By the time Hays High hit the field for Monday’s season opening football practice, head coach Les Goad knew the clock was ticking to answer a myriad of questions on the field.
With only four total returning starters on both sides of the ball, time is of the essence for Goad and his staff to get the best players in the right positions prior to their Aug. 30 season opener against San Marcos.
It’s a challenge made a little more difficult as the Rebels deal with the first year of Hays CISD’s attendance zone shift. Despite adding 14 to 18 players from Lehman High, the Rebels still lost 40 athletes to Johnson High that had been part of their program.
“Those are questions we will have to get answered early. There’s lots of competition for positions right now,” Goad said. “It will take us time to see where everyone needs to fit. As coaches, we will make decisions that are best for the team.
Finding players to man the offensive and defensive lines is priority one for Hays during summer camp. Hays does not have any starting linemen returning from last season.
While several young players are expected to stand out, such as Josh Gruell, Hunter Krause, Chris Aguirre and Jason Iwabuchi, experience will be something that will be gained as time goes on. Goad said both lines could be undersized this season.
Questions also surround who will guide the Rebels under center. Quarterback Durand Hill, who saw time at the varsity level in 2018, leads the pack with candidates Austin Valdez, Grayson Winter and Josh Mayo equally competing for the spot. Also in the mix is former Lehman Lobo quarterback Bryant Lewis, who is now on the Rebel roster due to the shift in attendance zones.
It’s at running back where Hays will harbor some experience. Senior halfback Xavier Green, who rushed for close to 1,000 yards in 2018, returns along with backup tailback JoeAngel Carrasco. Joining them will be siblings Bobby and Nate Green, as well as former Lobo Zack Harris, who also was zoned to Hays High. Goad said he “wouldn’t rule out” Lewis getting a shot at a position in the backfield.
Most of Hays’ experience can be found on defense side. Linebackers Zach Hobert and Jake Lopez along with defensive back Pi-ellei Henderson are returning starters.
Amid the roster uncertainty, Goad said familiarity with the team’s Slot-T system on offense offers some confidence. That began with last season’s seniors buying into the wholesale changes.
Goad said this season’s players believe in what they’re going to do. Players also understand the team will try to take advantage of any situation they face.
“I think they see the system, it’s a tried and true system. It’s something that’s been proven over a long period of time and that takes buy-in. We have that,” Goad said. “The good news is we’re way ahead of where we were just understanding it a year ago.”
All of it comes as nearly every program in 25-6A is expected to improve this season. Lake Travis and Westlake are slated to be front runners, with Bowie, Austin, Hays and Anderson fighting for the final two spots.
“I think we’re up to the challenge and it will be a week-to-week challenge,” Goad said. “I think our district will be stronger this year than last year.”