Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Celina hoping one title leads to another
7-on-7 state crown raises confidence as Bobcats seek 9th title
After winning a state 7-on-7 title last month, Celina football players gathered to celebrate at Kyle Field. A few of them yelled out, “One down, one to go.”
Now the Bobcats begin work on the “one to go,” with the hope of winning their 16th game of the season and claiming a record ninth state championship. Expecting that kind of success is nothing new at Celina, but there will be something new as Celina opens its fall practice Monday morning.
Butch Ford, who led Celina to 122 wins and two state titles over the last 10 seasons, retired in May. The Bobcats are now led by longtime assistant Bill Elliott, whose tenure with Celina stretches back to when G.A. Moore was coaching at the school in the ’90s.
“I was real fortunate the last 10 years to work for Coach Ford, who let me take charge of a lot of things and do a lot of things,” Elliott said. “But now, there’s so much you have to do and so many roles you have to fill.
“But it’s so exciting.”
The excitement begins for a lot of teams Monday. Practice can begin for all University Interscholastic League schools in Class 1A, 2A and 3A, as well as those in 4A and 5A that didn’t have spring practice. The rest of the schools can start Aug. 13.
Celina will begin with motivation from last year, when the Bobcats suffered their first loss of the season three rounds into the playoffs. They’ll also have momentum from winning the Division II title at last month’s FOX Sports Southwest 7-on-7 state championship.
“That gives the guys confidence that they can go out and play with the best teams in the state,” Elliott said.
Not that Celina ever lacks for confidence. The Bobcats haven’t claimed a state title since 2007, but they have won at least 10 games in 17 of the last 18 seasons. They return about half of their starters, including 6-5, 250-pound offensive/defensive lineman Jake Raulerson, who is committed to Texas.
Celina also returns its top receiver, Ben Thiel, whose state title in the 300-meter hurdles helped the Bobcats win the 3A state track title in May. Deshawn Davis is another potential star on offense, as a running back or receiver.
The defense returns tough linebackers Damian Umana and Josh Raulerson and last year’s District 10-3A Defensive Newcomer of the Year, defensive back Micah Nelson.
There’s also last year’s SportsDay Newcomer of the Year, the rare freshman to start at quarterback for Celina. That’s Nathan Elliott, the coach’s son.
“There’s going to be some added pressure because I’m not a freshman now, and my dad’s the head coach,” Nathan Elliott said. “But having him as my coach and the offensive coordinator, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The season certainly will be fun if Celina can win another state title, and the Bobcats are brimming with confidence. “That’s why we’re all saying, ‘One down, one to go,’” Nathan Elliott said.
His dad is also optimistic, but he knows how much work is ahead.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” Elliott said. “Over the next three weeks, the goal is to put those pieces together.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
Football key dates
Monday: Practice can begin for UIL schools in Class 1A-3A, as well as 4A and 5A schools that did not have spring practice.
Aug. 13: Practice can begin for all other 4A and 5A schools.
UIL acclimatization rule: No two-a-day practices are allowed on the first four days of practice. On those first four days, schools can have a walk-through in addition to one practice, as long as no helmets or other contact equipment is worn. Contact in practices is not allowed until the fifth day of practice.
Opening week: First week for regular-season games: Thu., Aug. 30-Sat. Sept. 1