Practice Begins Monday
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – After breathing new life into the Grapeland Sandies’ football program with a district championship, combined with back-to-back years of going three rounds deep in the playoffs, Grapeland AD Wayne Mahaffey retired at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Replacing a coach with a state championship and over 130 wins is no easy task but the Sandies seem to have found their man in Terry Ward. The new AD comes over from Harleton, with a previous stint in Tenaha.
Ward boasts a 10-year overall record of 76-45 with seven district championships. While in Tenaha, he led the Tigers to a state championship in 2011 and made a return trip to the championship game in 2012.
With the start of “two-a-days” on Monday Aug. 5, The Messenger caught up with the Sandies’ new AD to discuss the upcoming season.
“It’s exciting. We’re a couple of days away from the start and everyone is excited. The coaches have put in a lot of work this summer and everybody is just ready to go,” Ward said.
Settling into his role as the face of Grapeland athletics, Ward has been faced with nearly a complete turnover of the coaching staff.
“We have several new coaches. Coach Blake Doughty will be our defensive coordinator and he came from Groesbeck. He is also going to be the head boys’ basketball coach. Kevin Anderson is going to be on the offensive side helping me. He will be our co-offensive coordinator. Matthew Gayle was here last year along with Tyler Terry. We also brought in Cody Pierce who is going to be the head baseball coach and assistant football coach. Then, I also have Woodrow Jones who is going to work at the high school and help coach football, as well,” he said.
Moving from the sideline to the field, Ward was asked what type of offense he plans to run.
“We’ve been working on that for the last couple of weeks,” he explained. “We’re ready to install some stuff on the first day. We understand that we have several kids who need to touch the ball so we’re going to have multiple sets. We’re going to run the ball as much as we can – I like running the football – but we’re going to throw it, too. We’re going to make some big plays in the passing game. We’re going to be based out of the shotgun, but we’re not going to be your typical spread team.”
Defensively, the coach said, the Sandies will be changing from a 3-3 stack to more of a 3-4 style of defense.
“We’re going to have four linebackers on the field instead of three, with two safeties,” he said.
Even though Grapeland brings back a wealth of talent, the Sandies will be missing a four-year starter at quarterback in Rick Frauenberger.
“Quarterback is definitely a position that we need to fill. Coming out of the spring and into the summer, I would say that BJ (Lamb) is probably the guy we’re going to look at first. After him, we’ve got several guys who we feel like can play and play well for us. BJ will be the guy we try to give the reigns to at the start. He’s a great athlete but if quarterback is not his position, we’ll move him out to receiver where he could be all-state,” Ward said.
It should be noted, Lamb recently received an offer to play football at the next level from the Arizona State University Sun Devils.
Defensively, Ward said, Cooper Sheridan will be looked at to fill the void left by the graduation of Josh “Bear” Ackley.
“He played last year and got a little recognition. He is going to be a junior and he will have to step-up. He is going to have to be a leader and play as good – if not better – than he did last year. He will be the guy who makes the calls on the field. We’re expecting big things from him,” he said.
Concerning both the offensive and defensive lines, Ward said while the Sandies will have some size, they would not be the biggest team in district.
“We have some sophomore kids who played last year who have some size, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time. We won’t be the smallest, but we won’t intimidate anyone with our size. Some schools are blessed with different things and some are not blessed with those huge kids. Now, we do have some kids that are big and strong. We feel pretty good about that.
As far as any dates circled on the calendar Ward replied, “Not really. Now, in a couple of years when people start not liking me, that’ll be a different story. Right now, we’re just going to take it ‘one game at a time.’ It’s new for the kids and new for the coaching staff. Our expectations are high but it’s understood that with the coaches being new and with new kids, it may take some time before we gel. I guess we have all of them circled.”
Numbers-wise, Ward said he hoped to have over 40 plus players come out which would allow the Sandies to have a junior varsity.
“That’s our goal – to have a JV – but at the same time we can’t kill the varsity. We definitely want to have a JV to give some of the younger kids experience and some playing time. If we can get somewhere around 40, we’ll be pretty happy,” the AD said.
With Sabine Pass having dropped football last year, Grapeland will start the season with a nine-game schedule. Ward was asked if the Sandies would try to pick up a game to round out the slate to 10 but he replied probably not.
“We are going to play a nine-game schedule right now. That’s (the game against Sabine Pass) the week before the playoffs begin and hopefully we will have set ourselves up for the playoffs. My mentality is you want to play to keep the momentum going, but you don’t want to risk injury in a game that doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
As the conversation drew to a close, Ward expressed his excitement to part of the Grapeland football program once again.
“We hope to put a quality product on the field and do the things this community is used to seeing. That’s our biggest goal – to continue on with the tradition we’ve had and hopefully build on it. We would love to be able to do some things that have never been done before. It may take some time, but we have some good kids here, the community is going to support us and we have a good coaching staff put together. I’m looking for big things to happen,” Ward said.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.