Last season was a big step for the Ralls Jackrabbits in their quest to return to the top of the 1A heap.
The Jackrabbits ended a three-year playoff drought with a third-place district finish and played their best football at the end of the season after a 1-5 start. By doing so with several underclassmen, it sets them up for even better things in 2012.
“I think that was a big step for our program,” fourth-year head coach Tim James said. “Our goal last year was to get in the playoffs and we accomplished that. We just happened to draw a tough team in the first round.”
For this season, James welcomes back the bulk of his skill-position players, who averaged 312 yards per game, as well as a couple of all-state performers.
The backfield will be led by a pair of solid running backs and a quarterback who all started last year. Junior Kaleb Reese was one of the top Class 1A rushers on the South Plains after gaining 1,175 yards on 161 carries with six touchdowns. He had a lot of help as senior Jonathan Van Gundy added 589 yards and six touchdowns on 76 carries.
Getting them the ball while also providing a solid passing threat is senior Fernando Zavala, who completed 27 of 63 passes for 465 and eight touchdowns last season.
Reese and junior Josh Velasquez were solid receiving targets last year. Gerardo Espinosa moves from running back to tight end to add another option.
Up front is where all the questions lie for the Jackrabbits. Ralls does not return a single lineman, so the development of young players will be critical to Ralls’ offensive success.
The Jackrabbits should be just as talented in the secondary thanks to a couple of all-state honorees.
Reese earned third-team all-state honors and Espinosa stopped pretty much anything in sight and earned all-state honorable mention with a whopping 250 tackles.