Trey Sissom knows the talent Travis possesses is enough to do more than play second fiddle.
After running into buzz saws in the regular and postseason over the last few years, he believes now is the time for his squad to take that leap.
In 2018, the Tigers compiled an 8-2 overall mark, including a 6-1 record in District 20-6A, where the only blemish was a 49-42 setback against eventual district champion Ridge Point. The Tigers then lost to Katy in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of experience playing really good opponents and are using that experience to let our seniors lead out and set our expectations,” Sissom said. “We haven’t been able (to win a district championship) yet, so hopefully we find a way to do that. We’re solid at most of our skill positions, and we think the experiences they’ve had recently will help carry us through.”
The Tigers return six starters on both sides of the ball, but will look to their explosive offense to lead the way once again.
“We’ve been prolific pretty much since we’ve been here,” Sissom said. “We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented kids, and we’re in the same boat this year.”
Spearheading the Tigers’ potent attack will be senior quarterback Eric Rodriguez (3,025 passing yards, 29 touchdowns in 2018), and he has a prolific receiving weapon in Penn State commit Parker Washington (1,486 receiving yards, 18 TDs).
“Those two guys have a great relationship with each other. It’s great seeing how those guys work together,” Sissom said. “It really opens things up when those guys are so prolific and everyone’s got to cover them, so hopefully our running game will be able to take off this year.”
Two others who could benefit from all the attention paid to Rodriguez and Washington will be senior receiver Kaelen Shankle (78 yards, one TD) and tailback Aundre Smith as the Tigers’ offense looks to follow up a season in which they averaged 44 points per contest.
“We do what we do,” Sissom said. “We’re a high-tempo with an Indycar mentality on offense. We’re going to play fast, because it’s what we’ve always done. We’re going to get the ball out to our playmakers however we can.”
On defense, Travis returns defensive end J’Mani Gibson, who missed the entire 2018 season with an injury, along with two-time all-district defensive tackle Pat Brown. Look for the Tigers to go back to playing an odd front to help keep up with the speed they’ll face entering District 20-6A play.
“Last year we were an even front, because we had seven good defensive linemen and we wanted to find a way to get those guys on the field,” Sissom said. “We’re going back to our bread and butter, and I think it’ll help us from a schematic standpoint since it allows us to put more athletes on the field on the back end. We need to have as many kids get up and run as we can.”
Travis kicks off its season at 7 p.m. Friday against Hightower.