The Little Elm football team started things off on the wrong foot to begin the 2018 campaign when it squared off with a budding rival in Justin Northwest.
Despite turning the ball over four times and missing a critical extra point in the fourth quarter that could have potentially won the game, the Lobos still forced double overtime before falling short, 41-34.
The gut-wrenching defeat sent the Lobos spiraling into a 1-4 start that included district defeats to Lone Star and Centennial, which eventually led Little Elm to make a huge change at quarterback midway through the season.
Little Elm head coach Kendrick Brown knows just how vital starting off the young season with a victory can be for any team to get things headed in the right direction before district play begins.
“Any time you can start of your season with a win it just gives everyone involved with the program a lot of confidence,” he said. “This is a big game because it’s the next game, and we understand what we need to do to have a chance to win.”
As expected all throughout the spring and summer, sophomore John Mateer will be the starting quarterback for the Lobos.
After getting the starting nod under center last year during district play as just a freshman, Mateer shined by throwing for 1,504 yards and eight touchdowns in limited action.
A lot is expected from the young passer heading into Week One, but at the same time Brown doesn’t want Mateer to feel as if the entire load of the offense lies solely on his shoulders.
“Confidence is high, especially for [Mateer],” he said. “You can see it in his everyday habits of practicing. We have high expectations for him, but at the same time we want him to feel as if he doesn’t have to take on everything. We’re going to try and run the football, which helps the quarterback and takes some pressure off of him.”
That will be easier said than done against a Texans team that features standouts on defense such as senior linebacker Cooper McDonald. The three star recruit and Washington commit will certainly be a handful for any offensive attack and making sure of where he is will be a major point of emphasis for the Lobos Friday night.
“[McDonald] can almost take over a game,” Brown said. “They move him around and blitz him, so we have to be aware of where he is at all times. We can’t let him just dominate the football game, and he is capable of doing that.”
Along with protecting the football and being able to run the rock against a stout front seven, the main key to a victory to begin the year starts and ends on the defensive side of the ball. The Lobos hung their hats on playing gritty, hard-nosed defense in 2018 by holding four different district opponents to fewer than 18 points.
This season should be much of the same with senior standouts Tyrese Powe leading the defensive line and Oklahoma commit Ryan Watts anchoring the secondary. Little Elm will need all of its star power on defense firing on all cylinders against an explosive Northwest offense led by senior quarterback Austin Ahmad.
A year ago, Ahmad threw for nearly 3,000 yards and torched the Lobos for 225 total yards and three touchdowns.
McDonald isn’t the only highly recruited player on the Texans’ roster, as senior left tackle and TCU commit Michael Nichols will be a handful on the offensive line.
After playing that game on the road last season at Northwest ISD Stadium, the Lobos welcome the Texans to Little Elm this time around with kickoff set for 7 p.m. tomorrow at LEISD Athletic Complex.