RANKIN, Texas – Rankin has thrived the past few seasons. Most notably, the Red Devils made a trip to the State Semifinal in 2019. After seeing the core of that group graduate, it’s almost a new era for the Red Devils.

“As a coach, we almost feel rejuvenated as a staff,” said head coach Garret Avalos. “We don’t know a lot of things. There’s a lot of unknowns but that’s exciting.”

One of the few known commodities returning is Braxxton Kirkland – the only full-time starter back with the team. Kirkland is a preseason all-state selection for six-man football. He says playing alongside the new guys on varsity has been mutually beneficial.

“We’re teaching them our ways and we’re learning new ways too at the same time,” said Kirkland. “Never really got to play with these guys but we’re just learning each other as we go.”

While many players will be significant contributors for the first time, that’s not to suggest fans will see a notable drop in talent.

“They’re different,” senior Kalob Aguero said about the members of the varsity team. “I mean, they’re big, strong, physical. They’ve all been in the weight room this summer so it should be pretty lit.”

“It’s pretty scary sometimes what a kid can do when it’s their opportunity and they feel like it’s their time,” said Avalos.

The Red Devils are also working on managing their own expectations. Last year, Rankin entered as the top-ranked team in the preseason rankings for Class 1A, Division I.

“They’ve kind of come up with this idea – they don’t want to talk about state championships. They don’t want to talk about playoffs,” said Avalos. “They want to focus on one day at a time, winning the day.”

“There’s people that talk about us all the time. That’s just how it goes,” said Kirkland. “We really don’t care. You can talk about it all you want but it doesn’t really affect us.”

To those expecting Rankin to significantly regress this season, Kirkland offers this warning: “We’re going to prove you wrong. Oh yeah, we’re going to prove you wrong.”