LORENA, Texas — COVID-19 caused havoc on high school football rosters across Central Texas, including at Lorena, where the Leopards saw multiple games canceled because of the virus. They even experienced a major outbreak in their own ranks, which forced them to play one game without more than 20 players.
As a result, several players were pushed into action earlier than expected. Now, they return as starters and hope to ride the momentum from a district title in 2020.
"Any time you've got kids coming back that have been there, done that, that's always a great thing," Head Coach Ray Biles said. "But the critical thing is: are they any better? That's what we have to strive for. We've worked at it an awful lot."
Lorena returns six starters on both sides of the ball. That returning production has lead to plenty of preseason hype.
The Leopards enter the 2021 season as the No. 8 team in all of 3A-I. Still, they are not letting preseason rankings affect their work ethic.
"We just don't pay attention to them," Lorena senior Andrew Brittain said. "I couldn't tell you anything about them. I don't think any of [my teammates] could either. We just show up and do as much as we can each day."
But, while they are blocking out the outside noise, within the locker room, their expectations are sky high.
"I have some very high expectations," Lorena senior Elijah Turley. "Obviously last year, we made a really good run and we know we can go a lot farther. We're all expecting good things this year."
The Leopards will try to repeat as District 11-3A champions in 2021 after winning a wild title a year ago.
They open the season at home against the No. 1 team in 3A-II, Franklin.