Longhorns look for exciting times in 2016 gridiron season

Now is an exciting time of the year for virtually every high school football program in the state, starting with the conditioning drills and other work in the hot sun of early August to the kick off of interscholastic play at the end of the month.

No team has lost, yet; the future is wide open. The upcoming campaign is full of promises and great expectations. Friday nights have been circled in red.

And Harper is no different.

“We are looking forward to the upcoming football season here in Harper,” said the Longhorns’ head coach, Dusty Gibbs, now entering his second year at the HHS helm. “We had a good of-season in the spring which led into our strength and conditioning camp this season.”

The camp concept was new to the ’Horns this summer, “but we have been pleased with the turnout,” Gibbs said. “We believe the work the kids have put in this summer will vault us into a good fall football season.”

The sweat equity and hard work in the off-season could easily pay dividends for Harper this year. The Longhorns finished in the district’s fourth place at the end of the 2015 regular season, a mark good enough to put Harper in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

With many pundits predicting a third-place finish for Harper when the smoke clears in November — and, therefore, securing another trip to the post-season schedule — Gibbs is happy to see his team “climbing up that ladder.”

But he admitted that “pre-season picks are fun as a fan, but as coaches and players, we know that we have to put in the work and time on the field to help accomplish our goals.”

If Harper is to have any chance at earning a district crown this year, it’ll need to somehow take care of two well-known forces — Mason and Junction.

“Mason is a perennial state power and will be one of the best teams in the state,” Gibbs said, adding that “Junction is another great team in our district who brings back a great group of kids. Both teams will be tough as usual.”

But as strong as Mason and Junction may be, the Longhorns will return a substantial amount of talent in its own right.

Much will be expected of senior Josh Sagraves who, according to Gibbs, “is one of the top receivers returning in all of 2A.”

Joining Sagraves on the offensive side of the ball will be fellow 12th grader Tracy Patterson, who will move over from wide receiver to quarterback.

Meanwhile, upperclassmen Ben Lashley and Joe Boy, both seniors, “will anchor our offensive line,” the head coach said.

Moving to the other side of the ball, “we return one of our leading tacklers in junior Brett Dunning” who will join Lashley in the linebacker position.

A good barometer of what the Longhorns might be able to expect from this year’s campaign will come when the regular season opens Friday, Aug. 26. That’s when Harper travels to San Angelo to face Texas Leadership Charter Academy for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

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