The Granbury Pirates enter this football season with a share of history on their minds.
In the program’s 10 playoff appearances since 1958, only once have they reached the postseason in four consecutive seasons.
That distinction belongs to the 1965-68 squads.
But if this season’s Pirate team does as most prognosticators think and returns to the playoffs, it will also be a fourth straight time.
The optimism is certainly understandable. The Pirates appear to have their strongest team under head coach Scotty Pugh, who is entering his sixth season, the most by a Pirate coach since Gerald Hayworth from 1973-78.
Last season’s 7-4 team posted the most victories since 1998. It featured 17 sophomores and 20 juniors.
Almost every starter from that team is returning, along with several others who started part-time.
Pugh still gives the nod as District 7-4A favorite to perennial power Aledo, which enters the season ranked third in the state. However, he’s conceding nothing on the field.
“Without a doubt Aledo has earned the respect and distinction of being the top dog,” said Pugh. “But it’s going to be a battle to see who all does wind up in the playoffs.
“I think they’ll be a lot of parody in the district.”
Along with his own team, which finished third last season, Pugh noted that runner-up Southwest will again be strong. He also looks for improvement from Arlington Heights.
Quarterback Ryan Suitt, now a junior, was the Offensive Newcomer of the Year in District 7-4A last season after throwing for more than 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns. He certainly has no lack of quality receivers, led by juniors Nick Doughty (31 catches, 470 yards, second-team all-district) and Thomas Weaver, along with senior Skylar Baskin (honorable mention all-district).
Carrying the ball out of the backfield will be several folks, Pugh said. The list will include junior Jacob Rose, sophomore Payton Gilmore, junior Travis Donahue and sophomore Eugene Geist.
“It’s going to be by committee,” said Pugh.
“We’ll have a lot of fresh legs, and that’ll be good.”
The offensive line will feature three returning seniors, tackle Ian McMasters (honorable mention all-district), guard Alex Brown (honorable mention all-district) and center Garrett King (second-team all-district). McMasters stands 6-3 and weighs 290, while King is 6-2, 250.
“I feel really good about the core of our line,” said Pugh. “We won’t be huge, but we’ll be a little more athletic.”
As in years past, the Pirates will operate mostly out of a spread offense, using a tight end sparingly. When they do, Weaver and junior Mitchell May are most likely to move into that slot.
“It goes back to that consistency,” said Pugh about the spread offense. “Our kids like it and understand the concept.”
The Pirates surrendered over 350 yards a game (over 200 rushing), but they also forced 23 turnovers (15 fumbles, 8 interceptions).
And they will only get better, Pugh said.
“We have three and a half guys who started for us in the secondary, and we feel really strong in that area,” he said.
Topping that list is senior Kevin Hennard. After taking a couple of seasons off to concentrate on basketball, he returned and earned first-team all-district accolades.
Hennard will move to safety this season so the Pirates can take full advantage of his speed.
“We felt like because of Hennard’s speed – he’s just so stinkin’ fast – he’ll be able to cover a lot of ground there,” said Pugh. “And he’s so versatile, he can play just about any place we put him.”
Also returning in the defensive backfield are juniors Evan Sledge (honorable mention all-district) and Taylor Petty (honorable mention all-district), along with sophomore Landon Gray.
Likewise, the linebacking corps looks solid, with senior Dakota Doucet (second-team all-district) and juniors Colton McDonald and Cody Odom leading the way. Also, senior Dirk Glenn has joined the team after focusing on baseball in previous years.
“As of now he’s won a starting spot,” said Pugh of Glenn. “He looks real good.”
The defensive line, like the offensive line, isn’t large by a lot of standards, but Pugh also likes their athleticism. The biggest player is senior Tristen Gilmore (second-team all-district), whom Pugh lists at 6-2, 225 pounds.
Also back are Brown, who could see double-duty on both lines, along with juniors Landon Lambert and Chase Shipman.
Pugh smiles when the subject of special teams is brought up because he knows the Pirates have perhaps the best kicker in Jacob Rose and one of the top kick returners anywhere in Hennard.
Rose was perfect kicking last season. He made all 40 of his extra-point attempts and was 5-for-5 kicking field goals, with a long kick of 44 yards, earning first-team all-district honors.
Hennard, meanwhile, is always a threat for a long return. Along with his aforementioned speed, he has great field vision.
Rose will also take over punting duties this season.
“He’s such a weapon,” Pugh said of Rose. “We’re so excited to have him back. It’s invaluable what he does kicking.
“And he looks great punting. He has such a strong leg, unbelievably strong.”
This is the first group of seniors to have been in Pugh’s system since the seventh grade, having known no other style since they started in junior high.
“That’s so important,” said Pugh. “They come up to us already knowing the things we do and how to do them.”
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Date Opponent Time
Aug. 29 at Wichita Falls High 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 FW North Side 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Mansfield Lake Ridge 7:30 p.m.
*Sept. 27 x-at FW South Hills 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 4 FW Wyatt (HC) 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 11 y-at FW Western Hills 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 18 FW Southwest 7:30 p.m.
*Oct. 25 y-at FW Trimble Tech 7:30 p.m.
*Nov. 1 at Aledo 7:30 p.m.
*Nov. 8 FW Arlington Heights 7:30 p.m.
* = District 7-4A game
x = at Handley Field
y = at Farrington Field