CHINA SPRING, Texas (KWTX) Even though the China Spring Cougars went through a transition in 2018, they did just enough to make the playoffs and earn a victory in the postseason.
Year one of the Brian Bell era featured just one win in the district schedule, but because there were only five teams in 5-4A, the Cougars' lone district win over Brownwood ended up helping them in a three-way tie for third place.
If it wasn't for the 2,117 yards and 26 touchdowns from senior running back Erik Hart, China Spring might have finished the regular season with its first losing record since 2011.
The Cougars will have to replace Hart, who signed with Northwestern State.
Two-way player K.J. Peoples will be relied on once again after making 73 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. Quarterback Brayden Faulkner was thrown into the fire as a freshman and held his own, tossing 12 touchdowns and surpassing 1,900 yards.
Whoever becomes China Spring's ultimate playmaker, that offensive line in front of them has shown commitment to improving communication over the summer, should keep them contenders in 2019.
"Last year we struggled with that, not really knowing what our assignments were," senior Nick Tibbs said. "This year, we're really focusing on being vocal and communicating to one another even in the backfield making sure we know what our job is."
Other players to keep an eye on are senior wide receiver Jacob Kuligowski, junior wide receiver Jordan Nevarez and junior running back Emmanuel Abdallah.
"Offensively, we just want to establish the run game and not turn the ball over," Bell said. "Defensively, get takeaways and stop the run. I think that's what it comes down to. We really try to take pride in that, and that's our mindset."
China Spring will open the season at home against Lorena, who ended the Cougars' four-game win streak in the series last season with a 35-21 victory.
"You know they're going to be well-coached week one," Bell said. "We have our work cut out for us this year but they always do a good job, so we have to be ready to play."