Westwood is in possibly the most interesting spot of any team in District 13-6A this season.
Sure, the Warriors missed the playoffs and finished 4-6 overall, but by the end of the season, there were 10 sophomores starting over the latter half of the season. They will be relying on that experience in a uber-competitive nine-team district.
"To see the things that they were able to accomplish in such a competitive district, it only makes me believe that as these guys get older, the competitiveness should increase," head coach Anthony Wood said. When you look at a nine-team district, each win is super important. You don't have to be perfect to make the playoffs, you have to be good at the right time."
The district as a whole lost a lot of talented skill players, but Westwood returns its leading passer, rusher and two of its top four receivers on an offense that likes to air things out early and often.
As a sophomore, R.J. Martinez threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for a more than 300 yards and eight scores.
"His confidence is better," Wood said. "Early on, he had lots of confidence and no experience. Now, he's got confidence with experience and with that he gets to have a little more freedom. Now he's understanding what I'm looking for and he can call checks and call himself. He's got an unbelievable arm and football IQ. Now it's about putting it all together."
Martinez said he had to learn everything about the Warriors' offense quickly since moving in from Lake Travis. This spring, he said he started to understand the complex offense on a much deeper level.
"Just getting that full year of varsity exposure, it's a big difference," Martinez said. "I've worked on footwork and getting that stuff up to par. I'm most excited about the number of guys coming back. They kind of know what to expect at the varsity level. When you have that, you're able to take that next step as far as district and playoffs."
Nate Anderson was the team's leading rusher a year ago, going for more than 1,000 yards and four touchdowns with a pair of 100-plus-yard games. He was also the No. 4 receiver, a role he's expected to play more this season.
He was one of the sophomores that played a huge role last season and said it wasn't a problem going against much older, stronger kids. As long as he played his game, they respected him just as much.
"Execution is key in this offense," Anderson said. "There's nothing the defense can do if we execute our plays. It's a blast because there's so much that we can do. Coach Wood is such a great mind with what he wants in his offense. He can switch everything up."
He'll have two returning guards to run behind in junior Daniel Vasquez and senior Danny Lackowski.
At receiver, Jace Lyne is moving from safety to receiver. Julian Deberry is a strong receiver on the outside along with track athlete Oliver Yu and 6-foot-2 receiver Tomas Henry. Robbie Jeng, who was the punter/kicker, slot receiver, holder and backup quarterback as a jack-of-all-trades utility man.
Defensively last season, the Warriors were fifth of nine teams, allowing 35.25 points per game during district play.
Senior linebacker Jaleel Davis is calling this year clamp season.
"Our team was great last year and all the teams that we lost to, we beat ourselves," Davis said. "All those games could've been won and we weren't all in. This year, I think we've learned that lesson. That's why I have such high hopes, because I know we can do it."
Wood said he's super excited about the interior six on defense that includes Davis and Drew Goodall at linebacker as well as Vincente Ochoa, E.J. Wiley and Danny Lackowski on the defensive line.
"Our whole goal is to score one more point than the opponent," Wood said. "I couldn't care less if we win 2-0 or 50-49. Sometimes, the defense is going to have to win games and sometimes the offense is going to have to win games."
Wood is going into his 17th year as a coach and he's been a head coach since 2005.
He said from about 2009 until 2013, the Warriors were one of the premier teams in the area. They won their first playoff game in 2006, but have been about a .500 team over the last three seasons.
He knows this team is better than its record.
"People have forgotten about our history, and I understand, you've got to win," Wood said. "When you look at the success at Westwood, people see this as an academic school. I see it as both an academic and athletic school. I think we have a good chance to go back to those years."