Now that itís finally here, is there really any difference in the way you approach a season of football in 3A compared to 4A?

I donít think so. Like always, thereís a great deal of anticipation just because itís the start of a new season and a lot of people are expecting big things out of our kids. But weíre used to that, whether itís 3A or 4A. The big difference for me going into it is I felt like I knew all the 4A schools in our area pretty much backwards and forwards, so now Iím trying to learn about all the 3A schools around here. But we have some good coaches on our staff who have spent some time at that level, so we know what weíre walking into. Weíve been a small dog in a big hunt for a while. Now, weíre a big dog, and itís still a big hunt.

How many kids are you expecting out this fall?

I always try to think optimistically and say we have a shot at 200, and thatís possible, but in reality, weíre probably looking at being in the 180s. Those are pretty good numbers for 4A, so I hope and expect that weíll have one of the highest totals out there in 3A.

A lot of people believe you may have the most versatile group of offensive skill players youíve had since becoming head coach. What makes that group so special?

Well they are all very talented football players, but the big thing with that group is chemistry. They all get along great, theyíre all great leaders and they work well together. You could see that in 7-on-7, and it was a big reason those guys were so successful this summer. Chemistry is one of those big intangibles you must have to be successful, and we know that we have that with those guys, and that gives us something positive to build on.

You have so many guys you can look to for leadership. Tell us about some of them and the roles they play for your team.

It all starts at quarterback with Tyler Jones. We all know how big that position is, especially when youíre a Stephenville QB with all the tradition weíre blessed to have at that spot on the field. Tyler is the epitome of what we believe a Stephenville QB should stand for, whether itís on the field, in the classroom or at church. He does whatís right and he leads others down the same positive path. Then right by him in the backfield you have Witt Westbrook, our bell cow and spiritual leader. Wittís the guy you want to take into a dark alley with you because you have to kill him to beat him. Also on offense, I think guys like Brice Gunter and Alex Sanchez with their experience will be good leaders for us, and then you have Jarrett Stidham, whose just a sophomore but has fit right in with those guys and just seems to be such a natural leader.

On defense, we have Chase Varnado back and heís a great leader, and then you look at guys like Jonah Noah at defensive end and Preston Brown and Mookie Carlile in the secondary and what they bring to the table. Sam Macklin is new to us, but heís a big vocal leader, someone who can get guys fired up around him. I know thatís a lot of names, but weíre just blessed to have a lot of good leaders on our football team and that should be a big plus for us this season.

Who are some of the guys fans donít know now, but will be quite familiar with after a few games?

We mentioned Jarrett Stidham on offense and Sam Macklin on defense, but B.J. Walker and Brock Morrison are guys I think will open peopleís eyes offensively. I know the offensive line guys donít get as much attention, but I believe Raul Rocha will be a great offensive tackle for us, and we have a lot of confidence in guys like Tyler Fergason and Nick Pack up front, as well. Defensively, Tyler Pettit moved up to the varsity last year as a receiver, but now heís playing corner and we feel like heíll do a great job. You have Tyler Isham and Logan Levisay at linebacker, and we already mentioned Sam Macklin. Up front, we have Kody Hook, and heís certainly not new to the varsity, but he missed the start of last year with an illness that slowed him down. I really think a lot of people are going to be talking about Kody and what he can do at the nose.

What are your thoughts concerning the new District 7-3A?

It starts with Glen Rose, and of course I have a close personal relationship with (Glen Rose head coach and former Stephenville assistant) Tommy Dunn. Heís a guy I have a lot of respect for, and I know heíll have his team up to the challenge and ready for us. The same thing kind of goes for Alvarado. (Head coach) Jeff Dixon had a lot of success as a coordinator down at Katy before he went to Alvarado, and heís building a very successful program. I know they lost a lot after going to the state championship game last year, but Coach Dixon is a program guy, not a one-year guy, so I know theyíll be strong again. Hillsboro has a lot of talent and can get on you if you let them, and Venus is going to come with some size and really try to get after you.

Fill in the blank...Stephenville makes a run at a state title if______________.

First of all, we have to stay healthy. Then we have to gel at the right time, meaning somewhere between week eight and week 10. To do that, we have to get better each week. We donít have to look like state champs against Monterrey Tec, and we donít have to look like state champs against Amarillo, but by week eight, week nine, week 10, we need to be gelling and be ready for the playoffs. The way we do that is by getting better each week. It doesnít even have to be a lot better, just progressive steps in the right direction each week. Finally, you have to get good breaks. I donít say that because I think we need luck, but because I believe you create your own luck and your own breaks with the way you play. But if we can stay healthy, get better week to week and if the ball bounces our way, we believe we have the opportunity to contend for the state title.

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports