While they only won a single game, first-year L.D. Bell football coach Mike Glaze believes the road back to success began this season.
“The biggest advancement made this year by our student-athletes was learning how to compete until the final horn sounds,” Glaze said, noting that although the 1-9 record was the same as 2014, the attitude is moving forward.
“I would like to think that is an indicator of change and we are heading in the right direction, although it is still a process.”
Glaze came to Bell after being offensive coordinator for a state championship program at Cedar Hill. In his first season leading the Blue Raiders, his team generated some excitement moments, including a pair of overtime losses to Keller Central (34-31) and Richland (34-27) to open the season.
Their lone victory was also a thriller, a come-from-behind 32-29 victory against Haltom.
“I think that most people would say our highlight of the season to be our senior night victory at AT&T stadium over Haltom,” Glaze said. “I will also always remember the excitement from the two overtime games – the student section, the band and the crowds were really into those games. It was almost like a playoff atmosphere.”
Glaze and the Raiders faithful are hoping the next step is to be a part of a playoff atmosphere next season. To fuel those hopes, nine starters on both offense and defense are anticipated to be coming back, along with 31 returning lettermen.
Key players returning on offense include junior wide receiver Christion Nealy (11 catches, 102 yards), junior running backs Terry Pace (114 carries, 417 yards, 2 TD) and Ivan Traylor (108-414, 4 TD), and linemen Brendon Weatherspoon (junior), Anesu Sitole (junior), Chris Beckham (sophomore), Chase Steelman (sophomore), and Donovan Gladden (junior).
Key defensive returners include junior cornerbacks Nick Dillard and Devunte Dawson; junior defensive linemen Vita Ahio, Ricky Tatu, Keroles Dawed and Eric Herron; linebackers Nate Alexander (sophomore) and Collin Killough (junior); and freshman safety Malik Caper.
In addition, both junior varsity teams were 5-5, and Glaze said several players from that program could make an impact next season.
“Next year we should have a couple of guys at each position that should compete for playing time, which is something that we did not have this past year,” he said.
Glaze believes several senior Raiders will continue their playing days at the college level next season.
“We will probably have a few. Tyler Dunlop (kicker, 5 FG, 15 PAT) will probably be one for sure, and I think we might have an additional two or three who sign with (NCAA) Division II schools or take the [junior college] route,” Glaze said.
“The end of the season itself was bittersweet, but would probably best be described as a learning process from myself to the players and the coaching staff. We learned the strengths and the weaknesses of the football program,” he said.