The wait is finally over.
After winning back-to-back 7 on 7 state titles, bringing in a new quarterback and spending all summer finding new faces to lead the charge under the Friday night lights, the Steers are ready to start the long road back to the playoffs.
Graham, which enters the season ranked No.3 in 4A Division 1, will open the 2014 season against former district rival Vernon. The Lions moved to Division II during the offseason realignment.
Vernon returns 11 starters from a team that went 10-3 and appeared in the 3A regional semifinals. Graham beat the Lions 49-20 during the regular season when quarterback Ben Davis posted a season-best seven touchdowns.
Head coach Kenny Davidson said he expects another battle from the Lions, even though they are replacing some key skill players.
“They've got the same thing a good Vernon team always has, and that's quickness and speed,” Davidson said. “Coach (Mark) Bateman is doing a really good job of instilling confidence and fundamentals and technique.”
The Lions will break in plenty of new faces on offense, including quarterback Evan Bailey. Bailey recorded 30 tackles in nine games last season, but never took a snap under center. He will replace David Garza, who threw for 933 yards, 10 touchdowns and ran for 11 more scores.
Vernon graduated their top two running backs in Orlando Hayman and Danny Valverde, who combined for 2,517 yards and 32 touchdowns. Seniors Isiah Love and Courtland Worral will step into the starting roles after posting 566 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
The Lions' four returning receivers had 10 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns in 2013.
The Steers' offense will also look completely different from last season, starting with the quarterback.
Landry Turner is no stranger to the quarterback position, though, having started two years at Springtown.
Read the full story in Wendesday's Graham Leader.