DUMAS — A year after winning just three games, eighth-year head coach Mark Courtney thinks the 2013 Dumas Bobcats have the key ingredient to success.
“It comes down to, in my opinion, the senior class,” Courtney said. “We had two small ones back-to-back.
“This is the first class in three years that I have all the football players. I have the pieces and I have the work ethic and the leadership.”
Senior running back/cornerback Reginald Bailey notices a difference, too.
“(With) our past class of seniors it was an individual thing for them,” he said. “They wanted to do what they wanted to do.
“It wasn’t a team thing, and this year, I think, we’re all working together to complete our goal — and that is to go far in the playoffs.”
Courtney was really impressed with the time his players put in this summer.
“We’ve probably had the best offseason I’ve ever had,” he said. “We’re going to be stronger than any Dumas team I’ve ever had.
“We’ll be pretty athletic at the same time.”
Even still, senior tight end/linebacker/punter Martin Lee Walt thinks the experience the Bobcats return will be the most important thing.
“This year, we’re obviously a lot stronger than we were last year,” he said. “I think we’re going to have more experience.
“That’s going to be a big key to our success, because just everybody on the field will have a lot of experience in high school at almost every position.”
That experience begins with senior quarterback Ryan Miller, who has started since the end of his sophomore season.
“It’s night and day,” Courtney said of Miller’s growth. “We threw him in there near the end of his sophomore year and really shouldn’t have, probably, but mechanically and physically, he’s a totally different person. …
“He’s the kind of kid that you hope comes out and just burns it down his senior year, because he’s worked his tail off to do that and you want him to have success.”
Senior wide receiver/cornerback Keondrick Spencer has noticed a difference in Miller, too.
“I’ve seen calmness,” he said. “He used to be shaky, kind of, and now I’ve seen him grow over the years.”
That calmness is what Miller said he’s been focusing on improving.
“Throughout practice this summer, I’ve really been working at it and I feel like I’ve improved greatly,” he said. “I’m way more comfortable and actually know what I’m doing.”
One thing that will help Miller will be the play of Bailey.
“I love him; he’s like my brother,” Miller said of his running back. “I think we’re a good pair back there in the backfield together.
“He’s a good blocker, so I can trust him to have my back and then running, he’s just amazingly fast.”
Both players are expecting to have big seasons, but if Dumas’ young offensive line doesn’t improve, it could be another long season.
“The offensive line should be the backbone of the offense,” senior left tackle Johnny Gibson said. “We should be like the skeleton.
“We should be able to support and give everybody enough time to do their job.”
Gibson is being tasked with helping mold an offensive line of inexperienced players.
“Not just experience, but I want to say aggressiveness,” Gibson said of what they need to improve. “There are too many passive linemen.
“If they get that out of their system, we’ll be good.”
Last season, the Bobcats struggled to stay competitive in games. Walt doesn’t think the team will have that problem this year.
“When they’d get a couple of touchdowns ahead, we’d get down and pretty much quit,” Walt said. “The team would let up real bad and I just don’t think we’re about that this year.”
Besides the changes the players have gone through, Spencer thinks changes to the coaching staff will help the team a lot, too.
“We have gained more stability in our system,” he said, “because (in the past) we’ve had coaches coming in and out.
“But now this year I finally think we have the right coaches to carry on the old Bobcat ways of winning.”