Trophy Club Nelson head football coach Travis Pride understands that the ends must justify the means.
Apply that to football and it essentially comes down to this: the grueling offseason and strength and conditioning program have to lead to success in the fall. If not, then questions will come in terms of why the Bobcats are going through all of this.
Nelson wrapped up spring football on May 18 with its spring game. It’s the first full spring Pride has had since taking over in 2016. He didn’t have a complete coaching then. He does now.
“We’ve been pushing the players in the offseason and raised the bar,” Pride said. “They were of the standards and what was appropriate. But there’s going to have to be dividends. If you push a person to his limit and there’s no change with results, they’re going to ask why they did that.”
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There is some momentum from the 2016 season, which resulted in one of the biggest upsets in the state, a 21-20 overtime victory over Euless Trinity, and a surprise trip to the Class 6A Region I Division I playoffs. The season ended at 4-7.
The offseason created more of an accountability standard. Being punctual and providing consistent effort had to matter. Pride said weight room attendance numbers increased.
Nelson will be a younger and much more inexperienced team in 2017. However, Pride is convinced that the overall talent is there to produce another playoff-caliber season.
The biggest asset is that four of the five starters from the offensive line return, led by third-year starter and rising senior Tristan Vaitai and rising seniors Gavin Mull and Connor Stillwell. But the program is starting over at the skill positions. Rising senior Nick Santini (5-10, 180) has been a loyal part of the program and gets his chance as the starting quarterback. He spent 2016 on the junior varsity.
“If you have a guy that knows where the ball needs to go, that’s the key,” Pride said. “Everybody would love to have a quarterback who is 6-3. But when you have an operator like him, you can win.”
Santini will have several big targets in the receiving corps. Senior D.J. Robinson (6-3, 185) is the lone returner, but he was shut down in 2016 because of a torn ACL. Now that he’s back, Robinson could be in for a big season. Rising Junior Calvin Wiggins (6-4, 180) had enough of an impressive spring that he could be the perfect bookend to Robinson on the other side. The slot receiver should is expected to be Noe Diawaku (5-10, 180). The running game will start with Jordan Joiner.
Nelson’s defensive coaching staff spent the spring trying to establish a starting lineup around three returning starters in its 3-3 stack look which also incorporates three safeties. The defense suffered a big blow when leading tackler linebacker Chance Cover transferred to Fort Worth Nolan Catholic.
The hope is for health for rising senior defensive end Jeremy Phelps (6-3, 250), who has been troubled by shoulder injuries the previous two seasons. Rising senior Jared Chamberlain (6-3, 240) is versatile enough to flex between defensive end and outside linebacker. Wyatt Rohmer (5-9, 170) is the leader in the secondary.
“In the big scope, these players picked up on a lot of things quickly for us,” Pride said. “We like what we have with this group. There’s some inexperience. But we think we can be a lot better.”