Booker T. Washington made incremental strides last season, but second-year head coach Phillip Kent knows work remains in order for the Eagles to return to winning ways.
In Kent’s first season at the helm, the Eagles made the postseason despite a 3-7 regular-season mark and 2-3 record in District 11-4A action before falling to Giddings in the first round of the UIL playoffs.
Taking over for former coach Russell Austin necessitated a waiting period as Kent sought out how to best turn the program around.
“The first year was an observation year for me, trying to come in and find out what the expectations are for this program with the limited resources that we have,” he said. “We have to complement the defense – defense was in the right place, but the offense would struggle, and time management was out of control.”
The Eagles have pared down their offensive style from a spread offense to more traditional sets to help a unit Kent said did yeoman’s work in 2018 despite a tough draw that often saw the team down big at halftime.
“It’s hard to tell your kids anything in the locker room (when you’re down that big),” he said. “We’re focusing on adjusting the offense and maintaining what we did defensively. We’re really just scrapping the offense from last season.”
Kent, a former college player at Baylor, related the attempted change to one he saw against Rice in the old Southwest Conference, an approach he’s attempting on 39th Street.
“You need to develop the kids, but also be able to integrate them into the system you’re running so they can maximize their talent,” he said.
Hoping to help key a winning season for the first time since 2011 are players such as senior linemen Tramaine Lemon – transitioning from center to right tackle — and Lavar English. In the backfield, seniors Marletto Johnson and Bobby Betts return as the Eagles’ featured ball-carriers.
On defense, defensive end Cordale Blacklock returns after suffering a season-ending injury early in 2018. Also back is senior cornerback Brandon Utley.
“We’ve got a good group of returning guys who can help us turn this thing around and put the whole package together,” Kent said. “I feel like the transition is going to be pretty smooth, but difficult, because we’re still missing some key components in making sure everything works right.
“It’s going to be a little rough process for us at first,” he added, “but we’ll have a better chance to be in these games.”