ANSON — Few teams in the Big Country have done a better job of establishing an identity than Chris Hagler’s Anson Tigers. So much so, that what often comes to mind when Anson football is mentioned is the up-tempo, attacking style of offense the Tigers have used to reach the playoffs for six straight years.
The 2021 campaign, however, may see a subtle change in terms of style at AHS. Though the tempo will remain the same, Anson will show an increased emphasis on the running game — electing to knock people over rather than throwing over the top of them.
The reasoning? Two-fold.
To begin with, the 2021 Tigers are blessed with a sturdy, experienced offensive line. And secondly, the Anson receiving corps is on the young side, and will likely need a bit of time to gain confidence.
Make no mistake: Anson will not be playing possession football. On the contrary, they’re hoping to pull off as many snaps per game as they have in the past with an eye on scoring quickly.
They’ll just be a bit meaner in their approach.
“We’re going to hang our hat on our lines this year, both defensively and offensively,” coach Hagler said. “We’re looking for big things out of them until we can get those young guys caught up.
“I learned early on that it starts up front and ends up front. We really love it when a year comes around where we have quite a few seniors on the line who have been playing for a while and that’s what we have this year.
“I think you could ask any coach in the Big Country what’s most important and they’d all lead you to the trenches.”
This isn’t entirely new, though it flies in the face of Anson’s reputation.
The Tigers did rush for 1,502 yards a year ago, via committee, with the now-graduated Jacob Garza producing a modest team-leading tally of 513 yards.
Along the way, Anson produced a solid 4.7 yards per carry behind an offensive line that returns four of five starters this season — hence the change in emphasis this year. And word is already out in the Anson camp that the guys up front will be the key to the team’s success this time around.
“We had to replace a lot of our skill because most of them graduated,” offensive lineman Max Hagler said. “We were already pretty strong up front and we did well as juniors. We only have one starter to replace and we’ll be good to go.”
Among those vying for playing time up front on both sides of the ball will be seniors Caleb Moreno (5-11, 240), Haygen Garcia (5-8, 220), Joe Galvan (6-0, 235), Clint Shank (6-0, 200) and Max Hagler (6-0, 220).
The receiving corps is both young and untried, so the expected beneficiaries will be running back Riley Pippin (344 yards rushing) and utility man Dylyn Pyle, who rushed for 323.
“I think it’s going to be a big aspect of our game, because we have a little more experience than the skill guys,” Moreno said. “So I feel like the coaches and everyone else can rely on us. … Our skill guys are young, but I believe they can get the job done, no matter what.’
Added tight end Mason Hagler: “Our experience is up front and I would say the leaders of our football team this year will be up front. I would say we’re going to lean heavily on our offensive line this year. I think we’ll have to rely on our guys in tough situations since we have so many younger players coming in at the skill positions.
“The way coach Hagler runs his offense, it might look a little different, with some more hard-nosed pounding the football with our O-line. But I still think he’ll find a way to utilize our weapons as he always does.”