Jayden Coker reflected on his sophomore season as a Cedar Hill Longhorn when his team played for the Class 6A Division II state championship, falling to Katy in the title game.
He’s learned a lot since then, and now, as a senior leader, he’s teaching the youngsters who are where he once was that one of the most important things is to capitalize on their talent now.
“I’m not saying that having experience is bad thing, but I think experience only goes so far. My sophomore year, I knew the stakes of the game and how big every playoff game was, but I just went into the game as if it were just another regular game,” Coker said. “As long as everybody does their job to the absolute best every play of every game then we’ll be more than fine.
“They need to start playing all out right now. As big as they our sophomores are they could easily be seen by college coaches. I also, basically, told them, “Why wait until your senior year to get noticed?”
Coker and the rest of the team are counting on those youngsters to heed his advice. That, along with great play from the upperclassmen like himself, is going to be required if the Longhorns are going to overcome one of the most challenging schedules in the state of Texas.
In pre-district the Longhorns lost 34-12 to Rockwall (No. 20 in the state in Class 6A), 44-6 to Arlington Martin (No. 11 in 6A) and 47-6 to Southlake Carroll (No. 3 in 6A). They opened District 11-6A with a 51-21 loss to No. 23 Waxahachie. In all, their four opponents have a combined record of 14-2
And it doesn’t get any easier. Still on the schedule are a home game Friday against No. 4 Duncanville (3-0) and a trip to 3-1 DeSoto (No. 12) on Oct. 21.
But Coker remains confident that this season will end up better than 2021, when, even though they did not return to the state finals they reached the third round. In fact, much like this team may have to do, the Longhorns of a year ago made a late-season charge. They began 1-2 and were 4-4 through eight games before going on a four-game win streak.
“I honestly feel like this season is going to be better than last season. I know last season we had about six sophomores on varsity. Coach (Carlos) Lynn had already told us the nondistrict schedule at the end of last season, before we started boot camp, so going into off-season, spring football, and summer workouts we already knew that we had to work harder than ever,” Coker said. “Now, me personally, I haven’t looked at everybody else’s schedule so I honestly don’t know how difficult our schedule is compared to everybody else’s, I just know we’re in the District Of Doom.
“I don’t worry about other teams besides us. I most definitely believe we’re going to overcome our schedule and make it far in playoffs.”
Lynn had high praise for his three-year starter who is leading both on and off the field.
“He provides good leadership and good insight. He’s a coach on the field who helps make adjustments,” Lynn said.
As for the schedule, Lynn said playing such great opposition will only help as the season progresses. After all, playoff games aren’t won until you get there and have a chance, which is what playing such a tough schedule is about, as long as improvement takes place as a result.
“We understand we have to play a little bit better. We have to take care of the fundamentals and execute better,” Lynn said, adding that the biggest challenge might just be keeping their sights on the goal.
“Keep the right perspective, so they can see the big picture, and that you want them to get better each week. Keep them motivated and (understanding) that we’re on an incline of trying to get better,” he said.
And should they get through the gauntlet and reach the playoffs?
It’ll be well worth it. You don’t have diamonds unless you have any pressure. These guys understand that. The experience from these games should help us in the future,” he said.
Of course, it always helps having done this very thing before, both Coker and Lynn understand – as does the rest of the team.
“It may be different route, but we can get it done. It’s definitely possible,” Lynn said.
Should his time as a Cedar Hill Longhorn end at the conclusion of the regular season or again competing for a state title, Coker’s time as a Cedar Hill Longhorn football player will come to an end soon. As for what’s next, he’s pondering his options.
“I’m debating if I want to go to school in Florida at the University of Miami or go to Commerce A&M,” he said. “I was raised around the Greenville, Wolfe City area. My parents went to school in Ladonia and we still go down there every now and then and drive past the university (A&M-Commerce) every time. I also have had multiple family members attend the university too.
“I plan on studying physical education and eventually come back to Cedar Hill and coach.”