FHS focused on improvement

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Billies eye postseason return

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FHS FOOTBALL

Team chemistry and a focused approach are the Battlin’ Billies’ keys to getting back to their winning ways.

Fredericksburg High School football wants to reverse its trend of .500 football and thinks a close-knit group of seniors will guide the team to a postseason return.

“The senior leadership has been great this year,” senior defensive end/offensive tackle Jack Gallagher said. “All of our seniors have been coming together and they’ve been really pushing on that thing we didn’t have last year, which is leadership. They’re trying to lead this team and have great practices. Everybody’s going hard.”

“Everyone’s trying,” senior running back/ safety Jarrett Beard said. “There’s not just a select few who’re going hard and another few who are not. I think we need to implicate and execute our plays better, no doubt and get better. But I think the chemistry is there and effort is there to make a great team.”

FHS ended last season with a 5-5 record and just outside a playoff spot despite heading into the final week of the regular season with a chance to finish second in district.

Head coach Lance Moffett’s first step was assigning senior leaders, coaches and pretty much everyone involved with FHS football summer homework of reading “You Win in the Locker Room First” by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith.

“We read that all summer and we’ve been presenting it to the team,” Moffett said. “I think that’s paying dividends because every day the kids are hearing about taking care of the little details and being a great teammate.”

The Billies already show signs of improvement after playing neck-and-neck with the Geronimo Navarro Panthers last Friday.

FHS’ first-string starters outscored Navarro, 20-14, and the second stringers finished one score behind Navarro’s back-ups, 21-14.

The Panthers made it the regional finals last season, where they lost to eventual Class 4ADII state champs Navarro, 29-23.

“To be able to compete like that against a really good program and good team, that’s a building block for us. It’s a confidence builder,” Moffett said.

All FHS has to do is carry that confidence and the right attitude into the regular season.

“I think they’re committed to doing what it takes to get over that hump (of being .500) and to be different than mediocrity,” Moffett said. “Unfortunately, that’s where we are. Nobody wants that. I certainly don’t want that. But I think we’ve been deliberate about that.”

Offense

The Billies will break in several new starters on offense, but the philosophy remains the same: spread the ball to the playmakers.

FHS replaces its running back, tight end and two wide receivers, but the team believes it’s just as talented as it’s been in past years.

“I think we have the skill players to make great things happen,” Beard said. “We just need to get them called and do it.”

Beard will occupy just about every position across the board, but mostly operates out of FHS’ slotback position.

Beard gained 1,162 total yards of offense and scored nine touchdowns last season, so he will be the focal point of the Billies’ offensive attack.

The versatile player is up to 187 pounds and hasn’t lost a step when it comes to his speed.

“He worked hard all summer and he got faster,” Moffett said. “

Senior Tucker Elliott will get the first crack at holding down the quarterback spot, but sophomore Cole Immel’s played well in fall camp and in the Navarro scrimmage and FHS’ recent history suggests he’ll get snaps at QB.

“I think playing a whole season on defense gives (Elliott) an edge because of the speed of the game,” Moffett said. “For Tucker, it slows down a little bit more than Cole. Cole is certainly a naturally talented quarterback. He’s an intelligent kid.”

The Billies replace three of their top four rushers from last season.

Seniors Dylan Ahrens and Hunter Metzger are the favorites to start at running back.

Sophomore Javi Rodriguez and senior Davis Reeh will both get looks at the spot.

Reeh will also spell Jarrett Beard at times.

“He blocks his tail off and he’s a hard-nosed, downhill running football player that we really like,” Moffett said. “He’s got a little bit nasty in him that you want from a football player.”

Senior Joshua Wienecke will start at the X position, with sophomore Jud Beard starting across the formation at Z.

Senior Jacob Lees will also get work on offense.

Senior Christian Avilez will get the nod at tight end, with sophomore Derek Whitworth set to get work at the position.

Senior Trent Kozielski will also factor in as a receiving tight end.

Senior Luke Duderstadt, who was one of FHS’ top players during the Navarro scrimmage, will play running back and tight end.

FHS might have its best talent on the offensive line, which returns four of five starters this season.

“I feel like having an older offensive line, even though we’re just the offensive line, when we’re on the field we’re leading the whole offense,” senior guard Travis Cates said. “We’re getting things done.”

Gallagher is back at the tackle position.

Cates and Landon West are set to play guard again. Both are third-year varsity players.

Senior center Austin Sheppard is another returning starter.

Junior Kolby Wright will be FHS’ new starter at the tackle spot.

Sophomore Rusty Price will be the line’s swingman and first guy off the bench.

Senior Brant Sasko, sophomore Zachary Wubbolding and Whitworth provide depth on the offensive line.

Defense

The strength of the defense will be the in the trenches.

FHS replaces Hayden Ahrens, who led the team in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (seven) but have Gallagher and Avilez back at defensive end.

Avilez is a third-year varsity player and Gallagher has college offers from five different programs heading into the season.

Wubbolding will man one of the defensive tackle positions after starting several games as a freshman.

West will be the other starting defensive tackle.

“We’re doing pretty strong,” Gallagher said. “All of us are pretty smart on what we’re playing on defensive line so we can read plays, stop runs and passes.”

The two-way nature of the team means Sasko, Wright, Whitworth and Reeh will also see snaps along the defensive front in order to give the linemen rest.

Ahrens and Metzger both return at inside linebacker.

Senior AJ Rawls, Duderstadt and Reeh are their backups.

Junior Gavin French and senior Quentin Petsch will both play at outside linebacker.

Jud Beard was a breakout star at cornerback during last year’s Lampasas game.

Wienecke, who also started games on defense, will man the other corner spot.

Jarrett Beard will be a thirdyear starter at the free safety position.

Elliott will handle strong safety in critical spots, but junior Rob Zuberbueler and French are pushing to play more at that position.

The district

The district race is still Liberty Hill’s to lose but the gap is closing.

The Panthers lost 30 letter winners from last season’s team, including 14-4A DI MVP Kyle Harrison, but the program continues to churn out winning teams.

Lampasas is a good bet to finish second and have the most returners in the district.

Junior quarterback Ace Whitehead is the favorite to win District MVP, and senior wide receiver Cameron Everts is committed to play football for Air Force.

Canyon Lake also lost seven starters on both sides, leaving the team with a lack of experienced players. Taylor, a playoff team last season, and Burnet are breaking in new coaches.

The schedule

FHS faces two big schools and three Hill Country rivals during the non-district slate.

The Billies start with a road game against San Antonio Sam Houston on Thursday, Aug. 29, starting at 7 p.m. at Alamo Stadium.

From there, the Billies host Kerrville Tivy on Sept. 6.

FHS also plays Bastrop Cedar Creek, Wimberley and Boerne before an off week.

District 14-4A DI starts with Liberty Hill on Oct. 11 at Liberty Hill.

The Billies host Taylor on Oct. 18, play back-to-back road games against Canyon Lake and Burnet on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, and end the regular season with a home game vs. Lampasas on Nov.

8.