ALTUS, Okla (KSWO) – The Altus Bulldogs enjoyed a dream season in 2015. In just their second season under Jeremy Reed, Altus captured its first State Championship since 1971. But now that the calendar has flipped to 2016, the Bulldogs are doing their best to leave their title memories in the past.
"We don't talk about the gold ball very much," said senior Kamron Canchola. "The championship was nice, but we're on to the next year. We're looking for the same goal, and we're just going to go out and get it."
The 2016 edition of the Bulldogs has a completely new look. Reed left the program for a job in Arkansas. In his place steps Todd Vargas. Vargas is familiar with the team and community after serving as defensive coordinator the past two years.
"It's not about me. It's about this staff, and this team, and this community. This staff is an amazing staff. They love the kids. They pour into them. The community loves their bulldogs. So it's really an easy position, honestly, to step into," Vargas said.
He's a great man. We've had chemistry since Coach Reed's been here. And I know he can do the job. He's a great guy and I'm ready to lay my back out on the line for him, just like all my brothers," said Canchola.
Altus also suffered a big loss in personnel. They'll have to replace a talented senior class that included the state's offensive player of the year, running back Taven Birdow. The Bulldogs may not have a back they can lean on, but they do have a stable of talented ball carriers that might make their offense more unpredictable.
"Our offense is not predicated on one. We run a triple option. A true triple option," Vargas said. "We feel like we have two slots that are as talented as there are in the state. We feel like we've got two younger classmen that are going to be able to come up and step up into those rolls to help that. We feel like we have a quarterback, and really two quarterbacks. Tyler Garcia, our senior, he's our free safety. He plays quarterback. And we feel very comfortable with those guys."
Garcia will share time at QB with Jake Vargas, son of Coach Todd Vargas, to fill the void left by Jayden Benway.
"Him being gone, I know I have to step up and be the next guy up there. So I've been working hard putting in the time I know I need to be, so I can be better for the team. Just so we don't lose any spots and know we are equally as good," Jake Vargas said.
"Jayden was a great quarterback last year. And we just learned a lot from him. Just trying to continue that tradition. It's just the feet work and the technique we work on every day. And we're just trying to get better every day," added Garcia.
The Altus defense may suffer more from Benway's departure after he hauled in 15 interceptions last season. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they have two experienced play-makers ready to pick up the slack.
"Our corners, Sha'Quan French and Tito Jones have an incredible amount of ability and they have all the skills necessary," Coach Vargas said. "We don't talk that way. We don't talk about replacing people. We just put the guys in there. They're working their tails off and doing a great job."
The Bulldogs will begin their attempt to repeat in Week Zero against Clinton.