Eighteenth in a daily series spotlighting key area high school football teams leading to opening night, Aug. 30.
Hurst L.D. Bell
Coach: Mark Smith
Last season: 6-5 (5-3 in District 6-5A), lost to Cedar Hill 13-10 in bi-district playoffs
Key players: DL Vili Levini (6-5, 235); OL Jesse Robinson (6-6, 285); RB/WR Nate Gillard (5-11, 180); DB Kamarie Syrie (5-11, 200); DL Kafo Tuha (6-0, 270); OL Blake Steelman (6-3, 290); LB Elliot Souter (5-10, 185); DL Mo Uasike (6-1, 280); DL Kameron Salley (5-9, 225); WR Aaron Dixon (6-1, 190); WR Aaron Molder (6-0, 185)
The big picture: Smith enters his second season as L.D. Bell's head coach with high expectations after finishing 2011 with a winning record and playoff berth. The Blue Raiders return 11 starters, including seven on defense. Best of all, the entire defensive line is coming back. Led by Vili Levini (41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks), this should be the strength of the team. Elliot Souter (103 tackles, 18 for loss) leads an experienced linebacker corps. The offense must replace dual-threat QB Kyle Romero, who graduated last year and might keep it in the family with little brother Colson, who Smith describes as more of a pocket passer than his older sibling. North Crowley transfer J.T. Vines and Nate Gillard (493 total yards, four touchdowns) will share the reps at running back. Gillard will be used all over the field on offense and is poised for a breakout year.
Quotable: "I think what's different about this Bell team than others that we have had is the team leadership. We really have a group of players who are committed to one another and a common cause." -- Coach Mark Smith
"Recently we (the players) started bible study together and it's brought us closer together at practice. Everybody came on board after that and I feel like that will play a role in helping us be successful this season." -- DE Vili Levini
Notable: L.D. Bell has fielded six playoff teams in the past seven years, but the Blue Raiders have not beaten archrival Euless Trinity since 1997.
-- Jarret Johnson
We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Comments deemed inappropriate will be removed and repeated abusers will be banned. NOTE: If you log in using your Twitter account, your comments will be signed using the name on your Twitter profile, NOT your Twitter user name. Read our full comment policy.