Five Austin-area high school football teams to watch as summer workouts kick off

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Defending state finalists LBJ take the field for 2022’s first practice

Head coach Jahmal Fenner said that he expects up to 85 players in his program by the time school starts in two weeks.

Thomas Jones, Austin American-Statesman

Summer football workouts began this week for any school that did not compete in spring football. That includes all schools below Class 5A, which are not allowed to participate in spring football because of UIL regulations meant to support multi-sport athletes common to smaller schools. Many area schools in classes 6A and 5A did not conduct spring football, either, including every program in the Austin school district as well as several schools with new head coaches. In addition to defending Class 4A Division I state finalist LBJ, here are five teams to watch in this opening week of high school football practice.

More:As football camp begins, LBJ ready to build on success

Anderson: Veteran squad seeks surprises

The Trojans return to a loaded Class 6A district that also includes Westlake, Lake Travis, Dripping Springs and Bowie, but they have the look of a dangerous dark horse. New head coach Donald Hatcher understands the landscape after coaching in the district years ago, and he welcomes back a veteran squad that has almost 30 returning players, including senior stars such as quarterback Fred Dale, linebacker IV Webb and athlete Cole Canaday.  

Hendrickson: Entering a new era

It’s a new era for the Pflugerville school, which is replacing former head coach Chip Killian, who led the Hawks to 11 consecutive playoff appearances from 2008-19. The opening of nearby Weiss in 2017 drained Hendrickson of some students, and the Hawks have just a 22-19 record since Weiss began playing football in 2018. Can new head coach Doug Pearce — the former offensive coordinator and former head baseball coach — rejuvenate the Class 5A DI program?

More:Are athletic improvements coming to Austin school district?

Glenn: Grizz ready to roar

A year ago, the Grizzlies turned to the slot-T offense just before the start of the regular season after Brandon Krauskopf took over as head coach. Glenn got better as the season wore on while winning five of its final seven games, with the two losses coming by three points to eventual district champion Rouse and in overtime to first-round payoff foe McCallum. A full offseason and full summer of workouts could help the slot-T hit the ground running, especially budding star running back DJ Dugar.

Liberty Hill: Reloading and rebuilding

Everyone in the state knows about the Panthers’ explosive slot-T offense, which generated almost 370 yards rushing a game last season and helped the team to the Class 5A Division II title game, where the team lost to South Oak Cliff. Offense isn’t a concern for a squad that welcomes back 1,000-yard rushers in Noah Long and Joe Pitchford. But can head coach Kent Walker lean on his extensive defensive background to rebuild a defense that lost eight defensive starters? This week will start to answer that key question.

More:Which high schools top the rankings of the Austin area’s athletic programs?

Wimberley: A quarterback quandary

Traditionally one of the most successful teams in the Austin area, the Class 4A DII Texans suffered a blow with the offseason loss of star quarterback Cash McCollum, who moved to China Spring. Finding a new signal-caller became an immediate priority for head coach Doug Warren and his staff, and the opening days of summer workouts will offer the first chance for someone to lay claim to the job. Senior Cayden Heatly is the only player on the roster to throw a pass on a Friday, but he’s also a valuable receiver.