TYLER, Texas (KETK) – When the COVID-19 shutdown hit the Texas high school sports world, the John Tyler Lions were hard at work preparing for spring practice, hoping to right the ship from what they saw as a disappointing 2019 season.
Now that they are back together for strength and conditioning workouts, they are hitting the ground running.
“I need 100-percent everything you got. We gonna give you time to hydrate, we gonna give you time to rest. But when it’s time to work, it’s time to work,” said ninth-year JT head football coach Ricklan Holmes.
“We gotta start off hot. Keep the tempo as hard as we can go. And make sure everybody it fighting as hard as they can,” said Lions junior quarterback Eli Sanchez.
Holmes wants to make sure to reacclimate his bunch and build their endurance first. But the biggest key now, is it’s in person.
“The things that we’re preaching to them. They are not hearing it via a T-V screen anymore. So now we’re in their face, we’re making sure they are doing what they need to do. Motivation is lot for yourself. But it helps you when you have others pushing you too,” said Holmes.
“It feels a lot different from what we had to do on our own to what we are doing with the team. A lot more intensity. We just gotta get back in shape, get used to it,” said CUJO senior safety Travion Ates.
The Lions had a very young team last season as holmes was forced to play a number of sophomores. Even though they still made the playoffs, they only won three games all year.
“Looking forward to this season, that’s a great thing. But last season wasn’t so good. But now that you’ve got those guys that grew up a little bit more. They understand the game a lot more, better than they did as sophomores. Now they are juniors, and those juniors are now seniors, we are gonna be way stronger than we were last year,” said Holmes.
“We just gotta encourage each other. Even the followers gotta encourage the leaders,” said Ates.
One of those tenth-graders was Sanchez, who started two games late during district play.
With 2019 starter, Cameron Ford having transferred to Chapel Hill, Sanchez is now the front-runner for the starting job behind center.
“Eli’s been in the fire. He’s played, he’s started those two games for John Tyler high school. He’s went up against some great football teams, and done some great things for us. His development is gonna continue to grow. And I can’t wait to see how he gets after we are able to put on football pads again,” said Holmes.
“Pretty comfortable. I know my teammates gonna have my back, I got theirs. Lot of crucial times that I had to go through as a sophomore, been able to learn and hopefully be able to right them in my junior year. I’m not where I wanna be potentially. And I gotta work for everything. Nothing comes easy,” said Sanchez.
Defensively, CUJO will look to an experienced next level prospect in Ates who will also play receiver.
“He’s gonna be the guy back there who’s gonna be calling the shots. And we gonna put a lot of stress on him to make sure that stuff goes right back there. You know, he’s a veteran. He’s a three-year varsity guy now. So his senior year is gonna be his best year,” said Holmes.
The UIL announced they will ease some of the COVID-19 restrictions beginning on June 22nd.
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