By Larry Lamb
CROCKETT — The Crockett Bulldogs' battle cry for their 2022 campaign is "Lock In."
Head coach Alton Dixon explained, "It means to be focused on what you're doing every day. We're going to be locked in this season and be the best that we can be."
The Bulldogs didn't garner much respect in the district predictions compiled by Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine, which picked them to finish sixth out of seven teams in District 9-3A DI.
Diboll is the projected champion, followed by Woodville, Coldspring-Oakhurst, Shepherd, Palestine Westwood, Crockett and Huntington.
Dixon thinks the Bulldogs should have been placed higher on the list.
"I think we were slighted. God bless anybody who feels differently. We control what we do. As my friend who coaches in Houston always says, 'It's really us versus us.' That's the way you have to view it. What we can control is Monday to Saturday. The work we put in during practice and the work that we display on Friday night. We're going to focus on the things we have to, which is ourselves," said Dixon.
Woodville and Shepherd replaced Trinity and Elkhart in Crockett's district.
"This district is going to be more physical with some really good coaches and really good programs," said Dixon. "The reason for our preconference schedule with strong opponents such as Marlin is to prepare us for a district such as this."
The Bulldogs came up with their own motivational tool. On photo day, some of the players posed with a sledge hammer to symbolize their hard work. "We want to out-work everybody else," said Dixon.
Starting his second season with the Bulldogs, Dixon said, "The kids have bought into the program. We started laying the foundation last year. It's not fully completed but now we're putting in beams and we have the structure that we want. The kids know our expectation and accept how we do things."
Dixon regrets that the Bulldogs' second scrimmage with Malakoff had to be cancelled due to lightning. "We missed out on having a play clock or running clock. We missed having flags thrown for penalties, so we'll have to work through that this week."
Crockett's 28-player varsity roster includes 12 seniors, seven juniors, eight sophomores and one freshman.
Five starters return on both sides of the ball and senior all-district quarterback Jadyn Collins is back to run the offense.
"We have good leadership with guys who have played on Friday nights so we've got good experience as a whole," said Dixon.
"We're somewhat undersized but we've got length and we've got speed, the things Crockett has always been known for. We've got good, solid team speed. We always talk about doing things fast, swarming the football and creating explosive plays with our speed. We want to get our kids in open space and get in one-on-one match-ups to utilize our speed," added Dixon. "We just have to be physical, fast and know what we're doing."
Dixon said the Bulldogs will continue running a spread offense with a one or two-back set.
"The biggest thing is our execution has improved and our football IQ has risen. The kids understand and when kids understand, they play faster," Dixon said.
"We're going to be very simple and very vanilla. We're just going to go out and play football the way it was meant to be played."
Probable starters are:
Quarterback - Jadyn Collins (returning)
Wide Receivers - Dylan Porter, Kaylan Kalra and Ajani Ellis
Slot Receiver - Devin Bedford
Guards - Jim Carruthers (returning) and Blake Jones (returning)
Center -Elijah Taylor (returning)
Tackles - Tristen McGraw (returning) and Courtney Byrd
Running back - Tywoin Delane
H-Backs - Bryson Burton and Corey Simon
Ends - Jim Carruthers (returning) and Tristen McGraw (returning)
Tackles - Courtney Byrd (returning) and Blake Jones
Linebacker - Bryson Burton (returning), Zandric Anderson, Tywoin Delane and Jonathan Lockhart
Safeties - Dylan Porter (returning) and Corey Simon
Cornerbacks - Ajani Ellis and Jahkeim McKnight
Sharing duties kicking and punting duties will be Nathan Morales, Ryan Arvizu and Angel Castillo.
After this week, the Bulldogs will play their next two games on the road against Rusk (Sept. 2) and Buna (Sept. 9). They close out non-district at home with Groesbeck and kick off district Sept. 23 at Shepherd.