Whereas some coaches might look at losing half of their starting lineup with concern, Kirby Rasco remains confident at North Central Texas Academy.
Basically, because the three returning starters he has back on offense are among the best players in Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools six-man football.
In fact, two of the starters, senior tailback/linebacker Elias Fekadu and junior wide receiver Cole Rasco, were all-state last season.
The third returner, senior offensive/defensive lineman Cale Dodson, was all-district in one of the toughest districts in the state.
“I think we’re going to be just fine,” said Rasco, who is entering his second season coaching the Pioneers. He led them to a 10-2 record in 2012 after posting the same record the year before at Brownwood Victory Life.
Without question, however, the Pioneers will be tested from the outset of the season. Coach Rasco has put together one of the toughest, if not THE toughest in school history.
It starts with them taking on one of the historic public school six-man programs – on the road. They open at perennial power Zephyr, the first of three straight road games that include trips to public school Blum and private school Mineral Wells Community Christian. Their first home game is against Lingleville, a public school, on Sept. 27.
They also have a game against Harrold, another public school, at a site to be determined.
“If we can stay healthy through the predistrict, we’ll certainly be well-prepared for district,” said coach Rasco.
Fekadu caught 31 passes for 640 yards and 13 touchdowns playing center last season. He also posted 103 tackles with five sacks on defense.
Fekadu’s speed and power prompted the move to tailback, said Rasco.
“He’s got speed, and he can ground and pound the ball,” Rasco said.
Junior Tyler Hoskins will also see ample time in the backfield at running back, alongside Fekadu, said Rasco.
“We’ve got to get the ball in Elias’ hands and Tyler’s hands,” said Rasco. “One’s going to run over you (Fekadu), and one’s going to outrun you (Hoskins).”
Cole Rasco touched the ball 14 times last season – 13 resulted in a touchdown.
“We have to make sure we get him the ball a lot this season,” said coach Rasco. “He’s got sped, which helps, and he got in the weight room a lot this summer.
“I had 12 kids in the weight room regularly this summer. This is a hard-working group of kids.”
Rasco also posted four interceptions on defense.
The Pioneers roster will include 16 on the varsity, coach Rasco said. One of the question marks, however, is at quarterback.
Make that WAS at quarterback. Junior Jared Dodson, the backup last season, has been impressive in scrimmages, said the coach.
“He’s probably the best all-around athlete we have. He probably doesn’t know how good he is,” said coach Rasco.
Sophomore fullback/defensive lineman Matt Torres is another viable weapon on both offense and defense. In his first game last season as a freshman he posted 10 tackles.
“It looks like he’s going to pick up where he left off,” said coach Rasco.
“We were concerned after losing our entire backfield, but not now.”
In coach Rasco’s offense, the center is also consistently one of the top receivers. Dodson will factor into that equation this season.
“When we run the spread, Cale will be our center,” coach Rasco said.
The Pioneers offense was among the most explosive around a year ago. While he expects them to again be able to score a lot of points, coach Rasco is hoping they don’t find themselves having to win many shootouts.
Defensively, coach Rasco said quite simply the Pioneers will be more solid. He brought in Derek Stevens, formerly the head coach at Sidney, as coordinator.
“We’re not going to talk trash or anything, but we’re definitely going to be confident,” said coach Rasco.
“He’s got a lot of knowledge, and any time you can get a head coach from a public school, that’s a catch.”
In TAPPS District 2 play, the Pioneers will have their two toughest foes at home, Wichita Falls Notre Dame and Brownwood Victory Life.
“That’s a nice luck of the draw on the district schedule,” said coach Rasco.
“We’re going into a very tough season, but I’m confident we’re going to come out of it in good shape.”
The past two seasons the Pioneers’ have had their season come to an end against the state champions, last season to Seguin Lifegate and the year before in the state championship game against Fredericksburg Heritage.
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Date Opponent Time
Aug. 31 Bulldog Bonanza at Zephyr 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Blum 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 at MW Comm. Christ. 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 Lingleville 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 4 vs. Harrold (site TBD) TBD
*Oct. 11 WF Notre Dame 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 Dallas Fairhill (HC) 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 25 at Wichita Christ. 7:30 p.m.
*Nov. 1 FW Covenant Classical 7:30 p.m.
*Nov. 8 Brownwood Victory Life 7:30 p.m.
* = TAPPS Six-Man Division II District 2 game