Last season: 8-3 (6-1 in District 6-5A); lost to Denton Ryan in 5A Division II bi-district.
Key players: OL Nick Walters (6-3, 255), DE Maxx Crosby (6-4, 235), RB Demarco Corbin (6-1, 205), RB Justin Toberny (5-10, 185), DB Ryan Phillippe (6-1, 170), WR Jackson Zeledon (6-1, 185), DE Jason Williams (6-3, 295), DB Nick Felix (5-10,185), DE Keandre Johnson (5-11, 255).
The big picture: Neither Trevor Anderson nor Clayton Oliver won the starting quarterback job in spring training, so the Panthers are still looking to fill the vacancy. While that might seem like a serious question to answer, new coach Darren Allman, who moved from Austin Westlake, said both can expect to play this season. “We will have a starting quarterback one way or the other,” Allman said. “Whichever one of them doesn’t end up in the starter’s role will end up on the field, no question about that.” Allman said the backup will work in packages fit for QB runs or line up in the slot. With that in mind, the Panthers return 14 starters from a team that lost to Denton Ryan 44-34 in bi-district last season. Heritage averaged 364 yards offense per game last season, more than 100 of it on the ground. Allman said having backs Demarco Corbin and Justin Toberny forces opponents to account for everyone. Corbin ran for 375 yards last season, gaining almost 4 yards a carry, and 12 touchdowns. He also had 32 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns. Heritage can expect consistency and even improvement in the secondary. Defensive backs Ryan Phillippe and Nick Felix return for a unit that allowed an average of 106.1 passing yards in the final 10 games of last season. Where Heritage suffered was in run defense. Allman said defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Jason Williams have improved over the summer. The Panthers gave up 353.8 yards per game in 2013.
Quotable: “Playing in arguably the toughest district in the state, and it’s understandable why so many talk about that, but it doesn’t faze me at all. The reason is because this program is ready to take the next step. When you’re trying to reach a new level, the only way to get there is by playing the very best. I’ve been blessed to be in some great places like Brownwood, Temple, Highland Park and Odessa Permian. All of these are similar in a lot of ways, but Heritage more so than any of the others, is really similar to Westlake. The kids are extremely motivated here.” — head coach Darren Allman
Notable: Darren Allman’s teams routinely have quarterbacks with similar abilities fighting for a starting job. Jordan Seifert, who’s now at SMU, won the starting job last season at Austin Westlake over junior Sean Rollings. Rollings gained more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving last season and has the edge to start this season for new coach Todd Dodge. Heritage has made the playoffs eight consecutive seasons.
— Kevin Casas