ALPINE, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Alpine had a number of impact seniors a year ago, but when they went down with injuries, the underclassmen got extended action.

Now the Fightin’ Bucks return with experience that give them an edge in their four-team district.

After starting 0-4 last year, the Bucks rallied to make the playoffs and won in the first round.

Head coach John Fellows has most of his starters returning on both sides of the ball as he begins his eighth season at the helm.

Since his first season in 2015, Alpine has gone 43-38 overall, 18-9 in district play, and 3-7 in the playoffs. The Bucks have made the playoffs in every season under Fellows.

The younger players who gained experience last year are the ones he wants steering the ship.

“We’re just looking for that leadership,” said Fellows, who is confident his players will improve in a system the program has run for eight years.

“It’s not anything new to them. They’re at a point right now where we can start fine tuning their abilities.”

One of Alpine’s leaders last year, quarterback Jayden Canaba, graduated leaving a hole under center filled by senior Tray Ervin. He played heavy snaps at linebacker and at quarterback when Canaba got hurt last year.

Ervin is one of the players who Fellows is counting on to find his voice.

“Just be more vocal and just encourage my teammates,” said Ervin when asked about his goal to establish himself as a team leader.

Ervin gets his energy from his teammates who have encouraged him to lead whether he’s under center or in the middle of their defense.

“It gives me motivation to go.”

After bowing out of the playoffs last year with a 66-point loss, this experienced bunch will have to do more to make a deep run.

Talented seniors like Mateo Miranda know this system on both sides of the ball, but they will have to hit on the smaller details to truly contend in the playoffs.

“I feel like we have to just get the little things down just basically every play got give it a hundred percent,” said Miranda who plays on the offensive and defensive lines.

“Don’t take a play off and if something happens, just fight through it.”

Alpine opens their 2022 schedule on the road against Mountain View on Aug. 26th at 6:30 p.m.