Since exiting Tiger Stadium on Nov. 16 following a 53-31 bi-district playoff loss to Corsicana, plenty has changed for a Lake Dallas football team in the midst of one of its biggest personnel turnovers ever.
But one constant from last year’s offseason remains, as the Falcons opted to forgo spring football practices for a second straight year.
“We really liked it. We were able to get as much done without the pads as we could with them,” said Michael Young, Lake Dallas head coach. “We also liked having that extra scrimmage and I thought that got us ready to play at the beginning of the year.
“Plus, with the extra two hours a week we get to spend with kids for sport-specific drills in the summer, I think it’s a no-brainer for us to not have spring football.”
As far as the strides made by the Falcons during the offseason, despite some early hiccups, Young takes pause in where the program is at entering the summer.
“We’ve had one of our best springs gain-wise with our kids as far as their size and strength. From our January testing to the testing we did last week there have been some big strides,” he said. “We have goals and numbers that we like to get to, and we were a little worried in January after being a little behind, but the kids have really worked hard and made great strides.”
Much of those gains stemmed from the players’ work ethic in the weight room, with Lake Dallas annually evaluating players in areas like the bench press, incline press, squat and power clean. The program also keeps a power index, where players’ results in those four exercises is divided by their one-lap time, and the early returns saw the two highest marks in program history recorded by seniors Brandon Engel and Ike Onyekwere.
“Thousand-pound guys are what we need, and I think to have a good football team you need to have 20-30 of those,” Young said. “We reached that goal after being way behind earlier, and we had [Engel and Okyekwere] whose power index … broke our program record, which was around 14 years old.”
Fittingly enough, those two varsity vets are among six total returning starters for Lake Dallas – down from a hefty 15 heading into last season. That made getting players up to speed on schematics a bit more taxing compared to recent years, but the Falcons remain on course nevertheless.
“I don’t know if I remember so many new places and new people,” Young said. “We did have some guys who got experience and played some snaps, but there has been a lot of learning and a lot of stuff going on, but we’re right where we want to be as far as installing things like our offense.”
The big question remains how the Falcons plan to approach things at quarterback, with alum Ryan Depperschmidt graduated following a banner two years as the Falcons’ starting signal-caller. Junior Trevor Moon, senior Kyle Nielsen and Engel are three names in contention to quarterback Lake Dallas, with Engel being an X-factor in the discussion given his value elsewhere in the offense.
“We have to evaluate who helps our quarterback win games,” Young said. “It’s different with Brandon in the mix because when he’s at receiver and one of the other guys is at quarterback, does that make us better than when Brandon is at quarterback but not at receiver?”
Young went so far as to say that if the season began this week, given the state of the Falcons’ offense, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Engel playing both quarterback and receiver. Lake Dallas still has plenty of time to decide on a go-to-passer, but Engel – the most tenured playmaker on the team – figures to be a featured part of the offense regardless of role.
“[Engel is] definitely someone who we need to figure out ways to get the ball in his hands as much as possible,” Young said. “He is such a worker in the weight room and with his conditioning, we know he’ll be in great shape physically and I know he’ll be able to handle it mentally. He wants to compete and make plays, and he’ll be ready to do so.”
Meanwhile, a Lake Dallas defense that boasts just two returning starters – senior defensive back Kobee Minor and defensive lineman Kevin Ukah – has spent its spring simply trying to develop experience. That has been less of a concern up front, but plenty figures to fall on Minor to guide a young secondary.
“Luckily, we had a really good rotation depth-wise on the defensive line, so we have quick a few guys like Ukah, (Christian) Crawford and Junior Flores who had played a lot of snaps, so we’ve got guys who have played,” Young said. “I’m not worried so much about the defensive line, and think they have a chance to be pretty good.
“It’s the guys in the secondary who are brand-new and there isn’t much experience there besides Kobee.”
It helps to have a prospect like Minor still in tow, regardless, with the safety likely bound for the Division I college gridiron once his high school career concludes. Minor currently has 15 scholarship offers, including looks from Texas Tech, California and Houston.
“[Minor is] great. He’s put on more weight and muscle. He’s gotten offers from so many people I couldn’t list them,” Young said.
Look for the Falcons to continue harnessing their chemistry and vision among those skill-position groups in the coming weeks, with Lake Dallas taking a different approach to 7-on-7 over the summer than in years past – opting for more nights of league play instead of a myriad of state-qualifying tournaments.
“With those tournaments, you end up playing your main guys so much just trying to qualify, whereas the league things it’s not so much about winning and more about getting everyone more reps,” Young said. “Plus, when you’re playing your best guys for three games, there’s a greater chance of someone getting hurt.”
Lake Dallas does, however, plan on participating in the SQT held at Justin Northwest on June 7.