A business-like approach has taken over the Huntsville Hornets as they attempt to build off one of the most successful seasons in school history.
There was undoubtedly excitement in the air Monday morning, as the Hornets hit the field for the first practice of fall camp. But there was also a sense of seriousness, a laser-like focus produced by a veteran-heavy team that boasts more than 30 seniors.
“A lot of people want a bunch of rah-rah and yelling ... and there's time for that excitement,” Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said, “but this group of seniors — and the young kids have followed along — they just come to work.”
While the Hornets are coming off their deepest playoff run in 28 years, they also indicate a belief that their season shouldn’t have ended in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. It’s a constant source of motivation for a group desperate to carve out its place in Texas high school football history.
“We have a lot to prove … a lot to go (all) out for,” Huntsville senior receiver Will Barnes said.
Another major factor fueling the Hornets is a desire to shed the heartbreak of the way last year ended.
Huntsville traded blows with eventually state runner-up Fort Bend Marshall all night, taking the lead with 2:31 remaining on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Southern to Jaylon Griffin.
With a trip to the state semifinals on the line, the Hornets pressed Fort Bend Marshall to its final play. But on fourth-and-12 with 33 seconds left, the Buffalos ran a reverse pass for a 47-yard touchdown to steal the victory.
“After that game we have a sick feeling ... and I'm sure the whole community does,” Matthew Southern said. “We're trying to fix that for everybody. We want it so bad.”
“That bad taste doesn't ever leave your mouth,” Huntsville senior linebacker Jordan Brown added.
For the Hornets, only one thing will relieve that ‘bad taste’ — winning a state championship.
They plan to embrace the expectations and block out the noise in their quest to do so.
“We have to focus on what we want to get done, and that's to go to state and win a state championship,” Huntsville senior receiver Miles Tatum said. “We just have to block out all that other stuff and not worry about it when we're on the field.”