Head coach Carl Abseck and the Timberwolves are excited to get back on the field and reestablish Cedar Park as a champion.
The Timberwolves missed out on the district title last season for the first time since 2014. But with a slew of key players coming back this year, Cedar Park loos to reclaim its spot on the District 11-5A Division I throne.
"We've done a good job of getting back to things in the past that we might have let slip away a little bit," Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. "Close teams and teams that have great leaders have the most success. It's not always about the most talented team, it's about the team that plays the best together and I think our guys have a good chance to do just that."
Abseck said the team had a little camp with the middle school players earlier in the summer, and it was impressive to see the high school kids come together help out the younger group, regardless of grade.
Sure, the Timberwolves lost some good players on both sides of the ball. Their top receiver, a senior-laden linebacking core and about half of a defensive line that was one of the best in Central Texas last year.
But the returners are just as significant. Louisiana Tech signee Ben Bell up the middles leads a defensive line that also includes Charles Blankenship and Hunter Hewitt on the outside, providing content pressure.
In the defensive backfield, Abseck said there are 10 guys competing for four spots with senior Tammer Alzer leading the safety group.
"We've got some good pieces to build around," Abseck said. "Competition on the field is going to make us better."
Cedar Park finished with the No. 3 defense in District 11-5A Division I last season, allowing 22.7 points per game. Their offense was second best, scoring 33.7 points per game. District champs Hutto was best in both areas.
"Everyone has been working really hard and I can't wait to see what we can do," Bell said. "I feel like this defense can be really special this year. We're trying to set our own standards we're trying to show that we can be just as good as the defenses before us."
The Cedar Park offense loses its top receiver in Carson Neel, but brings back its top rusher and starting quarterback.
Jonathan Stockwell finished with 676 yards and five touchdowns last year while Marston Haverda had 366 yards and three scores on the ground. That duo returns with the addition of junior Cade Haught and sophomore Kevin Adams from the sub-varsity squads.
"They're excited to run the ball effectively," Abseck said. "Both in what we're doing in technique and in the scheme. We're going to be doing some things that will fit our people better and fit our personnel better. Just some other subtle differences that will increase the output."
Will Udoye is the only returning player from the top five receiving leaders from last season. He said the chemistry they have off the field is easily transferable, and the lessons he learned from Neel were extremely valuable as he takes on the No. 1 role.
"I'm expecting bigger numbers and I'm expecting to pay a bigger role for my team," Udoye said. "Carson had that dog mentality and he would go out and ball out. He had a focus on the ball and I learned that I want to go out there and play your game and be the best I can be."
Cedar Park last its first two games to Vandegrift and Cedar Ridge last season and didn't lose again until the showdown at Hutto. That gauntlet will repeat itself this season, but the expectations stay the same.
Right now, every kid that has gone to school at Cedar Park since 2012 has either played for or won a state title. The Timberwolves would need to reach the state title game this year to keep that streak going.
"Expectations are what they are," Abseck said. "These guys want to be able to put their year up on the banner over there on the side of the field."
It's become expected at Cedar Park: Playoffs and a district title or bust.
"The rankings don't really matter," Udoye said. "The goal is just to take it back. Take back state and take back the district title. We're not really worried about any other team. It's whoever is jin our way, we're going to have to move them out of the way."