Tigers to feature new faces

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Mansfield head coach Jeff Hulme has established a solid foundation for the Tigers football program since he arrived in 2008. That foundation will be put to the test this fall, as only a handful of starters return from last year’s squad that lost to Euless Trinity in the area round.

“As coaches you sometimes look ahead, and we knew that was coming,” Hulme said. “I think we’ve got a pretty decent tradition going on. I think our young kids stepped up and had a really good spring. We had some good leaders step up. I’ll be anxious to see. We’ve got some talent; I think we’ve got some unproven talent – some kids that have to learn to step up on Friday night – and see if we can put it together.”

Losing a total of 45 lettermen and nine starters from both the offense and defense means there will be plenty of fresh faces lining up for the Tigers in 2013.

“I think early, that’s what will be important about our three non-district games,” Hulme said. “We’re going to see a lot of people playing in those games because we’re so young. There’s going to be some positions that there may not be a lot of rotation in, but other positions there will be quite a few people rolling in and out, because we’ve got to figure out who’s going to be able to do it and then go with our best 11 when it comes time for district.”

Perhaps the position battle getting the most attention will be at quarterback, where sophomore Caleb Evans and junior Aaron Funk are the two candidates to take snaps. Evans is making the move up from freshman ball while Funk started on the JV squad last season.

“Neither one of them has played on Friday nights, so we’re going to use the scrimmage and the three non-district games to evaluate those two guys and go from there,” Hulme said. “They’re going to be rotating in a lot early in the season so we can figure out which one of those guys gives us the best shot at winning.”

However, Hulme isn’t married to having just one guy under center.

“I’m not opposed to whatever helps our team get better,” he said. “If that means they rotate in every quarter, every series, or even every play, if that’s what it takes to lead our offense, then we’re going to do it.”

One encouraging thing for the Tigers has been the growth of the team’s leadership, which will be important for a team with so little varsity experience.

“I think we had a great spring,” Hulme said “We had some great seniors step up. They responded the way you wanted them to respond. They became leaders.”

Among the group of field generals for Mansfield will be offensive lineman Hunter Ponder and running back Julius Lewis on offense, and defensive back J.T. Ibe and defensive end Blake Shipman on defense. Ponder and Ibe are both verbally committed to Rice.

Hulme also praised fullback Nick Hall, adding, “I’m expecting big things from him. He’s going to be a great player for us, I really believe that.”

The Tigers will again face a formidable District 7-5A schedule, which includes two teams ranked in the preseason coaches poll state top 10: No. 4 DeSoto and No. 8 Cedar Hill.

“We’re in a district where there’s no off weeks and we’re playing what I think is a good, tough, non-district schedule that will say a lot about what we have to do prepare and improve for district,” Hulme said. “I think we’ve got a mix of some good players that are going to surprise some people. I think a lot of people are saying ‘look at all the people they lost’ – which is understandable, because we did lose a lot – but I think we’ve got some players that are going to step up and get after it.”

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