The Little Elm football team just narrowly missed a playoff spot in 2018 after facing three district defeats by seven points or less against Lone Star, Centennial and Independence.
The Lobos ended the season on a high note, however, winning three of their final five contests behind freshman John Mateer under center.
With the 2019 campaign on the gridiron just a month away, Star Local Media caught up with head coach Kendrick Brown on Mateer’s progress through the offseason, the state of the team and much more as the new season looms ahead.
Little Elm was reunited with Frisco ISD in District 5-5A Division I during the previous realignment and the Lobos went 3-3 against FISD in 2018. How tough is it being back in the same district as teams like Lone Star, Wakeland and Independence?
Brown:The district is very balanced from top to bottom and the margin of error is very narrow. You have to play good football week in and week out, and if we can be at the top of the standings defensively, that bodes well for us.
In Frisco, everybody is the same and everybody is well-coached. This year, we have some key games at home against Wakeland, Centennial and Independence, and we will have to be a good home team this season.
Quarterback John Mateer was thrown into the fire midseason last year as a freshman. What strides has he made this offseason and how prepared is he to lead this team?
Brown:He has a better grasp of what the quarterback position at the varsity level is like. He’s bigger and stronger now than what he was last year at this time, and he’s a little bit more locked in mentally. He has a good chance of being a very good high school quarterback, but it’s just the matter of when the game slows down for him.
This year is going to be key for him. We still think there are going to be some times where he may struggle a bit here and there, but overall, I am expecting a really strong season. Last year, our turnovers from interceptions alone really hurt us, and it was one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Mateerhas really taken the reins of this offense. He’s our leader and even some of our seniors look at him as a leader already.
Cornerback Ryan Watts received plenty of national attention this offseason. What should we expect from the Oklahoma commit this fall?
Brown:That’s going to be an interesting thing. It depends on if teams will try and go at him, and I’m hoping teams do try and go right at him. He is going to be one of the better defenders in the state of Texas.
There might be a game where you don’t ever hear Watts’ name mentioned defensively because teams won’t throw his way, but we’ll do some things to utilize his skill set. He’s tall and rangy, and you’ll see him play some offensive snaps. We don’t know how many quite yet, but we’re going to try and use him there as well.
You bring back Watts in the secondary but graduated last year’s Two-Way Player of the Year in Brandon Crossley. How difficult will it be to replace him?
Brown:I don’t know if you replace Brandon Crossley. Guys that can do all the things he did for us the last three years are tough to replace. His leadership on the field instilled confidence to others and we were in good hands.
That guy also made some big plays for us, and we can’t replace his production with just one guy. We’re going to have to have other guys step up and other guys have to contribute collectively.
What should we expect from other defensive standouts such as defensive end Tyrese Powe?
Brown:Since I’ve been here, we’ve had dominant guys at the corner position and a long list of pretty good linebackers. Having just that dominant presence up front with Powe this year makes us feel we can be very good defensively.
This also may be one of the fasted defenses we have ever had, and we have to figure out ways to utilize that to cause some problems.
Who are some other players that you expect to have much bigger roles that maybe didn’t receive substantial playing time a year ago?
Brown:Tony Martinez played a little guard and tackle for us last year but has made the move to center and will anchor that offensive line. We also feel really good about the running back position with Jordan Hall to really take that pressure off of Mateer so they can all have a big season.
We also think we have one of the better kickers in the area in Tyler Tipton, and that should be a good weapon for us. He’s a soccer kid and played a little tennis also. He’s a tall, strong kid and has multiple Division I schools looking at him just from kicking camps this summer.
Having a kicker like that allows you to be able to get free points in the red zone and kick the ball through the end zone on kickoffs to help with field position.