Editor's note: This story will appear in the 2018 Football Preview, coming out Thursday.
The Alex Longhorns have been gearing up for the start of the 2018 football season, set to begin on Aug. 31 against Laverne at 7:30 p.m.
Alex — ranked 11th in Class B by VYPE Oklahoma — is set to return several key players from last year’s squad that advanced to the Class B quarterfinals.
The Longhorns made their run through the playoffs with two home games, despite finishing fourth in their district.
One of the reasons for having high expectations is the return of the starting quarterback, Kooper Boatwright.
“We got our senior quarterback — Kooper Boatwright — coming back. He’s started for three seasons now. (We are) looking for him to do big things for us this year,” head coach Matt Brand said.
Boatwright was named a top-100 player by VYPE. He was also named to the Class B All-VYPE team as an athlete.
Another player set to return for the Longhorns is Tatton Anderson, who put up big numbers as a freshman in 2017. Anderson reached the 1,900-yard rushing mark last season. According to Brand, Anderson has managed to put on some weight heading into his sophomore season.
“He has put on about 20 pounds and looks really good,” Brand said. “We think he’s going to have a big season as well.”
Brand added that the offensive line up front will be led by junior Jon Fitzsimmons, and the Longhorns have added players who did not play last season. They will also help the Longhorn attack.
“We got a couple new kids who didn’t play last year … Nik Venable and Brycen Otey,” Brand said. “They really add some weapons to our offense.”
Defensively, Fitzsimmons will play an important role and has the ability to make an impact up front.
“Defensively, it all kind of starts up front with Jon,” Brand said. “He can basically shut down a whole side of the ball.”
The work ethic of the team during the summer has also helped boost expectations.
The team has been able to get faster and stronger over the summer months, and Brand is excited about what that means going forward.
“We think we have a chance to have a really good season,” he said.
The Longhorns’ non-district schedule will not be easy. Alex will face four teams who made the playoffs in 2017, as well as Destiny Christian.
Two of their non-district games are against traditional powers Laverne and Davenport. Laverne went 14-1 last season, falling to Shattuck in the state championship game.
Davenport has been able to build a streak of seasons with at least 10 wins.
When asked if the tough non-district schedule would help as the season goes along, Brand had one word.
“Absolutely,” he said.
His decision to schedule tough non-district opponents came in 2015.
The Longhorns won their first 11 games of the season in dominating fashion.
Alex ended up falling to Weleetka, and that was when Brand decided to toughen up the non-district schedule going forward.
“After that, I decided that our non-district schedule was going to be as tough as I could possibly get it,” he said.
Alex’s non-district schedule also features two other playoff teams in Central High and Empire.
Destiny Christian has played the Longhorns tough the past two seasons.
Alex won 2016’s matchup in overtime and won by four last season. District play for the Longhorns begins on Oct. 5 at Snyder.
The Longhorns do get defending district champion Carnegie at home this season.