After the start of the season for Classes 5A and 6A was delayed by one month, Coppell will travel to Mesquite on Friday night for a 5:30 p.m. preseason scrimmage at Memorial Stadium against Mesquite Horn.
Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for a Coppell team that missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2011.
"I don't think they'll have a problem,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head football coach. “I think they're so excited to have a season, especially the seniors. There was a time where we didn't know if we were going to have a season. I don't think you're going to have to motivate any high school player to come out and play, just because it was taken away for a while."
Coppell comes into the scrimmage a much more experienced team. There were several games last year when the Cowboys had 11 first-year starters on the field. In a game at Marcus, Coppell started six sophomores.
Senior quarterback Ryan Walker is back for his first full season under center and he is eager to see how potent Coppell’s offense can be this fall – the supporting cast around him should help the Cowboys to improve on last season’s passing total of 1,769 yards.
Junior Anthony Black emerged as one of the area’s top receivers as a sophomore and has at least 12 Division I offers to boot. Senior transfer K.J. Liggins, who holds five Division I offers, will line up opposite of Black. Adding to that depth will be junior Dylan Nelson, as well as senior DJ Kiselak, Gavin O'Steen and Will Malcolm.
A position battle to watch during the scrimmage will be at back-up running back.
Senior Jason Ngwu rushed for a team-high 843 yards to go along with seven touchdowns a year ago, but no returning varsity players other than him and Walker rushed for more than 100 yards in 2019.
DeWitt is eager who can step up on the offensive line during the scrimmage and provide depth around senior Febechi Nwaiwu and junior Alvin Ebosele.
The battle in the trenches will be of significant importance for the offensive and defensive linemen for both teams as they did not get to practice in pads during the spring due to COVID-19.
"It seems like it's been a long time since we've been able to put pads on,” DeWitt said. “We've doing skills for so long, running around in T-shirts and shorts. I'm sure they'll be ready."
Coppell is sure to receive a strong effort from an experience back seven on defense that includes junior linebackers Walker Polk (86 tackles as a sophomore) and Jack McAdams, senior linebacker Tim O’Hearn (72 tackles), as well as senior defensive backs Zach Stricker and Gavin O’Steen, and junior Jack Barker.
Horn, meanwhile, is undergoing several changes on offense. The Jaguars lost several key contributors from a year ago to graduation, including quarterback Davazea Gabriel, their top four leading statistical running backs and top five wide receivers.
One candidate to step in at the skill positions is senior Sir’Elston Hill, who got a look at both running back and wide receiver last season. Other players to watch are senior Derik Jackson and juniors Marquis Edwards and Xavier Brown.
DeWitt said the team’s returning starters will get a majority of the snaps during the first half of the scrimmage followed by one live quarter.
“I'm just excited about this group and I think that we have a chance to be a really good football team,” DeWitt said. “Overall, I'm excited and just ready to see these guys play.”