That is a question many have pondered for years as the Lions looked more and more every year like they might drop down a conference, which led up to last February when they Lions were placed in District 16-4A.
The question was emphatically answered as Coach Johnny Tusa saw the Lions enjoy their finest season since consolidation with a 13-3 record, the District 16-4A title, and a trip to the Class 4A-II state title game.
The Lions have 12 starters returning from last season's club, and what could be the best defense in all of Texas high school football and a potentially explosive running game give the Lions the nod as the No. 1 4A team in Central Texas to start 2007.
The offense has five starters back in the fold but none will play a bigger role in the Lions' attack than senior running back Jarred Salubi. A Baylor commit and all-State back last season, Salubi was selected as the District 16-4A MVP as he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior. The Lions will feature a three-headed monster in the backfield again this season as juniors Bronshae Dugas, the district's co-offensive newcomer of the year, and Charles Silmon, a second team all-District selection, will also see plenty of action. Leading the way for the talented trio will be senior offensive lineman Nick Johnson, a first team all-District pick who had 76 knockdowns as a junior.
Seven starters are back on defense and like Salubi on offense, everything on defense will revolve around senior safety Victor Johnson. Blessed with great instincts and a superior combination of size, speed, quickness, and tackling ability, Johnson earned all-State honors last season with five interceptions and 93 tackles as he enters 2007 as one of the top defensive back prospects in the nation. The defensive front does lose Antonio Johnson, but first team all-District defensive linemen Quinton Horn and Josh Hicks are both back to give the Lions an outstanding duo up front. Look for junior defensive end Andrew Weaver, the Lions' top junior prospect, to play a huge role on defense as well.
With Waco High having beaten Copperas Cove head-to-head last season and with the defense and the running game being among the best in the state, it makes the Lions a good bet to reach the state title game and likely win it all in Division II. The only thing that could be standing in their way is a potential state quarterfinal rematch against Brownwood and a state semifinal tilt with either Wolforth Frienship or Stephenville.
Recapping the TPI Central Texas 4A Preseason Top 10:
2. Copperas Cove – They suffered some huge losses on both sides of the ball but there is tons of talent still in place. Robert Griffin could be in for a special season at quarterback if he has improved as much as he reportedly progressed in the passing game.
3. Brownwood – Steve Freeman had a very young team last season, but it was a young team that reached the state quarterfinals. A very talented junior class leads the way.
4. Lake Travis – Like Brownwood, they have a lot of talent in the junior class, especially with Garrett Gilbert returning. Defense and the running game need to be huge come playoff time.
5. New Braunfels – Ryan Perez will give the offense plenty of big plays but the defense will need to replace seven starters from last season's playoff team.
6. Pflugerville Connally – The Cougars and first year Coach Howard McMahan have plenty of talent, but they keys to their success rely on adjusting to a new system and getting production from the quarterback spot.
8. New Braunfels Canyon – The Cougars missed the playoffs last season, but do not expect them to be sitting at home this season with seven offensive starters back.
9. Alamo Heights – The defending 4A-I champions have a lot of talent to replace but the cupboard is not bare and the Mules should be back in the playoffs.
10. Killeen – Unfortunately the Roos look like the odd team out in District 16-4A. Two of the top offensive linemen in the state will line up for the Roos in senior David Grant, an Oklahoma State pledge, and 2009 masher Rhonte Scales.