Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Football Series at Texas Stadium
Presented by Burger King
Mansfield Timberview (Texas) vs. Buford (Ga.), 11 a.m.
Cedar Hill (Texas) vs. La Salle Catholic (Cincinnati, Ohio), 2 p.m.
Justin Northwest (Texas) vs. Woodland Hills (Pa.), 5 p.m.
Arlington Bowie (Texas) vs. Trotwood-Madison (Ohio), 8 p.m.
Euless Trinity (Texas) vs. John Curtis (River Ridge, La.), 11 a.m.
Klein Oak (Texas) vs. Mandeville (La.), cancelled.
Colleyville Heritage (Texas) vs. Clovis East (Calif.), 6 p.m.
See team notes below
By Mitch Stephens MaxPreps.com
DALLAS, Texas – Steve Lineweaver has seen his share of tumbleweeds and slim pickings. He’s been coaching football in Texas for 41 years after all.
“I’ve broke a few huddles, that’s for sure,” he said.
He’s breaking new ground these days.
The calm, smooth-talking Lineweaver is the coach of Trinity High School out of Euless, the nation’s No. 1 team according to many preseason polls.
The Trojans are the defending Texas 5A Division I state champion, which is kind of like being the top student at Harvard or the best dancer at Juilliard.
They’ve won two of the last three state crowns in fact, and in 2006 they dropped a 22-21 semifinal game to eventual mythical national champion Southlake Carroll.
They’re just that close to being a three-time defending Texas state champ which would indeed put them in elite company.
With 11 starters returning, including all-state linebacker Earnest Norman (committed to Kansas) along with blue chip recruits defensive back Eyron Barnett (Texas), running back Trey Robinson (Nebraska) and defensive lineman Siosaia Tuipulotu, the Trojans definitely have it rolling, though Lineweaver isn’t terribly comfortable sitting in the cat bird’s seat.
“I don’t know how good we’re going to be,” he said. “It would be great to be as good as everyone has picked us. .. We’ve never been picked No. 1 in the state before let alone the nation so this is new ground for us. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Around Euless – a hard-working community with a large Tongan population - Lineweaver has had the luxury of doing some waiting and seeing.
For all of his nine seasons at Trinity, he’s enjoyed the view. The Trojans are traditionally huge and physical up front with an array of fast, athletic skill players.
With 2,100 students for three grades (the school does not have freshmen), Lineweaver has plenty of players to choose from.
“Obviously we have some good players roll through here,” Lineweaver said. “And we’ve got good support from our administration. But I think most important is we’re a blue collar area. The kids don’t stay inside a lot.”
That’s made Lineweaver’s job a whole lot easier. Then again, he’s been successful wherever he’s coached including winning a state 3A championship at Commerce.
“A coach’s worst nightmare is having to go around the halls convincing kids into playing (football),” he said. “You don’t have to do that at Trinity. They all want to come out and play. It’s kind of a popular thing to be a member of the Trojans football team.”
This year especially.
The team opens the season Monday against 22-time Louisiana state champion John Curtis Christian (River Ridge) in one of the nation’s most anticipated games this season.
It’s the premier contest of the seven-game, two-day Herbstreit Varsity Football Series at Texas Stadium in Irving. The 11 a.m. game is one of two games on Monday, the other being Heritage (Colleyville, Texas) against Clovis East (Calif.) at 6 p.m.
The middle game was cancelled after Mandeville (La.) pulled out due to travel concerns with Hurrican Gustav.
Lineweaver thinks the big venue and intra-state rivalries are fine, though ill-timed.
“It’s real nice for the fans and it creates interest,” he said. “But it seems a little much for us for a first game. We try to build and rise and this kind of forces you to put the cart before the horse.”
Curtis is definitely a thoroughbred, led by the nation’s No. 2 all-time winningest coach J.T. Curtis, whose father founded the school.
The Patriots return 10 starters from last year’s 12-2 team, including running back Kenny Cain (1,122 yards) and top defenders Matt Stansbury (111 tackles) and Jonathan Pippen (106 tackles, 6 sacks). The most sought-after player, however, might be junior receiver/defensive back Jonathan McKnight, brother of current USC starting tailback Joe McKnight.
