BACK FOR MORE: Cardinals looking to extend playoff streak

BACK FOR MORE: Cardinals looking to extend playoff streak
Though a new chapter of Cardinal football begins in 2018, the goal remains the same.
 
In Sherard Poteete's inaugural season as head coach, the Cardinals will be attempting to reach the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regional playoffs as the No. 1 seed for a sixth straight year.
 
Poteete takes over for Brad Smiley, who became the college's all-time winningest coach in an11-year tenure and left in December to become the offensive coordinator at Northwestern State University. Poteete previously was the coordinator of the Cardinals' record-setting offense for five seasons (over two tenures).
 
Don't expect a lot of changes, according to Poteete.
 
"Being a Trinity Valley guy, we're going to keep doing what we've always done," Poteete said. "We're going to be high tempo and put a lot of points on the scoreboard and on defense we're going keep attacking and flying around.
 
"Obviously, I'll put my touches on some things, but, for the most part, it will continue to be Cardinal football as it has been."
 
One thing Poteete and the Cardinals have in their sights is the stronghold they have on the regular season conference championship, which also carries the regional playoffs' top seed. The Cardinals have officially claimed four straight titles, but also won a fifth in 2013 that was vacated by NJCAA sanctions.
 
Short on returning starters on both sides of the ball, four each, Poteete is not concerned.
 
"We may be short on returning players, but we played a lot of young kids last year," Poteete said. "We also had a great spring with them and that really has me looking forward to this season."
 
The Cardinals, with four starters returning on both sides of the ball, as well as all three specialists, are coming off a 9-3 season. They went 5-2 in SWJCFC play, earning the No. 1 playoff seed, and went on to post a dramatic, come-from-behind 48-41 win against defending national champion Garden City Community College College in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl.
 
In the final NJCAA rankings, the Cardinals were No. 6, marking their 61st straight appearance in the poll. The last time the Cardinals did not appear in the national rankings was Sept. 24, 2013.
 
To maintain their high standards, the Cardinals will lean heavily on the guys up front in the trenches on offense. Josh Donovan (6-6, 320), Cyrik Ransom (6-4, 310) and Caleb  Johnson (6-6, 320) will lead a deep and talented group.
 
"Since this group was so young last year, we have a lot of sophomores returning to lead us," Poteete said. "I am really excited to watch this group this year and know it will be a strength.
 
"How they go, we will go."
 
Another element of the offense that has Poteete confident the Cardinals will maintain the offensive standard they have established in the league is at wide receiver.
 
"We are very good at the slot receiver position and also have the ability to go deep and let our playmakers take the ball to the house, which they are very capable of doing anytime we get the ball in their hands," Poteete said. 
 
Dhailon Phillips (6-2, 205) and Brayten Kubecka (6-4, 200) return to lead the receiving corps. Kubecka caught  21 passes for 369 yards last year.
The position was also bolstered in early summer when Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (6-1, 185) transferred from the University of Texas.  At Texas, he caught 37 passes for 402 yards.
 
Expected to be the triggerman of the Cardinals' video-game-like offense is 6-1, 175-pound sophomore Colton Atkinson. He played in four games last year, throwing for 281 yards and rushing for 131.
 
"Due to injuries, he was forced to play a lot for us in key games and he stepped up and responded," Poteete said. "He showed the ability to make plays and lead us."
As on offense, the Cardinals will rely heavily on a bevy of first-time starters on defense. 
 
The Cardinals return a pair of starters up front, Tevan McAdams (6-3, 235) at end and Kory Tolliver (5-10, 275) at tackle. McAdams was in on 44 tackles (29 solo) last year and recorded four sacks.  Tolliver had 16 solo tackles and 13 assists.
 
"We don't have a lot of returning experience on the front side of the defense, but the upside is there is plenty of athleticism among the newcomers," Poteete said.
Joseph Sweeney (6-1, 185) returns in the secondary to lead a group loaded with speed and size.
 
"We lost four D-1 linebackers from last year (Blake Stephenson, Jacquay Pough, Brandon Floyd and Trey Baldwin), and feel with our depth we have the potential to duplicate that this year," Poteete said. "We are excited about the talented newcomers we have added.
 
"Our linebacker position is built around speed and will be able to cover. On the back side of the defense in the secondary, we are long and athletic with size and speed."
 
But the key to the season, remains the same – stay healthy.
 
"Like any team in this league, the key is for us to stay healthy," Poteete said. "This is the toughest league in the NJCAA and you have to bring it week in and week out."
 
Poteete believes his first Cardinal team will do just that.