By CLINT FOSTER
Fall camps nationwide have only just begun, and any coach will say its early to talk about the postseason, but Community Christian School head football coach Bryan Horton likes what he’s seen out of his squad so far this August and has high hopes.
At the Warriors’ first padded practice on Wednesday, Horton said he has been impressed with his team as whole and believes they are capable of a memorable season if their starters can stay healthy.
“Barring injury ... there’s no reason we don’t have our eye on the playoffs,” Horton said as he sweated in the August heat. “That’s one of our team goals.
“There’s no reason we don’t expect to push real hard in that first round game.
“I kind of like the matchups I see coming.”
Horton said he has been particularly pleased by the amount of competition he has seen at positions that have not been in contention in the past.
He added he has also had his eye on three of his top players, Isaiah Brazeal, Sammy Brazeal and Joby Bradshaw, all of whom have shown promise after returning from injuries last season.
Sammy should be a force in the middle of the field playing primarily nose tackle and center.
At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Horton said he has shown not only power, but also significant speed, keeping up with all of his teammates in conditioning drills.
Sammy’s cousin Isaiah returns from an ACL injury last season.
Horton said he is excited about the potential Isaiah’s speed brings to any game plan.
“He looks fresh, that’s about the best way to put it. He’s got a real good spring in his step,” Horton said of Isaiah. “With his kind of speed, there’s not a lot of kids around (Texas Christian Athletic Fellowship) that are going to catch him.”
While the Brazeal cousins bring speed, Horton said he has found his workhorse back in Bradshaw.
Horton seemed excited about the possibilities that came with Bradshaw as his starting running back to compliment the Brazeals.
“Behind this line we’ve got, if we hit our blocks and stay on them, there isn’t anybody that’s going to stop us running down the field,” Horton said. “We can beat ourselves, but that’s what we’re trying to work out over the next two or three weeks.”
Horton seemed equally optimistic about his options at quarterback. New addition Landon Payne – son of Mineral Wells High School Athletic Trainer Cliff “Doc” Payne – is expected to be the starter under center.
Despite an ankle sprain early on in camp, Horton said he has been impressed by Payne’s arm strength and mechanics.
“The big thing for him is just learning the position,” Horton said. “From a talent standpoint, I don’t have a question about his arm strength, he looks really good there.
“We just have to work on a few footwork things. We’ll find a way to use Landon’s arm one way or another. It’s too good not to use.”
Horton added that, if needed, Noah Dowdy was capable of starting at quarterback.
Horton said the Warriors’ first scrimmage against six-man powers Zephyr and Woodson next Friday at Zephyr should make for a pair of very telling measuring-stick games.
Once Payne gets time against a live defense – and a talented one at that – Horton will have a much better idea of his capabilities.
In addition, Zephyr’s well-documented quality of spread offense should exploit the CCS, whose biggest liability is spread defense, according to Horton.
But Horton expects the exhibition games to be a learning experience, first and foremost.
“That’s going to be a big boy scrimmage for us,” Horton said. “I like to get beat in scrimmages, it’s healthy.
“You don’t get much out of winning scrimmages anyway.
“But I think we can go down there and compete with them.
“We’ll come back knowing what we need to work on, but we’ll also know what we need to work on against the best.
“That’s what you really want out of a scrimmage.”
Once the purple and black’s first scrimmage is behind them, Horton can have a better read on his team overall.
But for now, assuming they can stay healthy – unlike 2012’s 1-9 squad that looked more like a mobile hospital than a football team – both Horton and his players have lofty goals for the upcoming season.
“It’s hard to say whether state semifinals is the absolute goal, but this team’s talking about a state championship and there’s no reason not to,” Horton said. “They’ve got the talent, as long as they don’t get hurt, they’ve got the talent to roll.”
The CCS Warriors’ march to the post season begins when they host the Johnson County Lions in historic Miller Stadium on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
Follow Clint on Twitter @Clint_Foster55