J’Den Wilson takes some reps at quarterback during practice on Tuesday. Head Coach Cody Farrell said that he doesn’t want to make a decision on the quarterback until closer to game one.

After a tough season with a lot of learning, the Commerce High School Tiger football team is looking to return to playoff contention with a year of experience under many players’ belt.

The 2018 season saw a regression from the Tigers. After making a playoff run in 2017, Commerce struggled throughout last season, finishing with a 1-8 record and a singular victory in District 5 3A-I. While some games were close, including a 52-45 shootout with Lone Oak, others were not so competitive.

Head Coach Cody Farrell, now entering his third year at the helm, says to expect a different Tiger team this season.

“There is a lot that’s new,” Farrell said. “There’s a brand new offense and just a lot more maturity and development with the kids.”

The new offense comes with the hiring of new Offensive Coordinator Yogi Gallegos, a former TCU and Texas A&M University-Commerce quarterback who has been coaching at A&M-Commerce since 2013. Farrell says the new offense may see more passing, but it is by no means a pass-only offense.

“The new offense is more spread, but it’s not like an air raid attack or anything like that,” Farrell said. “It’s all about finding more space and getting the ball downfield any way we can, passing or running.”

This marks a change from last year, where the quarterback and running back carried the load. with some games seeing only a handful of passing attempts. 

Last season also saw multiple quarterbacks. J’Den Wilson started the season at QB, but shifted to wide receiver in week three while Brad Caldwell took over. Farrell says a definite decision on a starter will be made closer to the opening game.

“Whatever happens, I can guarantee you that the best 11 players will be out there on the field,” Farrell said, indicating that position changes and shifts can be expected if need be.

One of the biggest benefits for this season, Farrell says, is experience. Last season, many starters were sophomores, and only a handful of players graduated. While the presence of those seniors will be missed, the experiences gained can help the young team improve this season.

For the second straight year, the Tigers will be road warriors, but this time it is built into the schedule. Last season’s homecoming game was cancelled due to lightning, leaving Commerce with just four home games to five away matches. This season, only four home games are scheduled out of the 10 total.

Farrell doesn’t view this as an issue.

“I think we are a better road team,” Farrell said. “We are better-prepared mentally due to the schedule and structure when heading out on the road.”

Coincidentally, the Tigers’ lone win last season came on the road in a real mud bath of a game against Howe.

As far as season predictions, Farrell says that the bar is set high for this team.

“We have playoff goals with this group of guys,” Farrell said. “We have many starters returning with a year of experience while some schools lost their best guys to graduation. We are looking to compete.”

The first game of the season is on the road against Edgewood on Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Edgewood’s I.T. James Memorial Stadium is located at 804 E. Pine Street in Edgewood.

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