Most expected the La Marque Cougars would struggle in 2008, but no one foreshadowed how far one of the state's elite programs would fall.
First-year coach Darrell Jordan's squad finished 3-6, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989. The youthful squad endured a string of growing pains, capped off by a regular season finale against Friendswood that saw the Cougars allow a school-record 69 points to the eventual 4A, Region III, Division II champs.
Jordan returns 10 starters -- five on each side of the ball -- as La Marque looks to prove that 2008 was just a blip on a map that has seen the school win five state titles since 1990.
The Cougars' biggest strength lies in its skill position players, as sophomore quarterback Emmanuel Williams (5-10, 175, 4.7 speed in the 40), sophomore running back Tim Wright (5-8, 180, 4.4) and senior running Le Reco Williams (5-9, 190, 4.4) provided the offense with numerous flashes of potential. Williams became the first freshman to start under center in at least three decades, while Wright and Williams both averaged over six yards per carry.
Wright and Williams gave La Marque fans a glimmer of hope in the loss to Friendswood, combining for 389 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Senior wide receivers Michael Gilmore (5-8, 165, 4.4) and Logan Hutton (6-0, 190, 4.4) both possess game-breaking speed and will benefit from Williams becoming comfortable with a full season of varsity play behind him.
Defensively, the Cougars must learn to stop the run. The undersized squad struggled all season attempting to keep backs from ripping into the secondary. Much will be expected of junior defensive tackle Antonio Wright (6-1, 275), Tim's brother. The rest of the unit will be filled from a junior varsity that struggled to a 1-6 finish, and it is expected that -- like last season -- La Marque will rely on their incoming freshman class to add depth.
Senior Isaac Scott (5-10, 190) was a second team All 24-4A member at outside linebacker at 2008 and will join Antonio Wright as one of the unit's anchors. Corner Brock Milburn (5-10, 175, 4.4) endured a trial by fire in his first season as a starter, but should be improved this fall.
If the Cougars can find an offensive line, a return to the postseason is likely. The potential is there to light up the scoreboard, but there is also the potential of a defense unable to stop the likes of Friendswood, Texas City and Angleton from doing the same.
BEST CASE: Emmanuel Williams emerges as the district's top QB, Wright and Le Reco Williams combine for over 2,000 yards and the Cougars return to the playoffs.
WORST CASE: The defense fails to stop anyone and the Coogs sit at home in November in consecutive seasons.