The Hightower Hurricanes have struggled to regain their swagger from 2015 – when they finished 10-1 – winning just 13 games during the last three seasons.
But behind a three-headed monster at tailback and a defense with multiple major-college commits, new head coach Joseph Sam believes the foundation is there to turn things around.
“I think the biggest thing is getting our kids to play with maximum effort and being able to respond in any given situation,” said Sam, a first-time head coach with previous stops at Mansfield Legacy and Mesquite Poteet. “That’s the missing piece when it comes to Hightower.”
There might be a different look to the Hurricanes this season as Sam said his staff has catered the offense to maximize its athleticism while staying true to his natural predication on physicality.
“I believe in being physical, being able to stop the run and run the football, but we do have athletic kids who we want to get the ball to in space and allow the playmakers to do what they do,” Sam said.
Starting up front, the Hurricanes’ offensive line is anchored by seniors Enrique Newman and Smart Chibuzo, a Texas A&M commit.
“Those guys are the true leaders of that line. One of them leads by actions, the other is the guy who gets everyone pumped up,” Sam said. “Both of them are highly invaluable.”
Starting quarterback Jakolby Longino played just three games as a sophomore in 2018, but Sam sees big potential for him, saying he has a “rocket” for an arm.
“He’s a smart kid, and he’s sneaky athletic,” Sam said.
Complementing Longino will be a trio of backs. Sam said senior Ronald Carroll (137 rushing yards in 2018) will be the home run hitter, 5-foot-11, 190-pound Ro’Derrick Johnson will be the bulldozer and senior Charles Shelling will act as a jack of all trades.
While it may seem an arduous task to find enough carries for all three, Sam is thankful to have such a conundrum.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
If defenses focus on the backfield, Longino can pass to junior Latrell Neville (176 receiving yards, three TDs for Willowridge last season) or senior Nehemiah Joseph.
On defense, Hightower’s mantra will be simple – stuff the run and play fast. Leading the Hurricanes’ charge will be a stout linebacking corps spearheaded by senior Duke commit Christian Hood and fellow seniors Jordyn Roseborough and Jakari Landry.
“They’re some of the hardest workers I’ve seen,” Sam said. “They’re highly intelligent football players and extremely physical up front.”
In front of them, Lewis Sanders moved from linebacker to defensive end last season to anchor Hightower’s defensive line.
“He’s one of the strongest kids in the program, and he’s thriving at that position,” Sam said.
Rounding out the Hurricanes’ defense is senior cornerback Eugene Robinson and Rice commit Kobie Campbell, who will play corner and wide receiver.
Fans can get their first look at the Hurricanes at 7 p.m. Friday when they face off against Travis.