LORENA, Texas — 2021 was a storybook season for the Lorena Leopards, who brought home a state title to Central Texas for the first time in more than 30 years. To keep the magic going in 2022, the Leopards will have to replace several key pieces, including four starting offensive linemen and their starting quarterback.
Head Coach Ray Biles said this offseason, the Leopards have done a good job moving on from their December championship. Seven months later, they are wholly focused on the new season, despite sky-high expectations.
"We do like a timeline up on the whiteboard, and [I] put a mark there, and that was December 16th of 2021," Biles said. "That was a day in the past. That was a rail head for 19 seniors, but for everybody else in that field house, it's still business as usual and the process rolls on. So, if we're looking back over our shoulders and thinking about seven months ago, we're gonna be in deep trouble."
Lorena will be led by the 3A Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Joe Gutshall and a core group of linebackers on defense. In the secondary, the Leopards will have to replace several key contributors, including Andrew Brittain and Reed Michna.
Offensively, the Leopards have to replace just as many pieces. Quarterback Ryne Abel, starting running backs Michna and Rhett Hanson, who won Offensive MVP in the state title game, and four senior linemen all graduated this spring.
Wyatt Jones is the sole returning offensive lineman. Jones will serve as a team captain in 2022 and hopes to help guide a young, inexperienced group of teammates to success in the trenches.
"Most of those kids, I played in peewee football with and everything," Jones said. "I know they know the expectation, and they know what they need to do. They're smart enough football players. They're good."
Lorena will also rely on a pair of star wide receivers, including Baylor commit Jadon Porter. Those receivers, alongside new quarterback Jackson Generals, made it to the state 7on7 championship game this summer.
Lorena enters the year ranked No. 3 in Conference 3A-I.
2022 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE:
8/26 at China Spring 7:30
West 7:30 9/2
9/9 at Cedar Hill Trinity Leadership 7:30
9/16 vs Waco La Vega 7:30
9/23 vs Cameron Yoe* 7:30
9/30 at Little River Academy* 7:30
10/7 vs McGregor* 7:30
10/14 at Rockdale* 7:30
10/21 vs Franklin* 7:30
10/28 at Troy* 7:30
Click here for more 2022 season previews.