Meador, Danny Coates and Zach Douglas.
“A bunch of different guys are doing a good job, and since they are playing both ways, we have enough guys who can help each other and rotate and give each other rest when they need the rest,” Watkins said.
Defensively, the Tigers had a really good defensive from last year, but Watkins is confident with those coming back in Cory Aper, Sammy Aldriedge and Jose Zavala at defensive end and Grant McGarity, Marcus Moseley, Garrett Davis and Max Hood on the interior line at defensive tackle.
“We had a really good front six last year, and we lost some good ones, but we feel really good about who we have coming back,” Watkins said.
Ricky Douglas, an all-state linebacker, and Nate Ferguson will be the linebackers in addition to Rebolloso, Matthew Locke, Jace Karels and Roberson.
“We have a bunch of them who can help out when their number is called,” Watkins said. “We have a little bit of depth there. With so many guys going both ways, we have guys who can fill in when needed.”
At defensive back, the Tigers were solid, but after some attrition, there are some gaps.
Meador, an all-state safety, along with Dunson and Zach Douglas will play at safety, while Dunson, Coates and Blanchette could see time at cornerback as well.
“It’s new for some of these guys, and they have stepped in and done a good job,” Watkins said. “They have the mindset that it’s the next guy up when it’s their time.”
The Tigers will be tested right off the bat when the travel to state champion Grandview (Aug. 30) for the season opener, and they also have a non-district contest at Waco Connally (Sept. 6) before hosting Springtown (Sept. 13) and Sunnyvale (Sept. 20). They also travel to Decatur (Sept. 27), who went deep into the playoffs, and they host Gatesville (Oct. 4) for homecoming.
“We have a tough, tough non-district ahead of us, and we did that so we can find out who we are and what we need to do better,” Watkins said. “We’re excited about it and ready to fight the battle. It’s a battle each and every week.”
The Tigers open District 4-4A play when they host Hillsboro (Oct. 11).