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Football: Lambert Longhorns excited for newfound strength in 2021
Photo by Kurt Main for the Forsyth County News

Lambert head football coach Tommy Watson said his goal for the 2021 season is pretty simple: win every game. 

Last year, the Longhorns finished 5-5, winning all four of their non-region games and beating Forsyth Central in thrilling 43-42 fashion. Watson said he knows the time his team has already put in the weight room will be huge come the fall season. 

"I didn’t really know a whole lot about the region when I took the job,” Watson said. “I was very impressed with how well each team in the region was coached and how tough they played. We’re definitely better than we were at this time last year before. Really good offseason in the weight room and our strength and conditioning program. Is it where we want it? No, but we’re working towards it.”

Where Watson sees the biggest difference from last year’s seniors is the loss of vocal leadership and leading by actions that his class of 2021 brought to the practice field every day.

“Last year’s team was a great group of guys,” Watson said. “They were a senior class that were really good leaders who bought into everything during the pandemic. That’s huge. When you’re building a program, and you’ve got seniors on the scout team that aren’t pouting about it, that’s the key to success. I ask them once a month: is this team going to be as selfless as last year’s team was? I’m still doubtful about that.”

However, South Carolina commit lineman Grayson Mains and four-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi return as staples of the Longhorns offense that Watson has already seen valuable leadership from this spring. Additionally, Watson said linebacker Jake Johnson, along with another “million of ‘em” are eager to step into a vocal role for the Longhorns. 

“Both of those guys are gonna be asking to play both ways,” Watson said. “Every time we do something on the field, Kojo always meets with the wideouts after every rep. Grayson is the vocal leader of the team. Your best players have to be your best kids and that is the case in Lambert, in my opinion. That’s huge. We’re putting them in situations where they’ve got to lead. We want to win football games but our first priority is for boys to become men.”

Though Watson plans on Antwi being an anchor at the wide receiver position, the Longhorns are losing key contributors at the position in Braden Bamburowski and Jackson Stewart. However, both James Tyre and Ashton Smith are returning at quarterback and Watson added will help adjust the new guys into the position. 

Watson said real progress has been made with the team’s offensive line, working hard in the weight room and with a strong strength and conditioning program. 

“When we actually got going, we were just so underdeveloped,” Watson said. “It was like they had never been in a weight program. Those jokers jumped in with both feet. Looking back, I could not believe how underdeveloped they were. With our offensive line, they’re gonna ask, ‘Where did they get them from?’ We got them from Lambert High School. My baby is O-Line. We weren’t great last year, but when we hit that field ... watch out.”

With that big offensive line, anchored by Mains, Watson said he would love to be able run downhill more than the Longhorns did last season and rely on throwing slants, screens and quick gains. 

“I think we’ve got really good players,” Watson said. “I just want to see them compete in everything that they do. We’re putting a pretty heavy emphasis on that this season despite the opponent. We’ve built the program on four cornerstones: character, work ethic, courage and unity.”

Though the Longhorns have only 14 seniors on their roster for the 2021 season, Watson said they are incredibly talented football players. 

Their 2023 class, or upcoming juniors, is the largest class and the Longhorns' 2024 class beat every other team in the region except South Forsyth in ninth-grade ball. Watson said he and his coaching staff could not be more ready for summer to kick off and work with the new group.

“Lambert’s future is bright,” Watson said. “The kids have talent, no questions about it. It’s on the adults to get it done now.”