Indians reaching for new heights in ’19

Jourdanton’s Jarel Lilly stretches for a pass just out of his reach at the Indians’ opening practice of 2019. Sam Fowler | Pleasanton Express Photo

It’s been eight years since the Jourdanton Indians football team has brought home a district championship. With 18 of their 22 starters back from last year’s 9-3 run, they’re hopeful they can end that drought this year.

This group of juniors and seniors have been to the playoffs the last three years and will hope to make it four in a row come November.

“These kids have been in the playoffs three years in a row now, going on four,” head coach Darrell Andrus said. “I don’t wanna say that’s a guarantee, but that’s an expectation. That’s what they want, then pushing for that district championship that hasn’t happened in a while, pushing for that deep playoff run. Those type of things. I see our experience, our will to win being at an all-time high. I hope that translates to victories, but we’ll see.”

The focus will be on the Indians’ offense — they return their entire offense from a year ago. That experience and the UIL’s new summer workout rule helped the first day of practice on Monday run smoothly in head coach Darrell Andrus’ eyes.

“It was a good day one,” coach Andrus said. “I really think the UIL allowing us to practice some in the summer, getting our skills and some kids up here all summer really helped. It didn’t feel like a day one at all. The kids had a great summer too, conditioning. Most of them held up pretty good. … We didn’t have to knock off a lot of rust, but I’m sure we’ve still got a ways to go like everybody.”

Most of the reason for that was the knowledge the team had from last year with a large returning group that includes 40 returning lettermen.

“I feel our experience level is way higher than last year,” junior quarterback Cole Andrus said. “We came in today remembering all our plays and basically going off last year.”

Heading up Jourdanton’s star-studded offense will be QB Andrus. Heading into his third year on varsity, the gunslinger says he’s worked on becoming more of a dual-threat rather than just a pocket QB this summer. Last season, he rushed for 350 yards.

He feels adding that weapon to his arsenal can take Jourdanton’s offense to a new level.

“I’ve been working on my speed to excel as a dual-threat,” the 6-foot-2 QB said. “I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit faster this year. My pocket awareness has been what’s really helped me. I’ve been able to step around in the pocket. Now I should be able to roll out of the pocket.”

The talented junior also has his receivers — and offensive line — to thank for his success on the field. Most of them have been playing together since they were in the sixth grade.

That means there’s a chemistry between the group that lets them know what the other is thinking almost before they think it themselves.

“We’ve had that chemistry ever since we’ve been on the field,” said junior receiver Jarel Lilly, who began playing with Cole in fifth grade. “I think it’s a big advantage for our whole team with him throwing balls in the right spot where they need to be.”

Lilly held three team-highs with 52 catches for 1,009 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2018.

Andrus said there were roughly 100 players out on the opening day of practice. With the defense hollering during pre-practice warmups, the players seemingly forgot about the sweltering humidity.

“There’s nothing better than having 100 kids out here that wanna be here and wanna play football,” the sixth-year head coach said. “You have to have a high passion for this game to not let the monotony, to not let the routine take its toll on you. The defensive coaches do a great job of getting them energized and finding ways to keep them engaged during these long (practices).”

The Indians scrimmage Corpus Christi Carroll on Aug. 17 and George West on Aug. 22 before opening the season at home on Aug. 30 against Poteet.

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