TPI Centex 5A Top 10: No. 9 Austin Westlake

It was almost a dream season for Austin Westlake in 2006 as the Chaps made it all the way to the Division I final before falling to mighty Southlake Carroll. Now the Chaps must retool in some key positions if they are to make another deep playoff run in 2007.

Many figured that a return to Region IV would mean great returns for the Westlake Chaparrals come playoff time. Despite finishing third in District 25-5A during the regular season, the Chaps did indeed look like the power they were in the 1990's and early part of this decade come playoff time as they nearly won their second ever Class 5A state title, giving Southlake Carroll all they could handle before succumbing to the Dragons 43-29.

Now the Chaps will once again be looking for another state title but head coach Derek Long will be look to a new cast of characters, especially on offense to help the Chaps make a deep push into November and December.

Walker Kobelan has been handed the daunting task of replacing Michigan State signee Nick Foles at quarterback. Kobelan is more of a runner than Foles meaning that he, along with junior Ryan Swope could have the Chaps displaying more a ground-based attack in 2007.

The defense will have to carry the Chaps early in the season as the offense comes together as seven starters return. Mark Daniel was a second team all-District selection at defensive tackle and returns to anchor the defensive line. Linebacker and secondary are the strong points of the Westlake defense as linebackers Cameron Nichols and Michael Joyce return along with defensive backs Ryan Ambrose (five interceptions in '06) and Swope, who started as a sophomore.

Having a weapon like Justin Tucker in the kicking game will give the Chaps the edge on special teams in nearly every game they play this season. A Texas commit, Tucker was 10-of-15 on field goal tries last season and hit on 63-of-66 PAT attempts and enters his senior year as a consensus choice as the top prep kicker in the nation.

The Chaps will be young in some key spots on offense and they will be tested early with a trip to Abilene. If the offense can come along, the defense will need to come up big in district play as Austin High's high powered offense gives the Maroons the preseason edge over the Chaps when looking at the district title picture.

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