New Braunfels Christian Academy head football coach Josh Wood isn’t a big fan of the word “potential.”
Instead, Wood is more focused on the reality of what takes place on Friday nights.
“Potential is nothing unless something comes of it,” Wood said. “It’s all about getting us to the point and level where we need to be.”
Since Wood took over the program prior to the 2016 season, the Wildcats hold a combined record of 33-10 heading into tonight’s TAPPS Six-Man Division II District 2 opener against Waco Live Oak. NBCA (4-1) fell to Live Oak three years ago in the state title game, but ever since, the Wildcats have dominated the series against the Falcons (0-5).
Still, Wood is telling his team that it can ill afford to take Live Oak lightly.
“They’re hungry,” Wood said of the Falcons. “They’re going to want their first victory of the year and there’s a target on our backs. Everyone gives us their best shot, so we can’t become complacent.”
New Braunfels Christian has opened the season with five solid performances in a row, with the Wildcats’ lone loss coming against two-time defending UIL Six-Man Division II state champion Strawn. NBCA fell 65-56 on the road, but the lesson learned from that night may prove to be invaluable down the line.
“They have a rich tradition,” Wood said. “We went to their house and had the opportunity to win the game, but we’re watching film with the kids and I asked, ‘Did we play our best complete game? No. Well, what does that mean? If we do play a complete game, we win that game by three touchdowns.’”
The Wildcats appear to be the most balanced team of Wood’s tenure, as the offense is capable of loading up with the run or spreading things out and chucking the pigskin all over the yard. Quarterback Rett Elrod, who threw for over 500 yards and nine TDs in the loss to Strawn, said NBCA has never been more dangerous when it has the ball.
“Usually when a team gets shut down, they have to rely on their defense,” Elrod said. “But whenever our run gets shut down, we throw the ball, and whenever the throw gets shut down, we run the ball. It brings a whole new element to the offense and it kind of makes us feel unstoppable. It gives us an edge over most of the teams we play, and it gives us depth.”
Elrod also had a plethora of receivers to choose from when the Wildcats dial up their aerial attack. Seniors Brady Hines and Jackson Austin bring size and speed to the equation, while Mason Lemme, Jadon Grimsley and Baxter Peabody have all found the end zone as well through the first five games of 2019.
Senior running back Luke Bales has been a weapon in both the run and pass games. Bales has already rushed for 980 yards and 20 TDs, and during the past two games alone, he’s added 10 receptions for 197 yards and a score.
Thus far, NBCA’s blockers — including fullback E.J. Easterly and center Cort Koehler — have done an excellent job of clearing open space for Bales and fellow ballcarriers Gavin Kelly and David Van Horn.
Easterly is also a key player on the defensive side of the ball, where he sees room for improvement. The Wildcats are giving up an average of 39.4 points per contest, but New Braunfels Christian is coming off of its best defensive effort of the year after holding San Antonio Castle Hills to just 6 points a week ago.
“We’ve got to finish our tackles and be more aware of what’s happening on the field,” Easterly said. “We’re starting to get better at that and we have a lot of new faces on defense, so we’re trying to get them better for future seasons as well.”
Hines, Kelly, Jay Wade, R.C. Skelton, Hampton McCollum, Drew Campbell, Mason Grimsley and Ryan Henry have all become impact performers on defense for the Wildcats. Henry, who transferred from Smithson Valley, drew praise from Elrod for his effort since making the move to NBCA.
“He filled a pretty big role on defense,” Elrod said. “Just being able to fly to the ball. He’s very quick and he’s definitely helped us out.”
Elrod and Easterly were both freshmen when the Wildcats lost 64-30 to Live Oak in the 2016 state championship. Since then, the duo has grown up quite a bit and helped the program go from rebuilding mode to reloading prior to each new season.
“We kind of learned from that and we’ve gotten used to being able to go to the playoffs and make a difference,” Easterly said. “I think that we’re a lot less childish now and we’re a lot more mature in what we do and how we practice. It’s less for fun and more for bettering ourselves on and off the field.”
Wood has seen the growth as well and is able to reflect on how far the Wildcats have come. However, there are still a few more important steps to take.
“You see the groundwork that was put in with that senior group a couple years ago,” Wood said. “Those guys that as freshmen and sophomores just kept getting drilled week in and week out and just kept coming back for more, and then their junior and senior years they have success. I really just feel it’s a testament to our kids. We have great kids who have bought in and we have great families, great administration, great board of directors. Everybody has bought into the process of becoming great.
“We’ve come a long way, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
NBCA’s chase for a district title begins tonight in Waco at 7:30 p.m.