Weep not for Friendswood.
Mustangs coach Steve Van Meter may have lost the prolific arm of QB Jacob Karam (Texas Tech) and the versatility of WR-DB Andre Gateaux (Rice), but there is more than enough talent available to duplicate last season's 11-2 sprint to the Class 4A, Region III, Division II semifinals.
Friendswood returns 14 starters from their 24-4A title-winning squad, and while Karam's 3,308 passing yards and 38 touchdowns will be difficult to replace, the Mustangs are confident Pete Matzold (6-1, 175) will be able to take the keys to Van Meter's high-octane attack. Matzold threw only four passes in 2008, but is set to follow Karam in a long, successful line of signal callers in Friendswood's spread offense.
The Mustangs could rely on their ground game more than usual, as senior RB Andrew Cole (6-1, 185, 4.6) returns after a breakout campaign that saw him rush for 1,150 yards and 10 scores. Cole will share duties with sophomore Jonathan White (5-7, 150), who opened eyes with an impressive postseason performance that saw him average almost nine yards per carry.
Still, the heart and soul of the Mustangs is the passing game, where seniors Chris O'Brian (5-11, 185) and Austin Ratcliff (6-1, 180) and junior Matt Kempner (5-11, 170) will comprise the starting receiving corps.
The offense will be able to generate yardage and points behind a line that returns four starters. Center Austin Ratcliff (6-5, 220) is an all-district performer and the anchor of the unit. Guards Stan Goltz (5-10, 250) and Travis Batts (5-10, 240) also return along with tackle Ben Compton (6-1, 250).
Like the offense, the defense brings back seven starters. All-district DT Sam Giamfortone (5-11, 220) and Jose Sanz (6-3, 215) gives the line a pair of experienced hands, while DE Beau Barnes (6-5, 215) looks to follow up a solid 2008.
LB Tanner Chidester (6-2, 210) is another returning all-district performer who will be joined in the middle by Mark Brezina (5-11, 200). Senior Brant Lifau (6-1, 190) moves from defensive end to outside linebacker, with promising junior Will Fitzpatrick (5-11, 170) is expected to start at the other outside spot.
CB Hunter McAfee (5-10, 170) is the Mustangs' sole returning starter in the secondary. Sophomore Matthew Lewis (6-1, 170) has considerable potential at free safety and is expected to make an impact this fall.
In kicker Zach Hardy (5-8, 160), the Mustangs have one of the Houston area's top performers. The junior stayed busy last fall and -- with his improving range -- is on the radar of college scouts.
Friendswood shattered numerous school offensive records last fall, and while it may be too much to expect the Mustangs to maintain such a frantic scoring pace, Van Meter's squad will remain one of the highest scoring teams in the area. Despite the personnel losses, Friendswood will enter the season as not only the team to beat in 24-4A, but also Region III.
BEST CASE: Matzold picks up where Karam left off and the Mustangs make another run deep into December.
WORST CASE: The passing game falls off a bit, opening the door for Angleton to capture the district title.