CISCO, Texas - The Cisco Loboes are in a territory they've never been in before: Defending their first state championship in school history.
"It's easy to get to the top, but staying there is extremely difficult," said head coach Brent West. "[We have] a huge target [on our backs]. Every week is gonna be difficult for us. We know we're gonna see the best from everyone."
"Every day you gotta come out and work as if we are where we were last year," added Landen Lewis, who will both running back and safety for Cisco this year. "I mean without a state championship to get back, we're gonna have to go one week at a time."
It does help that the Loboes return 11 starters from that championship squad.
"We're definitely gonna lean on them in some preseason games," said West on his seniors. "Hopefully some incoming sophomores and incoming juniors will quickly jump in behind those leaders and prove [themselves] every single week."
"You gotta have the momentum with you, but you also gotta stay humble," said fullback and defensive end Codi Scott. "You can't let it get to your head and you gotta work hard on the practice field."
Hard work will be key because Cisco has seven players this season that will have to play on both sides of the ball.
"You gotta flip that switch, have that anger and that meanness inside of you that's just gonna flip it," said Scott on playing both ways. "I'm gonna be a good sport, but I'm gonna rip your head off at the same time."
Cisco will need a big year out of wide receiver and cornerback Kotie Hoover. He scored nine touchdowns last season and had ten interceptions on defense.
"He's one of the types of receivers I feel like we'll see playing at the next level," said West on Hoover. "He's special. He's got a great football head on his shoulders and knows what's going on and can process it very quickly. He's quite possibly the best receiver I've ever coached."
Also look for Landen Lewis to step up as a leader. He's back after rushing for 1,004 yards in 2013. That was also as a backup for Texas Tech's Mason Reed. Not to mention Lewis also started at safety in his Freshman year for the Loboes in their state championship loss.
"I'm just ready to have a good year," said Lewis. "I know there will be other kids that step up with me, and we're ready to lead."
Cisco will need that leadership in hopes of paving the road back to AT&T Stadium.