CELESTE — How do you replace 16 talented seniors lost to graduation off an 11-2 regional semifinalist football team?

  That’s the question the Celeste Blue Devils will have to answer this season.

  “The Blue Devils got hit hard,” said Celeste head coach Demetrius Rector.

  Gone are two-way standout Jalen Rector, who ran and passed for 2,927 yards and 34 touchdowns, leading rusher Kaden Douglas, who ran for 1,573 yards and 30 TDs, plus receivers Jace Givens, Isaiah Buckley and Truitt Murphy, who combined to make 92 receptions for 11 TDs.

  “We are young again,” said Rector. “We have seven seniors. But most of these guys that played JV lost one game last year. That old tradition is back.”

  The Blue Devils have been making extended runs in the football and basketball playoffs lately. They won bi-district and area titles in football last year before falling 61-56 in three overtimes to San Saba in a classic game.

  “With all the rules, it’s becoming an offensive game, which is good,” said Rector, who was a 1,000-yard rusher as a running back at A&M-Commerce.

  Last year’s team suited up 27 players. The current Blue Devils’ roster features 19 players.

  “The numbers are down after that big senior class,” said Rector.

  Rector said the Blue Devils will have more players going both ways this year.

  “We like our group,” he said.

  He said the Blue Devils “can’t worry” about injuries “when you don’t have a lot of depth.”

  Two starters are back on offense: linemen Britton Evans (6-5, 250 Jr.) and Evan Bowles (6-4, 240 Sr.).

  Returning starters on defense include  linebackers Damon Crook (5-8, 150 Sr.), and Thadeus Clark (5-10, 200 Jr.) and linemen Drew Compton (5-9, 210 Sr.) and Tanner Smith (5-8, 190 Sr.).

  Crook rushed for 244 yards and five TDs last year.

  “Thomas Powell, our quarterback, got to get in a lot of games as a sophomore,” said Rector.

  Powell was 6-of-11 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 76 yards.

  Helping Rector on the Blue Devil coaching staff are longtime assistant and head basketball coach Jeff Smith, plus Stephen Wilson, Dru Murray, Josh Spoonemore, Chris Stewart and Justin Tice.

  “Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine” picked Celeste to finish third in 5-2A-I behind Collinsville and Valley View and ahead of Tom Bean and Trenton.

  The Blue Devils will scrimmage at home on Aug. 17 against Boles and will scrimmage at Whitewright on Aug. 23. They open the 2019 season on Aug. 30 at home against Dallas Gateway.

          Celeste Blue Devils

       2019 Football Schedule

Aug. 30 Dallas Gateway    7:30 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Cumby             7:30 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Blue Ridge      7:30 p..m.

Sept. 20 at Tioga             7:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 Lindsay (HC)      7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 Wolfe City             7:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 *at Trenton         7:30 p.m

Oct. 18 *Valley View       7:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 *at Tom Bean     7:30 p.m.

Nov. 1 *Collinsville (SN)  7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8 Bye

*District 5-2A-I

(HC) Homecoming

(SN) Senior night