The Friday night lights burn a little brighter in Pilot Point.
Danny David has experienced that as both a player and head coach. As he has his team set to begin the 2020 season, he understands the expectation and tradition of this proud program, perhaps more than most.
“It’s extremely special,” David said. “Here at Pilot Point, you expect to win. You don’t just hope to win. That’s because of the foundation that was put in place many, many years ago. And you don’t want to be the one that lets everyone down. Support comes from the whole town. It’s the parents, the fans. It makes our jobs better because they help motivate the kids to be the best they can be.”
The Cats are coming off a 2019 season that saw them go 12-2 and make a serious run in the playoffs.
“We had four weeks of extra practice time this summer, and not everybody was able to do that,” David said. “When you look at the memories and the fun that we had last year, that creates excitement to get back to that spot again and try to make another big playoff run.”
Leading the charge under center will be senior Max Hollar, who excelled as a deep threat at receiver last season. Like Jacob Pitts before him, Hollar will make the transition to quarterback and gives the Cats a weapon when he decides to tuck the ball and run.
“He’s a great athlete and maybe one of our fastest players,” David said. “Where Pitts last year would run people over, Max will run past you. We might run the ball a little more this year than last year. But Max threw the ball well in our scrimmage and we’re excited to see what he does this season.”
David has said that Hollar’s versatility will allow him to break the huddle and line up at different skill spots, which could lead to confusion from opposing defenses.
Junior Dakota David would take snaps for the Bearcats in that scenario.
Junior Ish Harris (6-3, 195) will be leaned on at tailback and brings a wealth of playmaking ability to the position.
“He’s got so much talent,” David said. “We expect a lot from him this year. People forget he’s just a young guy. He’s 16 years old, but his body looks like a grown man. He’s matured a lot from last year. He had some things with ball security, so I went to him and told him to sleep with the football at night. Dream about it, wake up with the ball beside you. I think it helps mentally to do little things like that.”
Providing depth in the backfield will be senior Dorian Soroka, classmate Triston Trubenbach and sophomore Michael Peterson.
Good teams are traditionally dominant in the trenches, and David said the offensive line may be the team’s deepest and best group overall.
“Jacob Scott is a returning starter, and Caleb Holloway, our center, is a three-year starter,” David said. “Collin Haynes will be a two-year starter. We got a couple young guys on the left side who are really coming on. That’s where our depth is. We’ve got probably 15 or so linemen who by the time we get to district could help us if we needed them to. But you don’t get better standing on the sideline. So we’ll keep several on the JV until that time comes that we need them.”
At receiver, Hollar will have a bevy of talented players to choose from when he drops back.
“Jay Cox has a lot of talent,” David said. “He can run. He can catch anything, and he’s a weapon once he catches it. His little brother, Aidan, is another extremely good athlete. They’re both 3-sport athletes. They’re not just football players. You could see both of them, along with some of our linemen, potentially playing college football. Avery Smith and Asten Kirby are younger ones who have good speed. We try to build everything on speed and quickness.”
Defensively, the Bearcats will again operate from a 4-3 base and will run some 5-2 at times.
David said the defense will utilize its quickness and athleticism, as opposed to being a unit with superior size.
“At defensive end, we’ve got our bookends with Jay Cox and Aidan Cox,” David said. “We talked about how athletic they are. Now they’re on the edge out there funneling everything inside.
“And then you’ve got Troy Tincher. He’s been starting on the varsity for three years now. Triston Trubenbach plays down there and also plays some at linebacker. He’s a threat. He’s a weapon. He’s so quick and so fast and strong. He does a great job for us.
“At the other D-tackle spot, it looks like we’re going to start a sophomore, Ryan Riney, who also plays some at offensive line.”
At linebacker, the Cats will field another experienced unit.
“Dorian Soroka, he’s been a backup for us,” David said. “This year, he’s a starter. We feel like we’re in pretty good shape there.”
In the defensive backfield, Hollar will quarterback that unit at safety.
“Hollar is our strong safety, and then Avery Smith is our starter at free safety,” David said. “Our cornerbacks are Asten Kirby and Ish Harris. Then we back them up with another senior who came out to play this year, Ubaldo Nandin. We expect some good things out of him.”
Defensively, Pilot Point fans will see a very familiar strategy from the Cats.
“It’s the same thing we were running when I was in high school here,” David said. “It’s a 4-3, then we can come down in a 5-2 look. We can man up, and we do different stuff up front. We’ll stunt and fly around to the ball. We just play like wild men out there.”
David said the team feels like it’s reloaded from last season’s 12-2 squad.
“To have an established program, that’s what you want,” he said. “We want to compete for a state championship year after year.”