Two years ago, Jance Morris was attending classes at Tarleton State University, just hoping to have a job when he graduated.

He found one, and has made the most of it.

Morris accepted the head boys basketball coaching job at Lingleville, and in just one season, turned around a program that for years played second fiddle to teams such as Huckabay and Lipan in the area Class A hoops scene.

The Cardinals pulled a double-whammy last year. Not only did they beat Huckabay for the first time in a decade, but they reached the state playoffs for the first time in 10 years, as well.

With a year of experience under his belt and three starters returning, Morris hopes the encore is even better this fall.

"The next step or goal, and this is something we set when we saw the (UIL) realignment, is to make the regional tournament," Morris said. "There are a lot of things that have to go right to reach that point, and there are some really good teams like Huckabay and Kopperl to go through, but that's our goal."

Morris began learning the Class A ropes while student-teaching under Huckabay head boys coach Dean Edwards. He had no idea the two would be coaching against one another in one of the oldest rivalries around.

"Dean is a good guy," Morris said. "It's fun to play against him and against Huckabay.

"They beat the dog out of us the first time we played them and I asked him how to bounce back from that and he gave me good advice," Morris continued. "Then we beat them the next time we played, and he gave me a big hug and told me he was proud of me. He's my mentor, no doubt about it."

Morris is hoping he won't need as much advice in his second season, as three starters return with hopes of leading the Cardinals back to the playoffs.

"We have three starters back and we're bringing in two freshmen who will help a lot," Morris said. "We also have a senior who didn't play last year. Two of those three guys will probably start for us."

Nery Suarez, a junior, is back after establishing a reputation as a long-range marksman last year.

"He stretches the floor because the defense always has to account for him wherever he's at," Morris said. "I feel like we could just put him somewhere out of the way and use him as a decoy because everyone pays a lot of attention to him."

Robert Van Kranenburg is only a freshman, but he has two tools rare in Class A basketball - he's six foot, two inches tall and he's left-handed.

"Robert's going to help us a lot and we have two other big guys," Morris said. "We should be alright down low."

Morris believes Lingleville's first football seasons in 43 years - which ended last week - will help the Cardinals' basketball team, especially when it comes to battling physical squads such as Zephyr, which eliminated them in the opening round of the playoffs this spring.

"We had our first practice (Saturday), and it was rough and intense," Morris said. "I had guys apologizing because they were realizing they aren't on the football field anymore. But that's okay. When we played Zephyr they were more physical and you could tell they were a football school. I think now we'll be able to match up better with that."

Morris will start analyzing just how his Cardinals match up to area teams when they open the season at Gorman on Nov. 16.

"Last year was fun but it was also a challenge," Morris said. "At first it was a struggle getting them to buy in to what we were trying to do, but once they did that they realized they could succeed and we rolled with it."

With everyone already buying in early this year, Morris and the Cardinals hope to roll all the way to regionals.