HUNTINGTON, TX (KTRE) – Devoted Huntington Red Devil fans might not recognize this year's team.
This team is faster, stronger, experienced, and more confident. They are looking to write a new chapter in Huntington football history, one that includes winning. It is a goal that has always been part of their strategic plan, just one that has eluded them year after year, until now.
"When you've won three ball games over two years every game's exciting to us. So, we're excited and most exciting game right now is the first one against Tarkington in Cleveland and so we'll be ready for that and we'll move on to the next week," said Todd Hopkins, Head Coach.
This will be Hopkins' third season with Huntington. From the outside looking in, it appears he has managed to inspire these players on and off the field and started to turn this squad around. You can see it in their swagger during practice.
"I expect the Red Devils to make it to the playoffs, first time ever we're going to do it," said senior offensive and defensive lineman Blake Loggins.
Loggins will be happy with winning more games than last season, when they went 2-8, but he will not be satisfied unless they get to that unchartered territory. "It's one of the most important things for this school right now. We've never made it to the playoffs and we're expected to this year. We've got a really good team and I think we're going to do it."
Not surprisingly, Loggins says he like to hit. Watch out if you are on the opposite side of the line, this big guy is looking to get at least 20 sacks on defense this season.
Huntington will be going in as underdogs in their district. Their aim is to raise expectations and solidify the new football foundation.
"We're just looking forward to, I guess, leaving with a bang and starting off the freshmen with an offense they can build on. So, our future goals are just showing them the steps and what it takes to get the chance to be a part of something special," said Zabo Houston, quarterback and free safety.
Houston is counting on his experience to help the younger members of the team. "Education, supporting them. We lead in the classroom by example, try to lead on the field by showing perfect attitudes, build encouragement, just letting them know we're here."
Houston is most impressed by this team's commitment. "We're more focused we worked hard in the off season we had great amount of people come out for our workout for us and everybody's really focused and dedicated to the team we're on fired up."
He is anxious to make it to the homecoming game. "Homecoming, it's against Bullard. Last year I got hurt. I'm just ready to come back, show everybody that I'm back and to be with them." He is hoping that this season provides plenty of good plays for his highlight reel before he heads off to college.
As a team, he says they will be trying to win more games and be more dedicated. "The main goal is going to the playoffs and being part of the first Huntington team to ever make it."
"It's been a good chemistry so far. I mean, everybody's worked hard been out here competing. Just ready to start out get going and I guess being more focused on the most important things of just getting all of the basics and simple things and learning them to perfection."
Houston has only positive things to say about their coaching staff. "We've got a good coaching staff. Showed up this year with less coaching, and we got a few new coaches, but they're wonderful. Great group of guys and we love 'em."
"We're just gonna shock the world."
Team leaders who inspire the rest of the players to walk the walk, and a committed coaching staff, it all sounds like a good start.
That journey begins August 26 when Huntington plays Tarkington in Cleveland.