2017 was a magical year for Pleasant Grove Football, 16-0 perfect record and Texas High School State Championship.
Now we turn the page to 2018 and the Hawks have reloaded and ready to take on all comers. Head Football Coach Josh Gibson is excited and ready for the challenge and he thinks his team is too, saying," We always make sure we prepare and work as hard as we possibly can. When the kids go FULL TILT and put their HEART & SOUL into the program, that's all we can ask. They've done this. We had a great spring, a great summer and great fall camp. The chips will fall where they fall."
Taking a look at the Hawks this season starting on offense. The front line is going to be young compared to last year, according to Gibson. " Brock Bingham is the only returning starter and he's dealing with a significant injury right now. Connor Stanfill gained a lot of experience last year and is a very talented OL as well, but we've lost him for 3 weeks due to a shoulder injury. Jamie Lewis is playing well thus far and will be a game changer for us. Landon Jackson will start at TE and could be a game changer in the running and passing game. Cole Slade, Landon Watlington, Luke Mueller, Jaxson Cartright, Cameron Weekly, Miller Hornsby and Chris Druhan will all get significant playing time too."
The Hawks have a lot of talent at the skilled positions, including receivers, according to Gibson," We have a very talented WR core, probably the deepest we've ever had. Kamren Woods has great athleticism and can go get the deep ball as good as anyone. Brett Walker and Jackson Cobb are big time possession receivers that can do it all. Sergio Rodriguez is a speedster that can stretch the field and make the big play.
RB's are lead by 1,000 yard returner Bruce Garrett. He's a powerful and speedy RB, one of the best in East Texas.
James Wiggins and Bladen Reaves will play FB. Both are strong, physical players. Nick Martin is an up and comer at the TB position. He's going to be special.
Antonio Watkins and Braden Hlavinka will both make big contributions at the RB positions as well."
One place the Hawks will shine again this year is at Quarterback. Junior signal caller Ben Harmon is very special. He is the type of ball player that any team would love to have. He gives his all heart and soul to the program and has the talent to back it up.
Coach Gibson had this to say about his QB, who started every game of last year's perfect season. " I expect Ben to do what he always does...work hard and lead. He's the hardest worker I've been around at the high school level. He brings great energy each day to workouts and does a great job of rallying the team. He's such a talented player in our offense and a big weapon for us.
Dillon Williams is his back-up. Dillon has great feet and a very good arm. He's talented enough to be a starter, so we feel very blessed to have him in our program."
Turning to the defense, once again the Hawks have a bunch of shoes to fill there having graduated a big and versatile group of young men. Gibson talks about the front line. " We have a BIG and YOUNG D-Line. We are anchored on both sides by sophomores Landon Jackson (6'5 225) and Marcus Burris (6'4 250). Both have received D1 scholarship offers and have huge upsides. Two of our three noseguards are sophomores too. Cameron Weekly (307 pounds) and Jordan Stuart (335 pounds). Those guys will need to grow up fast with our strength of schedule, but our future looks bright with them."
There is some experience at linebacker and some youth as well according to the coach,"Caleb Hemphill and Bladen Reaves will lead our LB corp. They are both extremely smart, physical and strong. Caleb is a returning all-district LB and Bladen is an all-district LB/team captain that moved in from Bryan, TX. OLB's are up for grabs with several young kids: Braden Hlavinka, Nick Martin, Dylan Hopkins will all get significant playing time."
Gibson has some important guys returning in the Hawks secondary saying, " The secondary returns 2 three year starters: Tyler Kelly and Ryan Pickelman. They are both fast and physical. Tyler is making the move from corner to safety this year.
Sergio Rodriguez, Kamren Woods, Antonio Watkins, Jackson Cobb, Jayven Daniels will all get playing time at corner. We have great depth there."
Special teams at PG have been just that SPECIAL, ever since Coach Gibson arrived. They put a lot of emphasis and time into that part of the game according to the coach," We put our best athletes on the field and try and change the game with special teams. We have one of the best kickers in the state in Dillon Williams. He is a true weapon. Our deep snapper Reece Foster is very talented as well "
The defending champions will have one of the toughest non-conference and conference schedules in the state. Gibson puts it this way, " Our strength of schedule is brutal. We play 8 teams that have won a state championship AND 7 of them are currently state ranked. We have four state ranked teams in our district alone. When you play a schedule like this, you have to maintain focus on getting better each week no matter the outcome of the weeks before. This schedule will sharpen us and make us better. If we handle it the right way and peak late in the season like we usually do, the tough schedule can only help us."
According to Gibson, the secret to the Hawks being successful and making another long run in the playoffs is really quite simple, he talked about it above, " handling the schedule and taking steps each week." That is really all he has ever asked of his players since his arrival at PG. In other words give your all and try to improve as a team each week. That formula led to a perfect record and a Texas State Championship in 2017.
Know one knows just how far this group of Hawks will fly this year, but you do know this, the coaching staff and players, will be giving their all every day, day in day out.
Good Luck Hawks!!!!