For the last four years, the Nacogdoches Dragons have been a team on the verge.
While they did reach the playoffs last season, Nac is still looking for its first winning campaign since 2014, which had been the last time they made the postseason.
The arrival of proven winner Darren Allman as their new head coach may just be the X-factor that puts the Dragons over the hump.
“Everybody got pretty hyped up when they heard about him coming in. So it’s definitely a new experience but I like it a lot,” said Nacogdoches senior quarterback Jake Smith.
Allman arrived in Nac this spring with an 88-38 record as a head coach at places like Odessa Permian, Austin Westlake, Colleyville Heritage, and most recently as athletic director at Southlake Carroll.
“I think he knows a lot about the game. And I’m definitely looking forward to playing under him,” added Smith.
“I like him. You know, from him coming in, and having such an experienced past. I’m really looking forward to see what he does here in Nac,” said Dragons center Riley Birdwell.
And they appreciate the fact that he rolls up his sleeves, working one-on-one at some point with just about every player.
And in a group that has plenty of experience and talent coming back, he’s recently noticed them developing one ingredient that could pay off dividends in the long run.
“Learn how to deal with adversity, knowing that everything is not gonna go their way in a football game. And how you react to that is gonna determine, you know, how the game comes out. I think we’ve got good enough players to, you know, to do some things if they buy in scheme wise. But if they don’t buy into that other stuff, you know, and have their mind right, no it doesn’t matter,” said Allman.
A huge factor for the Dragons is having third-year starting quarterback Jake Smith back.
With 2,093 yards passing and 17 touchdowns last season, he’s proven to have one of the best arms in East Texas. Allman also likes the way he leads by example.
“He’s probably got the best work ethic on the team. And you can see him improve weekly. And man, that’s contagious with a lot of our football players. So he’s invaluable, his leadership, and we’ve had some other guys come on as well, some seniors,” Allman explained.
“I’m the person that drives us down the field each drive, and I’m gonna try to be one of the big leaders on the team this year,” said Smith.
And Allman says by no means is Smith one-dimensional.
“When we need it, it’s sure nice to have a quarterback who’s mobile like Jake is. And he can create some plays when we mess ’em up.”
Nac opens the season at home Friday vs. Kilgore at 7:30 p.m.
Watch the video to see our Friday Football Fever Countdown preview.