Perhaps more than any other team in the Cross Timbers area, the Dublin Lions are ecstatic to begin the 2007 football season.
Thatís because no team saw their 2006 campaign end more disappointingly than DHS.
Dublin was left on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, as Grandview, Hico and Itasca all advanced to the post season. The Lions qualified by all normal measures. They tied for second with Itasca and Hico, only to see their playoff dreams come crashing down thanks to tiebreaking statistics.
The Lionsí are back, hoping to use last yearís disappointment as fuel for a playoff run this fall.
Dublin starts the regular season with a non-district battle tonight against Clifton, a team the Lions outlasted last year in a defensive battle, 8-0. Game time in Dublin is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Cubs went on to finish the season with a 3-7 mark, going 2-3 in District 21-2A.They have nine starters returning, one less than the Lions.
Clifton has traditionally had the advantage over their competition in the size department, regularly fielding linemen with weight hovering around the 300-pound mark. Dublin Head Football Coach Dwayne Ross says that wonít be the case this fall.
"Theyíre not as big as they have been in the past," Ross said. "But, they still have decent size."
Ross says the Cubs arenít as fast as last yearís team either. To attempt to cover up for the teamís decline in size and speed, Clifton Coach Curtis Goforth and his staff have shaken up the mental aspect of preparing to face the Cubs.
"Theyíre a lot more multiple than they have been," Ross said. "They will still line-up and use their power running game, but they spread it out a little, too."
Bradley Calderon is expected to lead Clifton. He will start at both running back and defensive end. He recorded 14 sacks from post on the defensive line in 2006.
Cliftonís biggest strength is expected to be its defense. Joining Calderon is LB Logan Poston, who recorded 77 tackles last fall.
The Cubs may rotate quarterbacks in the opener. Taylor Tims returns, but Coach Goforthís son, Dylan, a sophomore, will see plenty of snaps, as well.
For Dublin, the Lions will operate with DeWayne Keith under center. The converted wide receiver launched six touchdown strikes in two scrimmages, establishing Derek Reeder and Aaron Teague as his favorite targets. Explosive Wesley Leyendekker rolled his ankle in Dublinís final scrimmage, but Ross expects him to play without much difficulty.
On the offensive line, returning leader Junior Garcia is a question mark at guard. Ross said Garcia was unable to practice this week and may not play Friday. A final decision concerning his status is not expected until game time.
Itís been a long off season in the Dublin camp, with everyone trying to swallow the bitterness of just missing the 2006 playoffs.
Tonight is their chance to put that behind them, as the sun that set so darkly last fall, rises on a new season.