Grace, TKG look to execute strengths

T.K. Gorman's Caleb Williams leads the area in rushing with 400 yards on 41 attempts. (Jaime R. Carrero | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

A little more than a week into the start of football practices, T.K. Gorman coach Rick Palmer has noticed two major differences between this year and last: it’s hotter, but the team is further along.

“The heat’s awful; it’s just absolutely terrible,” said Palmer, in his second year at the helm of the football program.

“We feel like at this time now we’re quite a bit ahead from where we were starting from the beginning of the last year.”

The Crusaders went from winless in 2009 to the state semifinals in 2010. The remarkable turnaround ended in a loss to Bullard Brook Hill at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

Gorman began fall workouts last week. The team practices during the morning to avoid the worst of the heat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hot.

“To play at this time and to get in shape with the heat conditions, you have to love the game and that’s what these kids are doing,” Palmer said. “Every time we go to practice, every coach is on the alert to make sure these kids are safe.”

The Crusaders have two new coaches looking after them: Josh Gilbert (offensive line) and Chris Cochran (defense).

Palmer commended his team for being in shape at the start of practices, noting the form of Caleb Williams, Cole Ihrig, Matt Roe, Matthew Carleton, Matthew Hillin and Brandon Lackner.

The 2010 roster featured 12 seniors, leaving a few positions up for grabs heading into the season, including on the offensive line and on defense.

“We’ve got some openings there that kids are battling for every day,” Palmer said. “They’re doing a great job. I couldn’t be more pleased with our kids and our coaches.”

Gorman hosts the Tyler Football Classic again this year at McCallum Stadium. The Crusaders open the season with Winona on Saturday, Aug. 27.

The Classic kicks off on Aug. 25, with All Saints against Carrollton Christian. It continues Friday when Grace Community takes on Winnsboro.

“With all the heat, we’re still maintaining what I think is the best grass field in Texas,” Palmer said.

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