Jacob Munoz doesn’t lack swagger and isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and as part of the most experienced group for Cedar Park this year, that will undoubtedly come in handy.
The senior is one of three varsity players returning on the defensive line, which will anchor the latest generation of the Timberwolves’ vaunted ‘Black Rain’ defense.
“How we see it here is that everybody is on the same field and everyone can be a leader,” Munoz said. “But I think what the defensive line does this year, we’re going to be really key in holding down the park and making sure other guys are accountable.”
Munoz, along with edge rusher Jesiah Whittington and Ben Bell helped the Timberwolves and their normally stout defense live up to its moniker last season, allowing just over 14 points per game in district play, the second-best mark in the district.
What Cedar Park is losing is a three-year starting quarterback, three of its top five receivers and the top six tacklers from a season ago.
But as it’s always been for the Timberwolves, they reload instead of rebuild.
“We lost 49 seniors and you’re always going to have to replace those guys,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “That’s part of being a great program because you have guys working to fill those voids when thing occur. We’ve got guys that eager and hungry and ready to step up.”
In addition to the three returners anchoring the defensive line, the Timberwolves also have a trio of players returning in the secondary with Tammer Alzer, Cole Hollen and Eric Shine.
“We have really good experience and leadership back up front and in the back end and we’ve got to grow some young linebackers and get them ready to play Friday night football,” Abseck said.
Linebacker is a little more of a question mark as Jackson Rodgers is the only returning player significant playing time.
“It’s the next man up mentality,” Munoz said. “(The linebackers are) all primed and ready to go. Maybe a few small tweaks here and there, but they’re all busting their butts to fight for that spot.”
Offensively, Brandon Breed and Carson Neel return at receiver and Will Lipscomb will lead the rushing attack.
Will Udoye and Logan Mayu, who primarily played on defense last season, join the receiving corps, while B.J. Jones, a first-team all-district nose guard will switch over to the offensive side of the ball.
“The offensive line will need to come together, which is always the slowest part of any football team to come around, Abseck said. “And I think our linebackers are going to be younger and they need to step up, but I think they will. It’s up to the guys that have been there to lead the way.”
Breed remembers when he first got Cedar Park as a freshman, coming to practice with the wide-eyed enthusiasm and admiring the senior players that helped make the school a state powerhouse.
Now he gets to carry on the tradition.
“It’s pretty cool because when you were a freshman, you were looking up to all those varsity players and now I’m one of them,” Breed said. “You just put yourself in their shoes and try to show them (how it’s done).”
In a new district that features five playoff teams from a year ago and one school that dropped down from Class 6A, expectations at Cedar Park have — unsurprisingly — not shifted away from a district title.
With many statewide publications picking the Timberwolves to finish behind Hutto, the team doesn’t accept that and the Oct. 19 showdown against the Hippos is already circled on the calendar.