Countdown to kickoff: Fort Worth Arlington Heights Yellow Jackets

Posted Friday, Aug. 08, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Fort Worth Arlington Heights

Yellow Jackets

District: 7-5A

Last season: 5-6, 5-2 District 7-4A (lost to Crowley in 4A, Division I bi-district)

Key players: QB Deion Hair’Griffin (5-10, 165); LB Matt Gordon (5-11, 190); WR Brennan Bibbs (6-0, 160); OL Kane Price (6-1, 300); DL Alex Uptegraft (5-9, 230); FB Dunson Woodard (6-1, 205).

The big picture: Fort Worth Arlington Heights struggled early last season because of

inexperience on offense, injuries, and a new scheme on defense under first-year coach Phil Young. But midway through the season, something clicked. Heights racked up five straight victories and in the season finale took 9-1 Granbury to overtime before falling to the Pirates. It was enough of a turnaround to earn Heights a playoff berth. “We were still trying to learn terminology and formations,” Young said. “Then we started reeling wins off. They learned how to compete.” The coach wants to be more than just competitive this season. Arlington Heights expects to be a contender to win its all-Fort Worth district (7-5A) and then, once in the postseason, the Yellow Jackets plan to stick around a while. “The coaches have said we want to be playing in December and practicing on Thanksgiving,” fullback Dunson Woodard said. It’s a realistic goal. Arlington Heights should have a stout defensive line and linebacker corps. And optimism abounds on offense. That’s in large part because quarterback Deion Hair’Griffin, in his second season as the starter, has improved his passing skills and added more muscle. According to Young, the QB runs a legitimate 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and power cleans 245 pounds. “He can really go when he’s running it,” Young said. “He’s really improved with how he’s throwing the football. … The game’s going to really slow down for him.”

Quotable: “We want to get into the playoffs and start winning games once we get there. It’s an expectation that we have.” — Coach Phil Young

“All of our skill position players are older, so I think we’ll be a lot better and put up more points.” — FB Dunson Woodard

“Looking back on what we did, coming back from a huge losing streak, I think that shows the type of players that we really are. … We were able to come together as a team.” —LB Matt Gordon

Notable: The Yellow Jackets’ third nondistrict game is a road contest against Scotts Valley (Calif.) at Carl Connelly Stadium near San Jose. … Heights lost just two nondistrict games last season. Both teams that beat the Yellow Jackets, Aledo and Granbury, are no longer in Heights’ district.

— Mark Wright

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