The Hardin-Jefferson Hawks are on an uptick heading into fall with 22 returning lettermen and 16 starters. HJ is coming off a disappointing 2-8 season but the future looks bright the east Texas 4A school.
The Hawks have plenty of talent returning and could turn some heads starting with their first game August 30 vs Coldspring-Oakhurst.
"We have high expectations for 2019," said Hawks head coach Dwayne Dubois.
"The majority of our kids are coming back, we have 10 returners on defense. We expect to win every game."
On offense HJ looks to be much improved with senior RB Izaak Whitman leading the charge in their run oriented "Slot-T" offense. Also returning will be QB Westen Nugent and in the trenches will be senior linemen Enrique Montes and Hayden Burton.
"Our strength will be the offensive line," said Dubois, "We've got Montes, Burton, Bronson McClelland, Michael McIntosh, and Cody Caldwell. We're excited to what our offense brings."
Defense will drive the train for the Hawks as experience will go a long way against powerhouse programs Silsbee and West Orange-Stark. Liberty will be the potential 3rd seed with HJ most likely fighting Hamshire-Fannett for the final playoff spot.
"We'll have a ton of kids playing both ways and we have a lot of depth on defense," said Dubois.
"Our freshmen and sophomores are coming up so we just have to be smart in how we use them."
The last time HJ won 10 games was back in 2014 when they went 11-2, the Hawks may not be at that point yet but there's definitely a new wind blowing in Sour Lake.
"That was a special team back in '14," said Dubois.
"We have the potential to be just as good. There's enough talent here, our goal is to win a district championship and get back in the playoffs."
The Hawks begin their district season October 11 on the road versus Hamshire-Fannett.
PODCAST: Dwayne Dubois of Hardin Jefferson Football
Harden-Jefferson comes into this volleyball season reeling from their 2018 bi-district playoff loss to Livingston, a bitter loss that still lingers. After a second place finish in District 22-4A and a 2017 season that saw the Lady Hawks go three playoff rounds, deep expectations were shattered before November.
A new day shines in Sour Lake as 2019 brings with it a new sense of competition and a clean slate.
"We're coming into this season with the mindset of competing, just as we did last year," said JoLee Kolander.
"Our second place finish made out for a really good season, we were disappointed in the playoff loss but we are looking forward not backward."