Like countless high school programs across the country, the New Waverly Bulldogs will be forced to fill a void left by a departing senior class.
However, one of their key contributors is coming back — and he’s looking to make the most of his final year in the Maroon and White.
Two-sport star Ty Elder has made an impact on the Bulldogs’ football and baseball programs ever since arriving on campus. This has included a pair of playoff runs on the baseball diamond, as well as New Waverly's longest winning streak in football since the team’s 2016 playoff run.
When asked about what makes Elder so pivotal to both programs, athletics director and head football coach Dean Schaub quickly points to the senior’s dedication and leadership.
“He's all in during football and baseball,” Schaub said. “If he's not at baseball practice during the summer, he's at football every day. Ty is a kid that has dedicated himself. He's outstanding in the classroom and on the field. He doesn't say much, he just works hard and leads by example.
“A kid like that is just as good as a coach. We have to have kids like Ty. He's a big reason that we've been successful in football and baseball — a huge reason. That one kid has made such a difference. Obviously he can't do it by himself, but he's made a huge impact on both programs.”
New Waverly posted its best record in football since 2016 last season, with Elder — who earned first-team all-district honors — playing a pivotal role. The Bulldogs went 5-5, with Elder serving as a primary receiver for an offense that increased its scoring average by 13.2 points per game.
“We brought in Coach Morphew, who is just a really good coach,” Elder said of offensive coordinator Rodney Morphew, who joined the Bulldogs prior to last season. “He came in and taught us our new offense, and we executed it very well. Just to go out there and win as many games as we did was good, but this year we're hoping we can win some more.”
With only four seniors departing, the Bulldogs bring back a wealth of experience — including nine starters on each side of the ball.
“It gives us a lot more confidence,” Elder said. “We've been playing since junior high, so we already have the team chemistry going. We know who we are, what we're going to do and where we're going to be.”
Elder will remain at receiver, but has moved from outside linebacker to safety on the defensive side of the ball. He’s excited about the move, noting that his experience at receiver could provide him with an advantage in the secondary.
“You have to be able to track the ball as a receiver, and as a safety I think that ability to track the ball will help our team a lot,” Elder said. “You have to look at it both ways — and it helps, especially during film. You have to watch what the other team is doing, and what we're doing. When you put it together, it just gives you a lot more to work with.”
Elder is also looking forward to getting back on the baseball diamond with the Bulldogs.
New Waverly missed out on the chance to defend its district championship this spring, with the season being canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Bulldogs were 10-2-1 when the spring sports calendar was put on hold.
But while New Waverly will be tasked with replacing six players from a senior class that had won 50 games since 2018, Elder is confident that the Bulldogs will avoid a drop-off.
“It's sad that we lost the seniors, because we had a really good group last year,” he said. “But we're going to go back this year and pick up where they left off.”