Lineweaver has never seen Curtis live and is largely concerned with the matchup up front. The Trojans’ line has been a little slow in developing and is pretty green, according to Lineweaver.
“We’re not as physically intimidating as we’ve been in the past,” he said. “We’re going to have to be physical because (Curtis) is going to bring it. They are very polished and tough on the line. They are old school and they come off hard and low.”
In the fancy foot age of the spread offense and standing linemen, Lineweaver appreciates Curtis’ Houston veer attack.
“They just try to drive you out of there,” he said. “They have a real good scheme.
“I’ve been around long enough to remember when this was the offense everyone ran. Coach Curtis has hung on to it and I think it’s a real strength. They know their system real well because it hasn’t changed. I think it gives them a great advantage because opponents don’t have the much experience playing against it.”
Then again, Curtis might not see players as athletic as Norman, Robinson and returning quarterback Denarius McGhee, a 5-11, 180-pound junior who after being injured early came on strong late to lead the Trojans to the state crown.
Asked about Norman (5-11, 195), Lineweaver said: “He’s a defensive back with that kind of speed who plays linebacker. He’s got a good feel for the game. He’s been playing on the varsity since he was a freshman, which is really rare for us, especially because ninth graders aren’t even on our campus.”
Robinson replaces all-state running back Samir Baker and shouldn’t miss a beat. Asked if Robinson is as good a back as he’s coached and Lineweaver said: “He’s definitely the prettiest one I’ve had. He can do it all. He’s 6-foot and 225 pounds. He can catch it with one hand if he has to. He can throw it 65 yards. He’s just very athletic. But he’s got to overcome some injuries. He definitely hasn’t reached his potential yet so we’re hoping to get him off to a good start on Monday.”
MEDIA NOTES: The Dallas Morning News listed 48 of the top players in the region and the following six from the Texas Gridiron Classic made the cut: QB Christian Matthews (Bowie), RB Eric Stephens (Mansfield Timberview), OL Thomas Ashcraft (Cedar Hill), DL Tuipolotu (Trinity), CB Barnett (Trinity) and K Eduardo Camara (Cedar Hill).
Timberview – Stephens gained 1,906 yards last year and rushed for 23 touchdowns. He was his district’s offensive MVP last year when the team went 9-4. … Timberview has 14 returning starters and is ranked 72nd in the state.
Buford – The defending Georgia 2A champions went 15-0 last year and won by an average margin of 41. … Team returns just four starters, including all-stater Dallas Lee. … Was ranked No. 2 in final MaxPreps Georgia poll last year and open No. 23 this season.
Cedar Hill – Eight starters are back from 8-4 squad, including Ashcraft, who is a massive 6-5 and 280 and was selected a preseason All-American.
La Salle – Despite finishing 5-5 last year, finished No. 15 in the state in the final rankings. … Despite season-opening defeat, still ranked No. 27 in the state.
Justin Northwest – Only one starter is back from last year but he’s a good one in QB Bryan Curb. … Seven return on defense, including all-district guy Lee Taylor.
Woodland Hills – The Pensylvania school returns 11 starters from 3-7 team.
Arlington Bowie – The team finished No. 4 in the state after going 12-2 and is ranked No. 4 to start this season. Besides RB Matthews (Kansas bound, 2,700 yards, 26 TDs, 650 yards passing, Bowie also has dynamic FS in Dexter Linton and RB Danon Metu.
Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) – Trotwood, which went 8-4 last year, already endured a 27-25 season-opening loss to Marion Franklin (Ohio). The team lost five DI players but return OL Chris Freeman (6-7, 325) and one of the state’s best juniors, DE Anthony Gibson.
Klein Oak (Texas) – Return 10 starters from last year’s 10-2 team, including RB Ossam Cook, WR Jordan Najuar. Team finished 50th in final rankings.
Mandeville – Three three-year starters return to the secondary including Kody Keoman and Jerry Mitchell. RB Will Burns lead an inexperienced squad, which returns eight starters.
Heritage – Squad returns plenty among skill players, QB Steven Hill, RB Bryon Head and Baley Crego. All-state DB Eddie Foster should be a force on defense along with LB Bobby Schneider (136 tackles).
Clovis East – Coached by Tim Murphy, Clovis East (8-4 last year) loves to run the ball behind a big offense line and a Wing-T attack.
E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com