Last season, the Midlothian Heritage High School offense took center stage, putting up some of the most impressive numbers in prep football.
Fifty-seven days before the start of its season opener against Sunnyvale on Sept. 1, though, the Jaguars as a whole may be a juggernaut waiting to rumble through the University Interscholastic League.
They have rifle-armed quarterback Landon Ledbetter, bruising running back Nathan Gaskamp and sure-handed speedsters Kerrion Fields and Noah Parker at their disposal. A deeper look at their roster, though, may tell a different story about a team that came within two games of a state championship last year.
"I think we will dominate the 4A classification offensively based on last year and the work we put in this year," Ledbetter said. "What's even crazier is the amount of work everyone has put in to increase that productivity on the offensive side. Everyday everyone is outside after workouts throwing and running routes."
He racked up 3,235 yards on 181 for 282 (64 percent) passing and threw 43 touchdowns and only nine interceptions behind incoming senior Jack Freeman and a sturdy offensive line. Gaskamp was No. 8 the 4A in rushing with 1,294 yards and 13 TDs and Fields led the classification in receiving with 1,727 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Parker wasn't far behind at No. 4 with 864 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"That's what gives me that kind of confidence," he continued. "I believe that if we improve upon last year and our hard off-season work shows on the field which I know it will, we will be just fine. I think that's the new aspect of our offense. Is we will be better than before."
The crux, though, may be what's on the flip side of the football, an opportunistic secondary and a returning cast of defensive characters headlined by Jon Sanders, his 66 tackles and two forced fumbles. Sanders earned a recent Dave Campbell's Texas Football No. 22 preseason ranking among all 4A defensive linemen.
An uptick in production may be on the horizon despite the losses of Jack Ellis, Jorden Thompson, Rodney Richmond and Preston Smith to graduation. Those four players combined for 246 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Not including the 56-36 season-opening loss to Sunnyvale High School, the Jaguars allowed 29 points per game. That was also without finishing in the top 25 in passing, rushing or scoring defense.
On a football battlefield that contains a defensively-sound Alvarado High School, an always-dangerous Carrolton Ranchview High School and an emerging offensive power in Wilmer-Hutchins High School, the play of both Sanders' defense and Ledbetter's offense may play heavy into how the final standings of District 6-4A appear.
So may the emergence of new weapons at the disposal of Head Coach Lee Wiginton and his incoming junior quarterback — including Dre Washington, a former defensive stalwart-turned-two-way offensive impact.
"I know Jay Wilkerson is going to be something special," Ledbetter said. "The way he works is incredible and the connection we have developed the past summer and through 7-on-7 play gives me confidence throwing his way. I believe Raja [Banks] will step up in a leadership position on the offense and have an important role this year and Dre was this absolutely ridiculous this summer. I can throw it up his way and not doubt for a second that he will come down with it."
After Midlothian Heritage's loss to Sunnyvale in its first year of varsity play last season, it rolled to 11 consecutive victories and the regional semifinals of the University Interscholastic League playoffs.
A win against Sunnyvale, a team that went 11-1 overall in 2016, may be the boost the Jaguars need to lift themselves to state championship prominence.
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI