Not a whole lot was expected out of the McKinney Lions football team last season.
Heading into its first season back in 5A after an 0-10 swan song in 4A, most predicted the team would finish last in its district. Little was expected.
But the Lions surprised everyone last season, finishing on the cusp of the postseason with a 5-5 record just a season after going winless in 4A.
For head coach Jeff Smith, the 2013 season is going to be the year McKinney proves they belong.
“Lets take it to a whole new level,” Smith said of his expectations heading into the 2013 season.
Entering his third season as head coach of the Lions, Smith said the players and coaches gained a great deal of experience last year and know what to expect on Friday nights this fall.
And after just a few days of practice — the Lions opened two-a-days Mondays — Smith said his team is “very hungry to make that goal a reality” and qualify for the playoffs.
“We want to go out and prove everybody wrong,” Smith said.
Smith’s message to his squad the first few days of practice has been simple — show effort and raise expectations — adding his team will be “raising the bar” on their expectations this upcoming season.
Senior receiver T.V. Williams, who has committed to play for the University of Kentucky, echoed the statements of Smith. Williams said “It’s a good motivator” to be picked to finish at the bottom of the division each season, and noted they have to go out and prove themselves “every game.”
“It gives us that much more fire,” Williams said.
Williams noted the last time McKinney made the postseason was his 8th-grade year in 2009, and a return to the postseason is crucial in resurrecting the program for years to come.
“It will definitely be a letdown if we don’t make the playoffs,” he said.
Along with raising the bar, the Lions will enter the season with a new signal caller on defense.
New defensive coordinator Reid Waller comes to McKinney after serving as head coach at Weatherford from 2010 to 2012. Waller resigned as head coach of the Kangaroos last December after three seasons and a record of 7-23.
Smith said its been a “seamless transition,” and noted the defensive system will remain the same as it has in past years, but said Waller has added some “new twists.”
Smith did say his defense has “a few more holes to fill” but is confident his squad will step up and fill them.
The Lions’ offense, Smith said, will be “committed to being balanced” and will rely on its offensive line to open holes for the running game and create time for an effective passing game.
While noting their running game will be a strength for them this season, Smith said the Lions have two quarterbacks in the mix this season, and both bring a different skill set. He said while one is more of a runner and the other a traditional drop-back passer, both will see playing time to use their strengths to help the ball club.
Smith added Williams and running back Tommy Candela will be players he will look to “step up” and be leaders on and off the field.
And for Williams, being a leader is something new, but a role he is ready to take on.
He said he has grown used to sitting in the back and letting seniors step up and be leaders, but now a senior, he said players are looking up to you and “you can’t do anything wrong.”
And just 16 days from their season opener against Mansfield Legacy Aug. 30 at Ron Poe Stadium, Smith had a simple message — “we’re ready.”
Photo Credit: Joe Arriola of RECORDit Films. For the website, please see www.recorditfilms.com
Editor’s Note: As preseason football camp continues, TSB sports writer Mike Albanese continues his look at our local varsity high school squads. If you missed his McKinney North preview, please click here. Look for McKinney Boyd and McKinney Christian Academy coming soon.