For one of the winningest programs in Texas high school football history, 2016 presented challenges that head coach Mel Maxfield had never seen.
“We lost as many as eight offensive linemen during the season,” Maxfield said, “We’ve never had to deal with that many injuries up front.”
Despite all those injuries, the Sandies were able to put together another impressive season, capturing a share of the District 3-5A title after moving down from 6A in the previous realignment. Their season ended early in the bi-district round with a close loss to Lubbock Monterey but Maxfield was pleased with how his team responded.
“I thought the kids responded really well to that adversity,” Maxfield said, “They really embraced the next man up concept and they really stepped up and met the challenge.”
The mental edge has helped to keep Amarillo High as a force to be reckoned with in the Panhandle. The Sandies have made the playoffs every year under Maxfield’s tenure (7 seasons) and they’ll look to keep that success going in 2017. Maxfield cites the continuity of his coaching staff, but also the unique look of the Wing-T offense that the Sandies line up with when they take the field.
“It really challenges the opponent to get ready for us in three days,” Maxfield said, “There aren’t many people who run it but I do think it’s an advantage come the postseason since not a lot of teams are used to seeing it.
As preparations begin for the 2017 season, Maxfield says he’ll rely on running back Jaelin Ford, who’s back at Amarillo after playing last season at Canyon and rising senior quarterback Nathan Betts to take full control of the offense after splitting time with Reagan Hill last year.
“He’s got a great grasp of the offense,” Maxfield said of his starting quarterback, “He was voted a captain as a junior which is not something you find that often so he has those great leadership skills as well.”
The biggest key to Amarillo’s success in 2017 may come at the hands of their defense. The Sandies replace 10 starters on that side of the ball and will have to rebuild a unit that was stout last season, giving up just an average of 16 points per game. Ultimately, given what happened last year, Maxfield also wants to see his team build up depth up front and that could determine how far they go.
“We’ve got to develop some lineman on both sides of the ball,” Maxfield said, “And with all the starters that we’re replacing on defense, that’ll be critical this spring to replace those guys and find some players.”
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