Spring Sidelines 2019 Episode 1 Lambert
Since the beginning of Region 5-7A football competition in 2016, no program has gone through a wider trajectory of results than Lambert. In that first season of competition, the Longhorns won the region title, and they also won a state playoff game.
And then in the next two seasons, they missed out entirely. Small sample size aside, no other region team has undergone a longer playoff drought than the Longhorns, and they can't say it doesn't affect how they see themselves.
“I feel like a lot of people (think), ‘Oh, it’s Lambert – we don’t really have to game-plan for the best team,’” Longhorns senior offensive lineman Harrison Stang said. “And I feel like that kind of puts us in the mindset of (that) we’re coming in as an underdog. People are underestimating us.”
Lambert isn't trying to hide the drought, but they also don't want people to forget that they've still been pretty close. They were a late missed field goal away from beating Forsyth Central to end last season's region schedule, and they hung close with Lanier, an eventual Class 6A state finalist led by current Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada, for the vast majority of game action.
With many contributors from an intriguing defense returning and one of the county's most experienced quarterbacks back under the gun, the Longhorns are optimistic that their return to playoff relevance isn't far away.
“We’ve been pretty successful over the years here at Lambert, so we expect to compete every year,” Lambert head coach Louis Daniel said. “I don’t know if the ball has bounced our direction the past few.”
Lambert already sports an offense that is one of the most reliant on quarterback play in the region: In 2018, the Longhorns threw more passes per game than any Region 5-7A opponent, and while Rich's accuracy showed a need for improvement in one area – he had 15 interceptions to 13 touchdown passes – he also boasted a .613 completion percentage.
“He’s got a lot more confidence,” Daniel said of Rich. “He seems a lot more at ease with what he’s doing.”
Daniel is confident about the players surrounding Rich as well. He said the Longhorns’ line should be stronger than last year, and Zach Ogbogu, who saw significant time at tailback as a sophomore last year, is bigger and stronger. Leading receivers John Thompson and Blake Nichols are gone, but Patrick Deans and Braden Bamburowski are set to return at that position.
Deans was also a significant contributor on defense, and while that unit loses more premier contributors than the offense – mainly big-play defensive end Galil Guillaume and the productive linebacker duo of Chris Taylor and Nathan Smith – Daniel hopes the program’s general emphasis on defense can fill the gaps.
Some of the contributors could come from a group of underclassmen – receiver/safety Parker Brosius, receiver Kojo Antwi and defensive end/tight end Darren Guy, among others – that Daniel said is one of the program’s most talented in recent years.
He hopes those players’ biggest contributions are a year or two off, though.
“If I have my way, all those four or five sophomores would be tearing it up on Thursday and trying to play on Fridays,” Daniel said. “That’s what you want … but you try to get the best players on the field all the time.”