The recently-graduated senior class of Bulldogs laid a foundation that helped the football program thrive over the past three seasons. While coach Craig Smith had to say goodbye to his 17 seniors, it’s not as if the outlook is gloomy leading into the first fall practice on Aug. 7.
The Bulldogs are counting on a veteran group of returning players and a host of new faces to put Hitchcock into the postseason a fourth straight season. Coming off a 7-4 season that ended surprisingly in an overtime loss to Buna in the Class 3A, Division I, Region III, bi-district round, Smith feels that this version of Bulldogs is more than capable of going beyond one and done come this November.
“We feel good about things going into the season,” said Smith. “We’ve had a good offseason and the kids have done well in 7on7 play, as we have qualified for the state tournament in College Station next month. We’ve got some things we have to work on, but we also have a lot that we feel strong about as well.”
Hitchcock’s strength is in its defensive front seven, where the Bulldogs bring back a host of veteran experience. The group is anchored by senior defensive lineman John Scott, who verbally committed to Texas Tech on Sunday. State champion powerlifter Xavian Hampton, who earned all-district honors as a fullback last season, is expected to see more time up front, where his 242-pound frame will be an added presence. Junior lineman Elijah Mason is a 270-pounder who has started each of the past two years, while linebacker Linje Ramey has led the Bulldogs in tackles the last two campaigns.
The defense will be asked to carry things while the offense finds a quarterback to replace the departed Michael Parker. Randy Williams has been impressive while leading Hitchcock’s 7on7 team, while Pacey Jones saw time on varsity as a freshman and played in the postseason loss to Buna.
“We’re not sure what we have with them, but I feel we’ll be OK,” said Smith. “The beauty of running the slot-T offense is that it’s designed to replace players without losing much.”
Rather than put the onus on just one back, Smith is looking at using a running back by committee in order to take advantage of the depth challenges the Bulldogs will face. Hampton will see time, but if there is a back that can be called the lead runner, it would be senior Drevian Archibald.
“He’s a special talent,” Smith said of Archibald. “He did a lot of great things for us last year and I think he’s got a great chance to have a big year.”
The Bulldogs will still be in the hunt to defend their District 12-3A-I crown and will get La Marque, the team that handed them their only district setback in the regular season finale, at home on Nov. 4. The Cougars aren’t the only barrier facing Hitchcock, as the district will be stronger than it was last season.
“Our biggest challenge may lie in going to Hempstead,” said Smith. “It’s a long road trip and it’s a tough place to play at. They may be the most athletic team in the district. East Chambers has a lot of great athletes, but we’re certainly looking forward to playing La Marque at home. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pack our stands like they did last year.”
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of early looks at the 2017 season for Galveston County football teams