High School Football

Countdown to kickoff: Weatherford needs defense to help offense

Receiver Kotie McClendon, at 6-foot-5, will provide a big target for one of the new Weatherford quarterbacks.
Receiver Kotie McClendon, at 6-foot-5, will provide a big target for one of the new Weatherford quarterbacks.

Weatherford

District 3-6A

Last season: 5-5 (3-4 in District 4-6A)

Key players: NT/OT Zach McKinney (6-5, 290), DE/LB Jake Beaird (6-2, 220), TE/DE Marcus Buckley (6-3, 245), WR Kotie McClendon (6-5, 195), RB Devin James (5-9, 170), CB Dylan Smith (5-11, 165), CB Andrew McNay (6-2, 190).

The big picture: Realignment provides the Kangaroos an interesting opportunity in 2016 as Weatherford was jettisoned from its grouping with Arlington ISD schools in favor of District 3-6A, populated by four Keller ISD schools, as well as district favorite Abilene. But no one, in the locker room at least, is celebrating the move. “We’re not under any illusions, this is still a very tough district,” coach Weldon Nelms said. Last year’s 5-5 record was the program’s best mark since 2009 as Weatherford missed out on its first playoff berth since 2005 with a 55-15 loss to Arlington Bowie in the final week of the regular season. The Roos return just four starters on offense and will be breaking in a new quarterback, whether junior Corban Campbell, who threw 10 passes and one touchdown a year ago, or senior Lane Gilley, wins the job. The competition between the two in the spring was so close that Nelms sees a chance for them both to play this season. While the offense jells, Weatherford will lean on its defense, and it all starts up front. Nose tackle Zach McKinney has six Division I offers, including from Houston, Oklahoma State and SMU, and will anchor the 3-4 unit alongside defensive end/outside linebacker Jake Beaird. The return of Marcus Buckley from an injury that forced him to miss the entire 2015 season will help on both sides of the ball.

Quotable: “He’s a great player. He’s smart about the game and he knows the game, so it’s not only about bull-rushing as hard as he can, even though he’s very good at that. He’s someone the defense can count on to fill two, even three gaps at times.” — DE/LB Jake Beaird on Zach McKinney

Notable: Whoever ends up playing quarterback will stand behind a much improved offensive line. Depth along the the offensive line and in the defensive front could make the Kangaroos a contender for the fourth playoff spot in their district again.

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