CHINA SPRING, Texas — There is no shortage of expectations for the China Spring Cougars heading into the 2021 season.
Ranked No. 7 in preseason polls, the Cougars come into the year on the heels of a magical postseason run to the regional finals in 2020.
That was last year.
"No offense to your question, but last year's over," Head Coach Brian Bell said when asked whether last year's run will impact this season. "We're looking to write our own legacy and make a difference this year and do what we need to do to write our own story."
China Spring lost a few key players at skill positions from their 2020 squad, including one of Central Texas's leading rushers, Emmanuel Abdallah.
The Cougars will lean on returning starting quarterback Major Bowden to lead the offense. Bowden, a dual-threat, ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2020 and provides a cool confidence in the midst of some roster uncertainty.
"It's a huge benefit for us," Bell said. "We've got a new running back this year, so having at least one guy constant coming back is definitely gonna help. We've got a lot of guys with some experience that played last year both offensively and defensively, so that should pay dividends for us."
In district play, the Cougars fell just short against both Salado and Connally. They enter the year picked to win the title in 2021.
"It hurt us a lot last year but it also motivated us, so I think we're ready to get back after it," Bowden said.
Bowden enters the year as the district's Preseason Offensive MVP, while Dawson Exline, a Cougar defensive lineman, was named Preseason Defensive MVP, setting expectations even higher.
"We went to the fourth round [in 2020] and that was really far and an awesome accomplishment," senior Brayden Faulkner said. "But always, the goal is a state championship. We're always trying to get there. And it's my last year, and we're just trying to get there."
China Spring opens the season on the road against Trinity Christian Week One.