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Hamilton cautiously optimistic about 2017 Bulldogs

By Tim McGrath

Photo by Tim McGrath
Bulldogs Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jeff Hamilton (L) and his staff are hard at work in preparation for the upcoming season. Here, Hamilton, Defensive Coordinator  Michael Widenor (M) and Assistant Head Coach Jason Botos (R)  look over the schedule for Bulldog training camp which begins on Monday, August 7.  

Despite the loss of 18 seniors from a year ago, Bandera Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jeff Hamilton and his staff are hard at work and cautiously optimistic about the 2017 Bulldogs chances for success in a brand new season.
One of the reasons Hamilton is optimistic is the Bulldog roster, which contains 15 returning lettermen from last season, including six starters on offense and six on defense. Another reason Hamilton is excited about the new season is the addition of six new coaches to the Bulldog staff and some new wrinkles in the Bulldog offensive and defensive attacks. The new staff members and their assignments include Michael Widenor (D Coordinator, safeties), Michael Garza (D Line), Josh Dormier (ILB), Nicholas Whatley (corners), Dustin Baumann (OL) and Keith Robinson (K/SpTms).
Widenor brings 25 years of football coaching experience to Bandera and comes here from Killeen Shoemaker. Garza arrives from S.A. Lee, Dormier from Ranger, Whatley from Prosper, Baumann from Sabinal and Robinson from Brownwood.
Hamilton had this to say about his new staff members: “We are really excited about all these coaches we have hired because they are just hard workers who ask a ton of questions and they’re really heavily involved and excited about the upcoming season. They have been here every day and with real energy. I am really fired up about them. They are quality people and I feel excited about the people we have.”
Returning from last year’s Bulldog coaching staff are Assistant Head Coach and offensive playcaller Jason Botos, OC/OL Bobby LaLanne, Jeffery Quillin (OLB), Westley Miller (WR), Joe Sanchez (RB) and Middle School coaches Albert Vega, Ryan Folger, Brian Grams and Michael Pena.
Hamilton also spoke of the overall philosophy of the Bulldog coaching staff in 2017. “ As a coaching staff, we have to always go back and decide how do we make it better for the kids. How do we make everything better to where we have a chance to be successful. We want to figure out how we can make the experience better for them. Our job is to make these kids better people. No matter what we do, we want it to be a positive experience for the kids.
"We’ve had to adjust every year and I think we have. I feel more on solid ground as to what we know about the kids and how much we can get out of them and where we are going from here,” Hamilton said.
Returning starters for the Bulldogs include senior fullback and inside linebacker Wyatt Blair, TE/DE Ben Shackelford, OL/DL Josh Ripple LB/FB Ryan Smith, WR/DB Alex Jannell, TE/LB Jacob Brown, junior QB/DB Travis Adams, QB/DB Chase Havely and RB/Rec/LB Chisom Magee.
Hamilton hopes to carry 33 to 35 players on the Bulldog roster this season and although the team is junior-senior heavy, the Bulldogs are hopeful of finding a few sophomores that can contribute now.
“We are mostly juniors and seniors but we have identified two, maybe three sophomores who may be capable of moving up. I think physically they can but if they move up they’ve got to play,” Hamilton said.
Sophomore running backs Tommy Cardenas and Gunnar Brown are expected to contribute to the Bulldog offensive attack this year.
The Bulldogs training camp begins on Monday morning, Aug. 7, as the 2017 Texas High School Football season officially gets underway. The Bulldogs will have a total of 81 players at the start of camp that include 17 seniors, 17 juniors, 27 sophomores and 20 freshmen. Players will arrive at school at 6:30 a.m. for meetings and hit the practice field around 8:30 a.m. Monday thru Friday. The Bulldogs will practice without pads Monday thru Thursday and put on the pads Friday for their first contact workout. The Bulldogs first scrimmage is set for Friday, Aug. 18, at Jourdanton.