High school football: Altamont Longhorns 2014 preview

Published: Monday, Aug. 4 2014 10:40 p.m. MDT

Note: Altamont finished with a 3-8 overall record in 2013 and was third in 1A North with a 1-2 record. It lost to Diamond Ranch 48-19 in the 1A quarterfinals.

In the eyes of head coach Anthony Wilcox, the success of the Altamont Longhorns this year will hinge on how mentally engaged his players are from week to week.

A season ago, Altamont got off to a 3-2 start before it lost its final six contests. With much of his team set to return in 2014, Wilcox feels the Longhorns have the talent to stay out of the 1A North cellar, the spot they were predicted to finish by 1A coaches.

“It got kind of frustrating because I thought our kids had the talent to be more competitive than they were, but they just weren’t,” Wilcox said of the 2013 campaign. “It’s more of a mental thing, getting mentally prepared to be able to handle a football game. Physically I don’t think it was an issue. If you don’t have your mental behind you, then it doesn’t matter how physically gifted you are.”

While Wilcox feels confident about the talent on his team, how successful Altamont will be on the offensive side of the ball is somewhat in question. Quarterback Dylan Lindsay graduated, and replacing him will be the Longhorns’ most productive running back from a season ago, Rylee Foy.

The senior has never played quarterback, though he did complete one pass last season for 25 yards.

“He’s never played (quarterback) before, so obviously his mechanics are gonna be fairly rusty and we expect that, so we’ll just adjust to what he does well, which is that he’s a really good running back,” Wilcox said. “He can throw the ball, so we’ll still throw the ball, but we’ll do a lot of stuff almost like we have an extra blocker because our best running back is the quarterback.”

Though it stands to reason Altamont may struggle in the passing game, the Longhorns are looking to have success on the ground. While a spread offense is often employed to execute an effective air attack, Wilcox is looking to do it so the middle is opened up to rush the ball.

In addition to Foy, Altamont will use a platoon of running backs. The Longhorns will welcome back Slaton Thompson, who missed the entire 2013 campaign after getting injured in the opening game of the season, while senior Brady Farnsworth is looking to finish out his prep career strong.

“We’ll still run up the middle, but we’ll do it by spreading people out and then trying to run it up the middle,” Wilcox said. “You have to be able to run up the middle in order to be successful, but we will spread people out and then do it.”

Helping the rushing attack will be perhaps the strongest unit of the team, the offensive line. Returners Westley Thompson, Dainen Parry and McCoy Pace will anchor the unit.

“I have all the confidence in the world in those three,” Wilcox said. “I think they’re all three quality offensive linemen.”

On defense, Altamont will be returning a large portion of the guys that surrendered nearly 35 points per game a season ago. Wilcox said many of the problems on that side of the ball came as a result of players being timid and not aggressive at the point of attack. He is hoping experience will be the biggest factor in improving and is cautiously optimistic.

“I’m hoping it will transition, but if I had a crystal ball and could understand the mind of teenage boys, I’d sell a lot of books,” he said.

In totality, Wilcox is looking for an attitude shift within the Altamont program in his second year at the helm. Over the past decade, he feels confidence has been lacking when it comes to believing the Longhorns can compete with the likes of Duchesne and Rich, but he is hoping that will change in 2014.