Timber Creek played last season with as many as 10 sophomores in the lineup, and the learning experience will hopefully pay dividends this football season for the Falcons.
After struggling through a 2-8 season in 2013, Timber Creek will return five starters on offense and eight on defense.
The defense should be ahead of the offense, at least early in the season. The returning cast is not only more experienced, but it’s more talented, bigger, stronger and faster than last year.
“We got an education early in the year,” Timber Creek head coach Kevin Golden said of his Operation Sophomore. “Last year they were young and took baby steps all year. We went with rudimentary alignments to see what they could handle. This year we’ll be able to use the whole package, and using it when we need to.”
Up front, Chase Dennis returns at defensive tackle and the linebacker corps includes Hunter Powell and junior Jonathan Casillas. Powell was last year’s district Newcomer of the Year and Golden referred to him as a headhunter on the defense.
Casillas said the year of experience will help him and other sophomore starters from last season lead the way in changing the season record for the Falcons.
“We’re definitely going to get that changed,” Casillas said.
In the secondary, Houston commit Camden Ross is at weak safety and Bryce Bennett will build on his playing time last year at one of the corners.
More questions, but the same level of optimism reigns on offense, though. The offensive line will be poised to be up to the quality level Timber Creek has been seeking for a few years, now.
“The line coming in is confident. They’ve got potential,” said Golden.
Third-year starter, senior Sebastian Escalante, 6-2, 250, will be the guide for others on the line.
“The pressure is on us as a team but we’ve come together as family,” Escalante said. “We’re not as experienced but there’s a lot of talent. Like a family, we’ll stick together and fight together. We’re stronger and faster and we’ll be ready.”
The Falcons lost a standout back but are excited about Recie Saunders stepping in. At quarterback, Golden said he has the same competition as last year, plus another candidate.
“We’ve got the same battle as last year plus a third,” Golden said.
Anthony Millsap and Connor Pittman are looking to break away when camp begins this week, and Caleb Collins will move up from last year’s JV to add into the mix.
Escalante knows the importance of the line helping the quarterback be effective. “We want him to have faith and give him the time he needs,” he said. “We’ll be there to calm him down and let him know, ‘I got your back.’”
“All three are athletic and all can contribute,” Golden said, noting that the two not under center may find a spot elsewhere in the offense.
Regardless of who is throwing the ball, they’ll have a big target in DeShawn Biggs, at 6-3, 235. “He’s got a big body and we’ll split him out and use him in motion, the wing set and he’s played some tight end at the end of last season,” Golden said of Biggs.
As big as an issue as the X’s and O’s for Timber Creek may be the new, more talented District 5-6A this year.
Top to bottom, the addition of Denton Guyer, Denton Ryan and Byron Nelson more than offsets the loss of Carroll, Haltom and Richland.
Casillas noted the new teams will mean new offenses the Falcons have yet to see, but feels it won’t be a new adjustment.
“Top to bottom, it’ll be a dogfight every week,” Golden said. “We may be a whole lot better and our record may not reflect it.”