With strong experience returning to the offensive backfield, the Bellville Brahmas have their eyes set on a 10th straight trip to the postseason under head coach Grady Rowe.
Junior running backs Richard Reese (offensive MVP) and Robert Briggs (first-team all-district) both received end-of-the-year recognition from the other coaches in District 12-4A-2 and return for a third year on the varsity roster. Also, classmate Jake Lischka stepped in to take over the quarterbacking role last year and will once again lead the offense the only way he knows how.
“Lischka came in last year in game one and really led us throughout the year,” Rowe said. “He just knows one thing and that’s to work his rear end off. That’s the way he leads is through his work ethic so Jake will do a great job there.”
Rowe said other key returners include seniors Alex Marek, Kyle Peschel, Garrett Babylon and Logan Cruz.
“Marek is a big one for us; he’ll be a two-year starter, really a three-year letterman he started a little bit at times there as a sophomore. He’s big for us, he’s a strong guard and he’s a leader for us,” Rowe said. “We’ve got Kyle Peschel who will go a little bit both ways, he’ll be a three-year varsity player. Garrett Babylon is a senior, starting at linebacker and so we’ve got some good ones there. … Logan Cruz returns, Logan’s a senior defensive end and he’ll move around from wide receiver to tight end.”
The defensive line could be an area of concern for Rowe and the Brahmas after the graduation of all-state ends Grayson Mays and Dalton Bills, but the coach hopes their impact on the younger players resonates this year.
“Those guys were a big influence and not only because they were good ballplayers, they worked extremely hard and they were really good leaders,” Rowe said of Mays and Bills. “With Cole Powell being a sophomore last year, he got to kind of be under Dalton and under Grayson and see how things were going to be done. Cole’s benefited from that a lot along with other guys like Sal Reyes who played a little bit as a freshman on the d-line, now he’s a sophomore so he saw those guys play at a high level and lead at a high level.”
Another key contributor and leader in the program was also lost in July when Zach Hood perished in a car accident, but Rowe said he has faith in the bond the team has created in the wake of the event.
“Adversity either tears you apart or it brings you together and there’s no doubt that this will bring us together,” Rowe said of what he told the team the first day of practice on Aug. 7. “We’ll play remembering Zach, no doubt about it. He was such a big part of this group, and still is. We’re going to remember him and honor him and just look at all the good times that we had with Zach.”
That team camaraderie is another thing Rowe and the Brahmas will look to hang their hat on as the season moves on headstrong during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Our team unity will be strong, there’s no doubt there,” the coach said. “We’ll have good leadership with senior leadership, our backfield is a strength of ours; we’ve got some guys that can go. … These guys like being around each other, like playing together so that’s probably the greatest strength.”
Rowe hopes that strength will help carry the team back to the postseason promised land where a new group of teams will fight for the District 12-4A-2 crown following the biennial realignment of the University Interscholastic League.
“Our expectation is to always be fighting for a district championship,” said Rowe. “To be right there in the hunt, that’s what we hope to do and then after that, it’s take it one game at a time and see what happens. We know it’ll be a tough district but we expect to be up there at the top, playing for a district championship.”
Bellville will play against Wharton, Sealy, Royal, La Marque and Sweeny, in that order, en route to shaking out the district standings. The Brahmas’ season opener is set for Aug. 28 in Giddings.