Peaster ISD undertook the task of fielding a varsity high school football team in 2017, beginning with a pair of junior high squads.
Peaster added on to the program last year, putting together a junior varsity team.
Now entering year three, the Greyhounds are set to undertake their first varsity season, complete with an outlaw schedule, before joining a UIL district in 2020.
Head Coach Matt Chapman acknowledged his team is entering uncharted territory, while at the same time stressing the Greyhounds are up to the challenge at hand.
“With our first varsity season, there’s a lot of unknowns with these guys,” Chapman said.
“It’s the first time they’re gonna experience a full year of varsity football, and the first time for the community as well. But it’s exciting. We’ve got high hopes and high expectations.”
Benefitting from the program’s first full high school offseason, Chapman added that confidence, and in turn eagerness to take the field in regular season action is at fever pitch among Peaster’s players.
“There’s excitement without a doubt,” Chapman said.
“This is our first full offseason at the high school level. Last year we had a really small group of kids that were football-only kids. We didn’t create that unity. We just didn’t have those opportunities in the past, but this year we were able to work out a big group of kids.”
Building up team speed, strength and conceptual knowledge have all been major focuses for the Greyhounds this spring and summer, Chapman said.
“We had some goals for the offseason, some needs that we saw. We needed to get tougher, stronger, faster. And we did that. Our kids are much stronger going into this year. We had great participation in track, our kids got faster. We have some kids that are running 4.6s and 4.7s when we weren’t really even close to that last year. Just overall team strength and speed is what has really improved.
“We were able to do some things during the spring period skills-wise, so that we’re not going into this season where these guys don’t what they’re doing. We’ve got a jump on that.”
While each of the past three years have presented their own unique challenges for the up-and-coming football program, the Greyhounds’ 2019 offseason has yielded major gains on both sides of the ball, Chapman said.
It is a sentiment shared by Peaster Defensive Coordinator B.J. Carlton.
“The biggest change [defensively] is we’re starting to have some kids step into those leadership roles so they’re able to help out, and we don’t have to have coaches at every spot every time [during practice], Carlton said.
“We have kids that are now able to step in there and get some of those younger kids that are still coming up and help them out.”
Greyhounds’ Offensive Coordinator Jeff Frick said the unity born from spring and summer workouts will be easily visible this season.
“Being able to have everybody go through an offseason, they’ve been working extremely hard every day,” Frick said.
“It’s definitely going to show this fall, having had everyone grinding together as a group.”
That is not to say Peaster’s coaches and players are content with the progress made so far.
Playing in an outlaw schedule, one separate from UIL competition and lacking a postseason tournament, gives the Greyhounds time to continue expanding their mental understanding of the game, a crucial component to nail down before joining a UIL district, Carlton said.
“Having another outlaw schedule gives us a chance to get seasoned a little bit,” Carlton said.
“Football is a tough sport. And I wouldn’t want to start talking playoffs necessarily, but if you do make it, you’re talking about 13, 14, 15, 16 games, your body better be in physical condition to do that.
“We’re just trying to get the fundamentals down right now. We’re learning how to line up in the right spots and make plays.
“We’ve set some team goals as far as points and turnovers, but more than that, I want us to understand defensive football. There’s some general concepts, they’re kind of old-school with all the RPO stuff that’s going on now, but there’s some that are still essential like always knowing where your help is, gang tackling, leverage and different things.
“So I hope by the end of this season, we understand the concepts of defensive football, not just, ‘What’s my job?”’
Frick echoed Carlton’s comments.
“This past year we were really just teaching the basics and keeping it simple,” Frick said.
“But now that everyone is returning, we’re being able to open it up a little bit more, add to our run game, open up the terminology. It’s just gonna expand each year that we have these kids.
“And that’s the most exciting part, these guys are so good with retention that we’re not [having to] reteach every time we get them back, so when we start Aug. 5, we’ll be able to add on to what they already know.
“So I think having the outlaw schedule is gonna be good. This whole process of starting a junior high team, [then] JV and then varsity, I think it’s going to help tremendously. Not just for the kids, but the community, slowly getting them used to what it takes to be an elite football program in Texas.
“What’s good is that when we join UIL in 2020, most of these guys will be starters coming back. We’re not losing a bunch to graduation for the next year or two.”
While Peaster’s coaches recognize there is plenty of room to continue growing and improving, the team’s youth and continued development have bred confidence within the Greyhounds’ locker room and optimism among the coaching staff, Chapman said.
“We had quite a few freshmen starting last year in all positions, so those guys have gotten quite a bit bigger, stronger and more mature,” Chapman said.
“Position-wise, I think we’ll be pretty solid defensively. We’ll be very strong along the defensive line. Our linebacking core, everybody is coming back, that’s a strong group.
“On the offensive line, I think last year we started four out of five freshmen, so we’re gonna have a big group of sophomores. They’ve worked their tails off.”
Chapman and his coaching staff know 2019 is a stepping stone along a larger journey in Peaster.
However, just because the Greyhounds will not be vying for a spot in postseason contention does not mean the team will approach the upcoming season any differently than if it was competing for a playoff spot.
“We want to win every game we play,” Chapman said.
“Overall [our main goal] is to just keep improving. This is that transition year. These guys are working hard, they want to win. There’s no playoffs this year, no matter how well we do.
“But, we need to prepare for when we’re in a UIL district in 2020.”
Peaster has already found a home within the pages of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine for the first time, now the team’s next chapter is about to begin.