After a coin flip determined the playoff fate last year for The Colony football team, the Cougars returned to the field this spring intent on putting in the work to make a run at a postseason berth.
And the amount of experience that this year’s team boasts has head coach Rudy Rangel gushing about the potential of his team.
Sixteen returning starters and a total of 19 players with proven varsity experience were everyday participants during spring practice, which was held for 18 days starting in April and lasting until the middle of May.
"We had an incredible spring, from start to finish," Rangel said. "We've got a lot of returners, a lot of experience. Things were a little faster from the start and we got a lot of things put in. We're pretty excited about how it ended.
“We're still going to be still young in areas. That's just the nature of the beast, but we're excited about the kids that came back. Attitude and character were off the charts. It was probably a nine-and-a-half out of 10."
Among the returners are five starters on the offensive line, which Rangel considers to be a big strength of this year’s squad. Junior Christian Cummings, senior William Wallis, senior Henry Keeler, junior Josh Cochran and sophomore John Said helped to anchor an offense that tallied 1,371 rushing yards and 1,268 passing yards a year ago despite undergoing a dramatic change with its scheme under the direction of newly minted offensive coordinator Caleb Hunt. Said and Wallis were both second team all-district selections in 2020.
Junior running back Kamden Wesley had a “phenomenal spring,” according to Rangel, after battling injuries a year ago.
Incoming senior Caden Chaulk was on junior varsity last season but Rangel said that he was one of the team’s top performers during the spring and is expected to not only receive reps in what is already a crowded backfield but as well as at inside linebacker. Chaulk’s emergence could help the Cougars to overcome two losses to graduation at inside linebacker in all-district performers Kyle Taylor and Stephen McCollom.
“He's a kid that has really climbed and earned some spots,” Rangel said of Chaulk.
Incoming senior Shafiq Taylor is expected to be the Cougars’ top threat at wide receiver while fellow senior Dante Yancy is emerging as another go-to wide receiver, as is senior Ryan Hollis. Taylor will also double as a shutdown cornerback and could be utilized in blitzing situations.
“You can put him at safety, cornerback, outside backer and blitz,” Rangel said of Taylor. “He's one of those Myles Price types of kids.”
The Colony will have a different starting quarterback for the third straight season. Senior Dylan Corbin has flashed his potential during spring practice and brings a high IQ under center, Rangel said. Corbin takes over for Jonathan Roberson, who was the team’s starting quarterback in 2020.
“He’s a really, really good active athlete,” Rangel said. “He can run. He can throw. He's very smart.”
There have been chances this spring for other Cougars to earn a spot on the varsity roster.
With The Colony baseball going three rounds deep in the playoff for the first time in program history this spring, that forced at least a couple of Cougars who double in both sports to miss most, if not all, of spring football.
"I didn't get the baseball kids at all," Rangel said. "Now you have some young kids step in for those baseball guys. Madaven Tillery and Alex Elam are starters for us. Madaven starts on both sides of the ball for me. Alex will start at us at receiver for sure and will be our fifth corner. They were playing baseball deep in the playoffs, so we've got some younger guys in those areas that stepped up. Our depth is better than what we thought."
Not only did Rangel feel good about his team’s depth upon the completion of spring football but also likes the maturity of his returning starters on defense.
One year after the Cougars switched to a base 3-4 defense under the direction of then-first-year defensive coordinator Anthony King, The Colony has amongst some of the best talent in the area at key positions.
Senior defensive lineman Colby Cox is a three-year starter. Inside linebackers Josiah Cruz and junior Devin Hensley are shoring up the inside linebacker position. Rangel has raved about the explosiveness that senior outside linebacker Khylon Whitehurst brings every day in practice.
The Colony opened a summer program for the younger kids in the community and more than 400 kids have participated. The program was held Tuesday through Thursday with it being split into four sessions. Every player on the Cougars’ high school varsity program was present.
And Rangel and his staff get to conduct the sessions for the football program without any COVID restrictions, which Lewisville ISD officially ended on June 4.
“It's a breath of fresh air,” he said. “I can't even describe it to you. It's just a breath of fresh air to be able to do what you need to do to keep kids right and to prepare them for the season."
The Cougars finished last season with a record of 5-3 but missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.