As coach Barton Hundley enters his 3rd season at Liberty Christian, the Warriors aim to improve upon a 6-win season a year ago and make a deeper run in the playoffs. The Warriors finished behind Bishop Dunne and Prestonwood and exited the playoffs after an opening round loss to district foe Nolan Catholic.
The Warriors return just 7 starters from a year ago and have to replace the best quarterback and receiver in school history. QB Nick Starkel is now at Texas A&M and WR Justus Lee is at Arizona. However, the Warriors are fortunate to have an all-district award winner at the QB position this season. Junior Jon Copeland takes over for Starkel and was named first team all-district as a receiver in 2015. Copeland played quarterback as a freshman and moved to receiver last year to help his team and is now positioned to lead the Warriors. Sophomore Will Kuehne is also expected to see some snaps at QB.
The offensive line should be one of the best in District 1. Senior Brooks Talkington anchors the line at OT and has college interest from the likes of Cornell. Senior Blake Harrison also returns after starting in 2015. Newcomers Luke Glaser (transfer), Sadler Engel (injury), and Grant Mahon (Jr. High move up) are also expected to compete for spots on the line. Mahon is a 6’3″, 220 pound freshman.
Defensively, the Warriors could suffer playing in such a tough district with an inexperienced lineup. Brooks Talkington does return on the line as does Israel Isuman (6’6″, 220) which will give the Warriors some much needed size and experience in the middle, however the linebacker corps and secondary are depleted from 2015 and Liberty will need new players to step in immediately.
Overall, Liberty should fair well in the tough DFW-area district because of their talent in the backfield and on the line. Bishop Dunne and Prestonwood are tabbed as the district favorites with Liberty predicted to finish anywhere from third to fifth. The Warriors open district play with Prestonwood and will be looking to defeat the Lions for the first time in school history. A win in this game would put Liberty into the upper tier of that district. The Warriors close out the season at home versus Nolan, a team they defeated last season during district and lost to in their lone playoff game.
Quarterbacks: Jon Copeland (2018) and Will Kuehne (2019) will compete for the starting position. Jon was an all district WR in 2015 and started 4 games at QB as a freshman when Nick Starkel was injured. Copeland is a dynamite playmaker capable of making all the throws and making defenders miss in space. Kuehne was the JV QB in 2015 and picked up a scholarship offer from UNT over the summer. Will has a big arm and a capable runner. Both players are capable of helping in other positions in addition to QB.
Running Backs: Andre Washington (2019) and Kade Johnson (2018) will likely see the bulk of the carries early on. Both were JV running backs in 2015. Andre is a prototypical RB with a smooth stride and explosive speed. Kade is a physical runner with great vision. Kade will likely start at OLB as well and Andre will be in the mix at safety.
Receivers: Elijah Edwards will be a weapon out of the slot. Edwards played all 4 WR spots and RB at the varsity level in 2015 and was a QB for a few games on JV before moving up. This group will have some big targets in Croce (6’3″), Sawyer (6’4″), Charles Christian (6’4″, 2018) and Grant McCrea (6’2″, 2018).
Offensive Line: Brooks Talkington will man one of the Tackle spots. Blake Harrison will start somewhere along the line as well. Brent Uys, Luke Glaser, Sadler Engel, Harlan Haire, David Alvarez and Grant Mahon will all have the opportunity to earn one of the other three spots along the OL.
Defensive Line: Talkington will anchor the DL as well from his DE position. Isuman will be the wild card for this group as he is in only his second year of football but has incredible athletic ability and strength at his size. Joseph Tedford (2017) will be a key member of the DL as well and has the ability to play all four spots along the line. The rest of the group will come from the same collection as the OL and will see several guys rotating throughout the season.
Linebackers: Grant Sawyer will be asked to play both ways and anchor this unit after seeing some time there late in 2015. Michael T. Manning (2019) and Kade Johnson have the early lead at the other two spots. Connor Payton (2019) and Preston White (2019) will push for playing time as well.
Secondary: Edwards, Croce, Kuehne, Hudgens, Christian, Washington and Logan Haire (2017) will be asked to fill roles in 2016. This group returns only one starter (Edwards) after losing one to graduation, one to transfer and one to a decision to focus on baseball only. Some other Underclassmen could push for playing time as well.
Special Teams: Grant Hudgens returns to handle kicking duties after splitting time in 2015. Cameron Baller (2019) could also see action after kicking at the freshman level in 2015.