By Kathi Bliss
As he begins his second year as Head Coach for the Fighting Lions Football Team, Paul Kilby’s mind is on more than his team’s record on the field.
Though he agrees it’s important to build a team of winners on the field, it’s far more important, he said, to ensure that his football players are winners off the field.
Put simply, he said, he hopes to build a team of “Men Built for Others.”
“My main goal, what I want from this team, is a group of men that are successful on and off the field,” Kilby said. “It’s fine to be successful on the field, but sometimes in this society, we focus on teaching men the wrong things. Some folks teach that success is all about ‘the Three B’s – ballfield, billfold and bedroom.’ It’s more than that.”
Make no mistake, though. While Kilby wants his players to be gentlemen on and off the field, he has no intention of letting their decorum be mistaken for weakness.
“You go out on the field any Friday night, and your job is to hit a guy and take him down,” Kilby said. “Hit him as hard as you can. Take him down as fast as you can. But don’t humiliate him while he’s down there.”
A positive change in attitude, Kilby said, is exactly what the Lions needed this year, as district realignment brings the promise of big changes to District 27-4A.
In the second year of Kilby’s association with Lockhart, a sweeping UIL realignment could be big news for the Lions.
“Our big challenges are going to be Kerrville Tivy and Hays,” Kilby said. “We got rid of Smithson Valley and New Braunfels Canyon, but it’s going to be an even trade.”
The Lions have nine starters returning, including key receivers Levi Mair and Marcos Rodriguez. Kilby said they, along with the rest of the team, are ready to build on last year’s lessons – they finished the season at 2-8, with this year’s positive attitude.
“They’re ready, and the only thing they don’t have right now is belief,” Kilby said. “They want a championship, and they’re ready to work for it, we just need to get ready in the pre-season to build the momentum to get us there.”
First on the menu, though, the Lions will open their District season on Sept. 28 when they travel to face district newcomers the Seguin Matadors. The Seguin Matadors will return eight starters, some in key positions, but have a sagging 2-8 record to bounce back from as they get their feet wet in the new alignment of District 27-4A.
The Lions will then host longtime district foes, the Clemens Buffaloes. The Buffs will return only seven starters to the field, as they grapple back from a 4-6 season in 2012
The Lions’ next challenge comes on Oct. 12, when they travel to Kyle to face the Hays Rebels.
A longtime district powerhouse, the Rebels suffered a bit last season, needing some time to regroup after the retirement of longtime coach Bob Shelton. By the end of the season, however, the Rebels found their stride, eventually tying for the District Championship with an 8-4 overall record.
This year, the Rebels will return 10 starters.
With a dozen players returning to the field, the Boerne-Champion Chargers will pose a challenge in experience; they closed last season with a 5-6 overall record. The Chargers will travel to Lockhart on Oct. 19.
The Alamo Heights Mules have nine starters coming back this year. They closed the season two rounds into the playoffs, with an 8-4 record. They will host the Lions on Oct. 26.
The Lions will look for their Homecoming victory on Nov. 2, when they play their last home game of the season against Lehman.
The Lehman Lobos will return 11 starters to the field this year, but MaxPreps suggests that a new coaching strategy and young team members on offense could cost the Lobos, who closed last season with a 6-4 overall record.
The Lions will close the season against the District favorites, the Kerrville Tivy Antlers. The Antlers are currently ranked 65th in the state, and went deep into the playoffs last year. Kilby said his greatest cause for concern with the Antlers is their quarterback, a returning starter who is strong, fast and competitive.
Tivy went 11-3 last year, and has five starting offensive and four starting defensive players returning to the field.
Though the schedule seems daunting, Kilby remains optimistic. ‘
“Our goal as a team is to make the playoffs this season,” he said. “We can do that. We WILL do that… we just need to believe it.”
The Lions, who began two-a-days last week, will hit the field for the first time on Saturday evening for a scrimmage with the Cuero Gobblers at 7 p.m. Next week, the Lions will scrimmage in LaGrange, and they will open their regular season when they host Victoria West on Friday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m.