And so it begins.

A season of great expectations for the John Tyler Lions football team officially began early Monday morning.

With ongoing construction continuing on the JT campus, Lions head coach Ricklan Holmes is working to build another team in the long history of standout Cujo squads.

“I’m just as excited as I was when we had our first January practice,” said Holmes, who enters his eighth year at the helm of the JT program, sporting a 66-23 overall record (41-7 in district and 14-6 in the playoffs).

There was a lot of buzz as the Lions got workouts underway before sunrise, starting at 5 a.m.

“It was productive,” Holmes said. “It was just like you want any day to be; moving forward on the pathway we created during the offseason.”

Two of the key leaders returning for the Lions are running back/defensive back Kitan Crawford (5-11, 195, 4.3 40-yard dash) and center Angel Sarmiento (6-2, 285).

“The first day was a bit hard, but we’ve got to get used to the early morning workouts,” said Crawford, who committed to Texas over the summer. “It’s going to be a great season. ... We will do everything we need to do for a successful year.”

Holmes describes Crawford, a member of the All-East Texas Preseason Dream Team, as a “very explosive athlete with an elite skill set to run the ball and be a lockdown cornerback.” His projection in college is to be a cornerback.

Sarmiento, also an All-ET Preseason Team member, is scheduled to play center. Holmes said he is capable of manning the tackle and guard positions as well.

“We lost a lot of seniors, but we have some leaders coming back that know what they are doing,” Sarmiento said. “We have some (freshmen, JV) guys coming in. They will get used to varsity, but we will see how they react under the Friday Night Lights. That’s a different ballgame.

“We hope to build off last season’s success when we had a deep run in the playoffs.”

The Lions, who were 10-3 last season, have a scrimmage scheduled for Friday, Aug. 23, against Dallas Jesuit at North Forney High School in Forney. The scrimmage is set to start at 7:15 p.m.

JT will open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 30, against Mesquite Horn on Earl Campbell Field at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

LIONS TALES: Holmes said incoming JT freshman cornerback/wide receiver Montrell Wade (6-1, 178), who has already picked up a Power Five offer from Les Miles’ Kansas Jayhawks, will likely start on the freshman team, play two games, then move up to the junior varsity to play two games. He will then see if Wade is ready for the varsity. ... JT’s Media Day is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday at the Frank E. Melton Academic & Athletic Complex.

TWITTER: @PhilHicksETFS

TWITTER: @PhilHicksETFS

Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.

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