DeShazo, Cardinals anxious for season to crank up

Published 9:43 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

BRIDGE CITY — Looking to get back on the winning track, the Bridge City Cardinals will look to soar as new head coach Allen DeShazo takes over the program.

DeShazo, who was the defensive coordinator under Dwayne DuBois, is excited about what the future holds for the Cardinals, who look to bounce back from a injury-riddled 1-7 2017 campaign.

“The kids have really been getting after it and working hard,” said DeShazo. “They really had a good spring getting into shape in the offseason program. You can tell it really showed in early practices. Last season was tough with all the injuries we went through, with guys in here on walkers, walking boots and even wheelchairs, plus Harvey and the kids want to get better and they’re grasping everything we’re teaching them.”

The Cardinals welcome back five starters on offense and three on defense.

The philosophy is not going to change full circle as DeShazo intends to keep running the Slot-T offense as the Cardinals will look to continue to pound away at opponents. The offense was a well-oiled machine in 2016, one that enabled the Cardinals to snag a district crown and go three rounds deep into the postseason.

“The best thing about it all is that the kids know the system,” said DeShazo. “The offense has been effective for us and our seniors have been in it ever since they went into their freshman year. There is a lot of plays we run out of that offense and schemes and such and the kids, once they learn it, it’s just built into them.”

Looking to help guide the way for the Cardinals will be senior quarterback Cace Skinner. Skinner was the backup last year while spending a lot of time playing in the defensive secondary.

“Cace will be a good leader for us back there,” said DeShazo. “He played defense a lot last year but did get some varsity snaps, plus he was solid as our JV quarterback a couple years ago. He’s a good athlete and has a great head on his shoulders.”

After getting some nice time at fullback as a freshman, junior Andy Lara had a tough sophomore year after a leg injury sidelined him for almost the entire year.

Coach DeShazo feels Lara is will be back with a vengeance.

“Andy is a beast and it is so great to have him back at full speed because that was such a tough injury to go through after he showed great flashes on the varsity as a freshman” said DeShazo. “He definitely has a motor and once he’s running downhill, he’s the type of back that if you’re a defender, you don’t want to get in his way too often.”

Junior Rylan Ply, who got valuable playing time as a sophomore after all the injuries beset the Cardinals, will lineup at tailback. Senior Gavin Villanueva is getting a good look at halfback. Sophomore Austin Richardson along with junior Jake Potter and senior Ethan Morgan will also see their share of totes from the backfield. Juniors Jackson Tims and Colby Collins can also play at quarterback and in the backfield as well.

“We really like our depth we have in the backfield,” said DeShazo. “Ply showed a lot of promise when he stepped in their last season and got a lot of valuable time. We have plenty of guys that can step in there and get valuable touches and the depth helps because most of them will be getting plenty of snaps on defense too.”

Along the offensive front, senior Jacob Cunningham will return to his center position after a solid junior campaign.

The guards will likely be junior Braydon Little and junior Kevin Ross while the tackles will be senior Manuel Gomez and senior Jose Torres.

When the Cardinals toss it they can go to the likes of senior tight end Adam Snyder and senior split end Cory Westlund.

“Cunningham is great to have back again along the front and you always want to have a good center in our style of offense,” said DeShazo. “We’re looking for the other guys to really step up their level of play too and they should be fine once they get the first few Friday night starts.”

Where the Cardinals are least inexperienced at is on the defensive side of the leather for sure.

“We have just a few kids that got a lot of playing time last year so that’s where we’re really concentrating at and getting them to learn as quickly as possible,” said DeShazo. “We’ll certainly have kids playing both ways but we’re looking for some younger kids to pick it up and be able to spell some times so we don’t wear down. We like the depth we have, it’s just a matter of getting kids a lot of playing time. We’ll have a good gauge after our scrimmages and the first couple non-district games.”

Likely leading the front wall of the 3-4 bases defense will be junior noseguard Ross and tackles Little and sophomore Cody Howard.

The inside linebackers will likely be manned by Snyder and junior Garrett Ashworth. The outside linebackers should be stout as well with Tims and Ply applying the hits.

The safeties will be Richardson and sophomore Blake Moore. Lining up at the corners most of the time will be Morgan, Potter and senior Ky Terrell.

Bridge City will try to navigate through a tough non-district schedule.

They will open up on the road Aug. 31 against a stout Diboll unit. They also visit Jasper and West Orange-Stark and will host Anahuac and former district foe Silsbee.

“That is quite a gauntlet to go through and is, without a doubt, one of the toughest non-district schedules out there,” said DeShazo. “The thing we want to do the most is improve each week before district starts. A schedule like this can only help us be both mentally tougher and stronger to prepare us for the ultimate goal and that’s trying to win a district championship.”

The Cardinals will certainly get a new look in a revamped District 11-4A Division I. Gone are the likes of Silsbee, Cleveland and Navasota as former Class 5A units Lumberton, Livingston and Splendora will enter the fray with LC-M and Huffman still in the mix.

“We’re now the smallest team on the block but I think that motivates the kids even more to try to go out and prove they can compete,” said DeShazo. “Lumberton, Splendora and Livingston certainly have the numbers and depth but you still have to play the game. The LC-M game, of course, is always a big one and Huffman always has talent. Going into the season, I don’t see any clear-cut favorite and that should make it fun. Don’t be surprised to see it come down to the final week, not just for the district title, but all four playoff spots.”

The Cardinals will open up District 11-4A Division I play Oct. 12 at home against Orange County rival Little Cypress-Mauriceville.