The Lake Dallas football team has heard the noise.
With the 2019 football season fast approaching, the Falcons began fall practice this week, once again getting underway a week earlier than many area teams after forgoing spring football. Dealing with turnover on both sides of the ball and the loss of many key pieces to graduation, external expectations are low for a club that’s made the postseason in four out of its last five attempts.
For his part, head coach Michael Young has chosen to view the uncertainty surrounding his program as an opportunity.
“We’ve never really been in this spot where we were picked sixth or seventh in our district. It’s never been that way, and I told them I think it’s fun,” he said. “I think our coaching staff has had fun with it, too. It’s great to have really good teams, but when you’re supposed to win your district or finish second and go two or three rounds, there’s a lot of stress. …
“I told them that the two best things you can do in sports (are to) win a ring or be an underdog and do things that people don’t expect you to do, and you’ve got a chance to do both of those.”
The Falcons’ 2019 success, at least on offense, will begin and end with senior Brandon Engel. The leading wideout for the school in 2018, Young labeled the athletic veteran the best quarterback on his roster, though Engel will again be used on the edge, as well. When Engel shifts out wide, Young pointed to junior Trevor Moon, who he said has had a solid offseason behind Engel, as the likely next-man-up under center.
That ability to move the Falcons’ most dynamic player around the field and “(get) the ball in Brandon’s hands however (they) can do it,” Young said, should pay dividends.
“That’s stuff that we’ll figure out from the scrimmages and the first couple of non-district games. Because, even though Moon may not be as good a quarterback, when you put maybe the best wide receiver in the area out there at receiver, that can make the quarterback better,” he said. “And not just in the passing game … People have to line up differently, defensively, when (Engel’s) in the game, so it actually makes it easier for us to run the ball, too.”
Engel has been the subject of much speculation and hype leading up to his final campaign in green and white, a fact that he said hasn’t escaped him.
Still, he’s focused on what he can control – and on proving those who don’t expect much from an unproven Falcons roster wrong.
“I hear it, but I don’t really pay too much attention to it,” he said. “I know what we’ve got on the team, and I know what we can do this season.”
On defense, the Falcons’ clear leader is senior and Texas Tech commit Kobee Minor, who will hold down the secondary alongside some fresh blood. Though the linebacker corps will also be full of new faces, Young said he’s optimistic about his unit in the trenches.
Though they weren’t starters a year ago, Young said seniors Junior Flores and Christian Crawford should join 2018 off-and-on starter and senior Kevin Ukah in forming a stout group down low.
The same can be said for the center and tackle spots on the opposite line, as senior Kellen Culberson returns in the middle and senior Deven Holder and junior Jackson Berry should hold down the tackles. The question, then, is finding guards to line up in front of Engel and returning senior running back Ike Onyekwere, who Young said can also mask some size deficiencies up front and be trusted with a heavy workload thanks to depth behind him.
“He’s a thumper, and that’s nice. We have him for a lot of the inside stuff, and I think we have some good inside receivers that are going to provide some stuff on the outside. So I think we’ve got a good mix of guys,” Young said. “I could see us easily, in a game, having five guys get three or more carries.”
The Falcons will continue moving through practice leading up to their Aug. 30 date with Denton, which will kick off their 2019 campaign. Heading into District 7-5A DII, much is up in the air – many of the leagues programs also experienced heavy losses, and Young said he expects programs like Denison and Denton Braswell to take steps forward.
Engel, though, said expectations haven’t changed.
“I feel solid about going into it. I’m ready to shock a few people,” he said. “I definitely want to go deep in the playoffs and finish strong for my senior year. … Everyone’s counting us out and (putting us) sixth or seventh in the district, and that just adds a little more fuel to it.”
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