Kempner expects to improve on its 2-7 record from last year.
All-district right guard Akinola Ogunbiyi, a 6-foot 5-inch, 315-pound junior, is extremely optimistic about the season and his enthusiasm may be infectious.
“I have a good feeling, a very good feeling about our season,” he said. “After a few practices, I have even a better feeling than I did coming in. Everybody has improved this year. We have a lot of sophomores on varsity this year, and hopefully they will step up. I think we are going to do good this year. Better than people are expecting us to do. That’s the best part about this is that the other teams have low expectations for us, but we are going to surprise everyone. Once we get that momentum going, we won’t be stopped. It just takes one play, and everybody starts playing better. It will be really fun.”
In the pass-happy District 20 6A, the Cougars are an anomaly. They run the flex bone offense, which means they will run the ball 85 percent of the time.
“I tell the officials before the game, that if we pass the ball more than eight times, they need to throw a flag on us,” Kempner head coach Darrin Andrus said. “In the flex bone, the quarterback and the full back are the key players. Jalen Bates is our quarterback this year. He played for us last year. He is looking good right now. Jordan Shelton is our fullback. He played a lot of defense for us last year and he ran the ball a little for us, so he has experience running the ball. He is a fast kid, runs a 4.5 40.”
The Cougars will be young this year.
“We have a lot of young guys and a lot of holes to fill but I think we can compete and win a few ball games,” Andrus said. “Our offensive line is led by Akinola Ogunbiyi. He is only a junior but has scholarship offers from everyone. He has a chance to be very good. Our defense is coming along. That is the place we need to fill the most holes. Brandon Roach is our middle linebacker, and Joel Hernandez is our nose guard. They both do a really good job for us.”
Roach had 59 tackles and two sacks last year, and he expects to improve on those numbers this year.
“I call the signals for the defense. When the offense comes to the line I just look for the flow, look at the guards, see where the ball is going and execute the plays,” Roach said. “We just need to execute this year.”
Ogunbiyi already has 10 scholarship offers from major Division 1 schools.
“I play right guard, but I can play both sides. I work out with the skill players to improve my footwork. If a guy my size can move with the skill guys, it is a big advantage,” Ogunbiyi said. “I don’t always block the same guy. One play it may be a lineman, the next might be a linebacker or safety. I interact with a lot of the defensive players. I love to pull. That’s probably one of my favorite plays in our offense. I love to pull because nobody expects a guy my size to be coming around the corner, and then I just bust heads.”
Week 1: @ Pasadena Memorial
Week 2: Alvin
Week 3: Hastings
Week 4: Open
Week 5: @ Ridge Point
Week 6: Bush
Week 7: @ Elkins
Week 8: Dulles
Week 9: @ Austin
Week 10: Travis
Week 11: @ Clements