LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - 2018 was a breakout season for the Sam Houston Broncos and coach Chad Paulk. The Broncos posted their first winning season since 2014 as the team was just one win away from sharing a district title.
"Last year gives us a lot of confidence. To me, it shows us players what we are capable of. Coming off the 1-9 season my freshman year and then a 4-6 season my sophomore year— we didn’t know what success was," admitted quarterback Kyle Bartley. "Making an 8-2 start and then going into the playoffs and almost winning the district, it helped a lot."
Now that Paulk has the Broncos seeing the progress, Sam Houston now gets a chance to take the next step in the program's development.
"We always say that it takes three years to really build your philosophy and schemes. We are further along right now than we have ever been. Next year we should be further along than we are this year. It always adds a lot to the program when the kids already know what to expect."
And fans can expect to see fireworks from the offense with the key players returning. It starts at quarterback as two-year starter Kyle Bartley is all in to lead the team again.
"I feel like my teammates have helped me become more of a leader this year, I felt like I lacked that last year," Bartley admitted. "This year, they have really helped me out and I think we have excelled in that. "
"He is definitely a mature kid. He has come into his own and he has felt the pressures of one sport," said Paulk. "But he realized that deep down inside, that that isn’t his love he will go with what his heart says and let the cards fall where they may."
Offensive weapons won't be a problem with the Broncos as quarterback Luke Yuhaz moves to receiver to bring a big body in the passing game and also returning is do-everything wide receiver Tayven Grice.
"He’s kind of that all-around athlete that can really get in there and make a lot of great things happen. We are definitely going to try and get the ball to all of our athletes. Sometimes, there are athletes in a program that you feel like I need to touch the ball a little bit more to give yourself the best opportunity for success and Tayven is one of those guys that we are going to try to get the ball to as many times as we can."
The offensive line and running back corps lose plenty although Louisiana Tech commit Jerren Gilbert is back to anchor the line.
"We have some kids that haven’t necessarily been in the spotlight on Friday nights and we feel like Jerren being in the huddle with those guys," said Paulk. "He’ll kind of pick them up and just kind of show them the way."
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Defensively, Sam is just as green with four starters back. The Broncos are switching to a 3-4 defense and the unit is impressing early.
"Our line clumps everything up and me and the other linebacker, we fit the other holes that are still out there," said Sam Houston linebacker Ryan Chaney.
"Jacob Humphrey is coming in as a three-year starter for us and he is going to be a hoss upfront for us this year," said Paulk. "Antonio at cornerback is going to be a senior leader and a voice in the secondary. All in all, if we have 11 guys that believe in the system and the philosophy that we are trying to preach we feel like we have a good opportunity on the defensive side of the ball to be very productive."
We’ll see how productive in just a few weeks.