The Lebanon Trail football team embarked on its first-ever venture into Class 5A varsity competition last season and experienced expected growing pains that many other FISD programs endured in recent history.
The Trail Blazers were able to pick up a win in their season opener against Southwest a year ago and the mood around the program entering year No. 2 remains optimistic.
Star Local Media caught up with head coach Sadd Jackson this week as the team prepares to kick things off in a month in what should be a bounce-back year for the Blazers.
How much different is this year’s offseason compared to last with a full season in 5A now under the belt?
Jackson:Like my good friend over at Lone Star, Jeff Rayburn, always says, “You don’t know until you know.”
Our kids just didn’t know, and that experience they had to go through is a lot more real to them now. They know that not putting forth the effort in a strong offseason to get better and prepare to play varsity football will be detrimental for them.
What did you and your team take away from last season when you guys were thrown into District 7-5A Division II prior to having seniors on the roster?
Jackson:The movie is called “Friday Night Lights” for a reason. Now that they have had that year under their belts, they see it’s a world apart playing on Friday nights compared to Thursday nights.
I think they will take that experience and go from it, and now they have an idea of what to expect week in and week out.
How optimistic are you and your staff that the team can turn things around and pick up some district wins this season?
Jackson:A lot of kids have gotten bigger and stronger and are a year older, but so is everyone else in the district. It may not be an advantage to us, but it also won’t be a disadvantage to us like it was last year.
I can’t predict any type of turnaround as far as wins and losses are concerned, but we do expect our kids to compete on a higher level. Hopefully, that will bring in more victories.
With Memorial entering the fold the same time as Lebanon Trail, what is that rivalry with the Warriors like?
Jackson:It’s one of those deals where we both came in at the same time and were facing pretty much the same situations. Their situation was slightly different from ours because they inherited a couple of kids from campuses that had already been a part of varsity programs, while our kids started from ground zero and never had been in a varsity program.
But at the end of the day, they had a team full of juniors and sophomores just like we did, and they have everyone coming back just like we do. From that standpoint, it’ll be one of the most level-playing games in district that you will see.
It might be the most entertaining football game you’ll see at The Star all year long. It’s a heck of a rivalry starting out and that’s pretty cool.
After using various quarterbacks last season who is line to take over the starting job this fall?
Jackson:Lucas Rexin was the starting quarterback last year and he has been dealing with some ailments this summer. He’s getting over those and we’re looking for him to play a lot again. We’re not sure if it will be at the quarterback spot, but we have a senior coming back in Alex Zorrilla and another in Andrew Martin. Both of those guys have been battling all spring and summer.
At the end of the day, that battle is still waging. They will both have ample opportunities to see who is going to be the guy to lead this team. It will come down to who can lead this team and who the kids will gravitate to.
There are a lot of things that will play into seeing who will be the starting quarterback at Lebanon Trail. Competition is always fun, and I’m looking forward to that more than anyone.
Who are some impact players to keep an eye an on?
Jackson:Ryan Lamb is going to have a big year at both the offensive line and defensive line for us. Princeton Parker is going to also have a big year running the ball, as well as Isaiah Jackson and Zarion Kelly. At wide receiver, we’re looking for Jason O’Brien and Drew Donley to lead the way.
Defensively, we’re looking forward to having a healthy Canon Walton in the middle of the football field this year. That hurt us last year when we lost our star middle linebacker in a scrimmage to a broken collarbone. We look to play much better on defense this year with the guys we have back.