LAST IN A SERIES
Those initials are on the practice jerseys of the Greenville Lions football team and also the team roster.
What do the initials mean?
“Trade secret,” said Lions coach Darren Duke.
The general consensus is that T.O.B. stands for Tough Ol’ Boys.
“It’s something like that,” said Duke with a wry grin. “We want to be a tough team. We know football is a physical game.”
The Lions are hoping the emphasis on toughness helps them improve on last season’s 2-7 record and eighth-place finish in the nine-team District 8-5A-II. Their toughness will start on defense where seven starters are back, led by all-district defensive ends Jeremiah Abrego and Tucker Momon, plus defensive backs Tyrecus Davis, DeGarrious Ford and Jasper Jensen, plus linebacker Jucolby Allen and tackle Davoya Washington.
“That’s a lot of senior experience on defense,” said Duke. “They know how to play.”
The big-play capability of the offense will also be a team strength, according to Duke.
“We have several runners that can catch the ball and turn little plays into big plays,” he said.
The Lions showed their speed at the District 15-5A track and field meet placing first and second in the 100-meter dash with Miles Denson and Caleb Johnson. The last time the Lions went 1-2 in the 100 at district was in 1990 with national record-holder Henry Neal and Lawrence Lee, who both also played on the Lions’ 1989 football team.
Denson and Johnson give the Lions good speed at the wide receiver position. Denson led the Lions in receptions in 2018 with 34 for 346 yards.
But they’re not the only two fast guys in the backfield. Wide receiver Shawn Brown, who caught eight passes for 173 yards and a touchdown last season, ran at times on the Lions’ 4x100-meter relay team that placed seventh at the tough Region II-5A meet. Quarterback Brandon Stephens also ran some on that relay as did receiver-defensive back Kenton Anderson.
“He’s (Stephens) one of the faster quarterbacks we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Duke. “He’s another threat to score.”
Stephens was one of four quarterbacks that played last year as the Lions dealt with a knee injury suffered by returning starter Caleb Jarvis in the season opener. Stephens made several starts and rushed for 148 yards and two TDs on 50 carries and was 25-of-47 passing for 276 yards.
Josh Luna, who like Stephens was a sophomore last season, also returns with considerable playing time at quarterback. Luna was 15-of-29 passing for 276 yards and ran for a 12-yard gain.
Another big-play threat on offense, said Duke, is “Lester Turner out of the backfield, running and catching the football.”
Turner led the Lions in rushing last season with 565 yards and 10 touchdowns on 117 carries. He also caught six passes for 29 yards.
Duke said defenses facing the Lions’ big-play offense will need “to pick your poison.”
If the defenses focus too much on stopping the run, the Lions’ passing game could burn them and vice versa.
Greenville’s kicking game features senior placekicker Josh Allen, who in preseason has shown one of the stronger legs the Lions have had at that position. Allen booted one kickoff eight yards deep into the end zone and another to the goal line in last week’s scrimmage at Seagoville. Allen also kicked a 24-yard field goal in the scrimmage and kicked field goals of 27 yards and 33 during a portion of the scrimmage that focused on the kicking game.
“He’s a weapon for us,” said Duke. “The ball just seems to jump off his foot.”
The Lions should have some dangerous kick returners with their speed and have the speed to return some interceptions for touchdowns. Tyrecus Davis returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown in a game last season.
Greenville outgained a Seagoville team that went 5-6 last season by a 236-126 margin in total yardage. Stephens was 6-of-10 passing for 109 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass to Denson.
Luna was 3-of-5 for 60 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis.
Denson, who had a nifty 37-yard touchdown run wiped out by a penalty, also ran for a 15-yard touchdown and scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Luna during a three-team scrimmage in Dallas against Roosevelt and Carter. Turner also ran for a 10-yard touchdown in that scrimmage.
The Lions’ defense did not give up a score against Roosevelt and Carter and one touchdown with the second-team defense against Seagoville.
“Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine” picks the Lions to finish eighth again in 8-5A-II behind Ennis, Corsicana, North Forney, Kaufman, Royse City, Sulphur Springs and Forney.
Duke said the district looks tough again.
“There are no off weeks in our district,” he said.
Duke, assisted by offensive coordinator Bret Alexander and defensive coordinator Danny Cobbin, plus assistants Alex Contreras, George Sellers, Travis Smith, Kyle Crumpton, Blaine Roman, Paul Lamb, Kaelon Harris and Mark Lawton, expects T.O.B. to be improved this season.
“I think overall our offensive playmaking ability is better and again we have a lot of seniors back on defense. I expect them to continue to improve.”
Aug. 30 Dallas W.T. White 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Dallas Lincoln 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 *Corsicana 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 Open
Sept. 27 *at Kaufman 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 *North Forney 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 *at Terrell 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 *Royse City (HC) 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 *at Sulphur Springs 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 *Forney (SN) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 *at Ennis 7:30 p.m.
*District 8-5A-II games
(SN) Senior night