Coming off an undefeated district campaign, Sealy head football coach Shane Mobley knows the Tigers are likely going to get teams’ best shots this time around.
“Whether we repeat what we did last year or not, the big difference this year is that we have a target on our back because everyone we played last year, we beat, except for Liberty Hill,” he said. “We have to expect getting everyone’s best ballgame.”
Mobley provided the key to maneuvering through hostile territory such as this will be similar to braving a storm in the ocean.
“We tell them to ride the wave, you’re going to have to ride the wave and that wave may last four quarters, last year that wave might have lasted the first three or four series and then here we go,” said Mobley. “(This year,) you can’t take that mentality and that’s the hardest thing to teach a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old young man; what you did last year doesn’t mean you’re going to do it this year because it’s a different flavor, it’s a different group.”
That different group ready to take the reins in Sealy is highlighted by a group of classmates whose first experience in the loss column came at the end of last season.
“I think there were five or six of them who, as sophomores, found a pretty important role where most of them started either on the offensive line or at linebacker,” Mobley said. “(You’ve got) Jacob Evanicky and Cory Barrett (on the line) and then you’ve got linebackers like Garrett Redden and Hunter Clark and you’ve got Reece Novicke who played secondary and last year you had Cody Manna starting at outside linebacker with Justin Eckhardt graduating (two years ago).”
In addition to those who will look to contribute at similar positions as last year, graduation put a hole in a couple of positions that had been consistent the past couple of years, one of them being running back where Ivan Bolden eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark his final two years and the replacement solution could provide an unusual opportunity.
“We’re looking at kids like Alvin Nunn who played defensive line for us last year,” said Mobley. “He’s very compact (listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds) and his footwork is unbelievable. He’s not very tall but he’s aggressive and he’s got some speed so he and a couple others could be your answer for a couple yards if that’s what’s needed but the biggest thing will be teaching them to pass block because Ivan was really good at that but it took some time.”
The rest will filter in when ready and that is the type of training ground he is trying to develop with highly-skilled players getting their reps at whatever level necessary until they’re ready for the bright lights.
“A couple of years back when (Sweetwater) went to the state championship game, some of those guys who started for us were on the B team, they just developed later on and they got really good and they started and so I don’t want kids to quit because they’re not playing,” said Mobley.
“I tell them that at the bigger schools they have a freshman team, a sophomore team, a junior-varsity team which is your junior class, and your varsity team is your seniors and anyone else that can make it,” said the third-year Tiger head coach. “That’s kind of the mentality we’ve been selling the past couple of years where if you’re a junior and you’re on JV, that’s OK because it’s better to go get reps because you’re going to play compared to being a junior on varsity and getting no playing time and then the kid playing JV got better and now you’re seniors but he’s more ready.
“We tell them to play for the love of the game, play for your guys and you could see your best friend on another team, that’s OK, you still have the bond you’re just looking at two different nights you’re playing,” he said.
A recent example of the fruits of those labors was a graduating wide receiver who earned second-team all-district honors for his final season.
“One guy that had an outstanding senior season for us was Isaac Washington,” said Mobley. “His junior year he was unstoppable at the JV level, he learned how to run routes and he did a really great job but when you have guys like Tyrek McNeese and Justin Eckhardt making an impact as seniors, don’t just hang out in their shadows, go and get your playing time and then earn it.”
Once that opportunity is earned, however, Mobley is instilling that each one of those moments is crucially important to the overall success of the program in this year’s catchphrase.
“Every second counts, that’s what we told this group of seniors right after we got out of boot camp, everything they do, from now until it’s over, it counts,” he said. “Every decision you make, whether you decide to show up to workouts or not, or if you get that extra lift or the decisions you make off school grounds, it counts.”