Keller may have the best mix of player talent, experience and desire coming together this season since head football coach Carl Stralow arrived at Keller.
Coming out of the spring drills, Stralow has been nothing but encouraged by many aspects of the Indians’ preparations and progress.
“The work ethic has been awesome,” Stralow said. “They cranked it up during the summer and they’re coming together as a group. They want to be good and we’ll see if they are.”
Senior linebacker Phil Young is returning for his third year as a starter and commented on the unity of the squad, which is noticeably different from prior seasons. “I think we’re a lot closer as a team this year than last year,” he said.
That same sentiment was endorsed by fellow linebacker, senior Garrett Blubaugh.
“We’re a lot closer as a team and ready to work,” Blubaugh said. “Our mentality is different than the last few years. We’re more focused and want to win. We’re willing to do whatever it takes.”
Desire, attitude and camaraderie are top qualities for championship teams but that alone won’t end the Indians’ playoff drought.
The accomplishments achieved in spring were called “inspiring” by Stralow, as both younger players and his three-year starters all made headway. He is also excited about the depth of the squad this year.
“We’ll lean on the three-year starters to bring the others along, but they all worked well this spring,” Stralow said.
Some of the confidence this year includes the fact the full receiving corps will return in addition to solid linemen and a new running back who has turned heads in the spring.
“We’ve got the best offensive lineman in the country,” Stralow said in reference to Maea Teuhema (6-5, 340) who will be back for his senior year. Teuhema has been a standout talent who was highly recruited but has decided on LSU. “He’s special to watch,” Stralow added.
Teuhema will have some assistance from Bobby Reynolds, a 6-3, 265 returning lineman who has committed to Louisiana Monroe.
Tyler Tutt will be the featured back for Keller. “He had an amazing off-season,” Stralow said of the junior. “It looks like he’ll have a good year and I couldn’t be more excited. He’s developed nicely. He runs physically well, protects in the passing game and is intelligent.”
One of the questions for Keller is at quarterback, where several players are still vying for the starting spot. Stralow said he hopes one will emerge and come to the fore as practices progress this week.
Defensively, in addition to Young and Blubaugh, Houston Miller will return for his junior year and at 6-5, 235, should be a force.
Stralow also said it’s a possibility Teuhema and Reynolds could see some time on the defensive line to make a formidable front in certain situations.
The secondary has the kind of depth the Indians have longed for.
There will be three players available to rotate at the two corner spots. Landry Hutchins, Mason Olendowsky and Landon Rowlett may even see action at the same time.
Having some of the best experience will be a benefit once the district schedule arrives.
The new District 5-6A will boast six teams who were on the playoff brackets last season. New teams include Timber Creek, Byron Nelson and Denton’s Guyer and Ryan.
“There will be just a play here and a play there that will determine who makes the playoffs,” Stralow said. “It will take making one or two plays each game to get to the playoffs. We need to make our own luck and be one of those teams this year.”
Not only will Keller be in a new district, but they’ll play the first-ever Class 6A game in Texas.
Keller will travel to Midland Lee for an Aug. 28 opener which will kick off at 4:30 pm as part of the ASCO Machinery Classic.
The first scrimmage for Keller will be against Mansfield Summit on Aug. 22 at R.L. Anderson Stadium.