Edgerrin Dillard-Williams has faith in his team because they’re out to prove last year wasn’t a flash in the pan.
After earning First-Team All-District honors last season, the defensive end will help to anchor the most experienced group on a team that made it to the state semifinals a season ago and hasn’t lowered expectations.
“We communicated a lot on the defensive line,” he said. “We knew we had to stay focused and we played together as a family. We need to stay. We need to stay disciplined because, at the end of the day, that’s what helped us last year.”
Dillard-Williams, who will play at Texas State next season, helped the Raiders have the most dominant defense across the regular season and playoffs last year, holding teams to 18.2 points per game.
“Going back to spring practice, sometimes he could really take over a practice by himself to an extent,” Robinson said. “He looks really good and he’s running really well and he’s going to have to be a big player for us.”
Senior Jimmy Esparza will line up opposite of Dillard-Williams on the defensive line. Esparza played the first of last year at defensive end before tearing his ACL early in the year.
Senior safety Justin Santellana was a backup player in the secondary last year but will slide into the starting role this season with three younger guys in the defensive backfield coming up from the junior varsity squad.
Now former Raiders defensive coordinator Joe Coss returned to Laredo to take over the program at United South. Rawley Farrell comes on as the new defensive coordinator after spending time at Stony Point, Temple and Royse City.
Robinson was originally the defensive coordinator at Cedar Ridge and Coss was came in from Laredo as the linebackers coach in 2016. Robinson took over the top job and Coss moved to defensive coordinator last season before he returned to South Texas this year.
“It hasn’t really been any difficult changes,” Dillard-Williams said. “He learned how we work and we learned from him and he has a lot of great things. Nothing really changes, we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing the last few seasons.”
On offense, the Raiders will need to replace quarterback Zeke Coss and running back Simi Bakare, who signed with Missouri after rushing for 1,700 yards and 29 touchdowns last year. They also lost a pair of offensive lineman to the college ranks.
But the offensive group coming back includes returning two-way player Trey Womble and lineman Dewayne Brown and receiver Jaylen Ellis for his third varsity season.
Jaylen Bown is poised to be the next in line at quarterback after serving as the backup last season and Chris “Deuce” Vaughn — who averaged eight yards a carry last year — will be the lead back behind a big offensive line.
“I’m a big believer that running ball and stopping the run are still the two most important things to winning the game. This district is going to be a war,” Robinson said. “People here in Central Texas still push to run the ball and I think that’s what allows us to still compete in playoffs.”
The last three years have put the relatively new Cedar Ridge program on the map as they have won double-digit games with two outright district titles and a trip to the state semifinals in that span.
While the expectation might not make things more anxious, it sets the tone for the team.
“We expect to not drop off and put a competitive team together,” Robinson said. “I don’t think last season adds pressure, but some of the kids that were backups on that team or are coming up from JV, I think it heightens their excitement and they’re excited to show what they can do.”
Cedar Ridge opens the district season on the road against Vandegrift on Sept. 14.
“A team will kind of take on its own persona as a season goes on,” Robison said. “This is a businesslike team. It doesn’t take much to get them to work hard. They’re just going to take care of their business.”