In 2021, Donnie Dzuik did what a head coach hadn’t done since the 2015 season - take the Badgers to the playoffs.
The Badgers advanced to the playoffs, but ended up falling to Odem 59-25, ending their season 4-7.
“The mindset is that we pick up where we left off last year,” Dzuik said. “Odem knocked us out last year in the first round. This season we play Odem in the first game, and we say that we’re going in to right the wrongs and fix things up.”
The Badgers will return eight starters on offense, and nine on defense, a majority of them seniors.
“We have a lot of starters back, and we expect a lot from those starters,” Dzuik said. “We got 13 seniors that were here at strength and conditioning all summer, so we’re feeling good going into the season.”
One of those returning seniors is running back Jeremiah Rivera, who had 137 carries for 829 yards and four touchdowns in a season where he earned first-team all-district honors.
Dzuik’s goal for Rivera and the rest of his 2022 roster is to have a season where they finish even better than last year.
“We do have a tough district, the kids know that, I remind them of that all the time, just to get to the playoffs, of course that’s everybody's goal, but we want to advance past the first round of the playoffs, because who knows what can happen after that,” Dzuik said.
Nixon-Smiley finished last season 4-6, and 1-5 in district play, in a year where they only had four seniors on their roster.
“I feel pretty confident right now. We've got a bunch of our kids from last year returning,” said Nixon-Smiley head coach Troy Moses. “We got the nucleus of our team returning with years of experience. They understand the program, they understand our philosophies, and they're starting to believe in what we're coaching and teaching.”
The Mustangs will have ten starters returning on offense, and seven on the defensive side of the ball.
“It helps for the camaraderie on the team, and the team atmosphere when you have this many returners because they've been together almost two years now,” Moses said. “When you only lose four players from the year before, you just get that sense that they're more familiar with each other, just because they all played together last year."
One of the leaders from the senior class is tailback and free safety Bradyn Martinez.
Martinez is a four year letterman for the Mustangs, starting on the team since he was freshman.
“He's gonna be a big play guy,” Moses said. “I think he's got a lot of potential to be a district MVP if he wanted to.”
Although Karnes City and Nixon-Smiley are hoping to compete for the district title this year, the favorite still remains Poth, which has been the outright district champions for the past five seasons under head coach Jeff Luna.
“We feel really good about our football team and where we stand right now, we have a long way to go, and we have some young kids that are going to have to grow up pretty quick,” Luna said.