CROSS PLAINS – Having qualified for the postseason in each of the last five seasons – a school record – 10th-year Cross Plains head coach Daniel Purvis is hopeful the “fastest team I’ve ever had” extends the Buffaloes’ playoff streak with a lengthy run in 2020.
Cross Plains is among the countless UIL schools in Class A-4A appreciative for the opportunity to play football this year in the age of COVID-19.
“We are so thankful and we are so grateful and we are so excited,” Purvis said. “What an opportunity, especially when you didn’t think you were going to get something. For the UIL to come out and say, almost in the 12th hour, that we’re going to get to play, that really got our kids and coaching staff excited. We didn’t expect it, I thought they were going to stall the season and wait, especially after the decision TAPPS made and what other states are doing, but we’re just so excited.”
The Buffaloes return 12 of 20 lettermen and seven offensive and eight defensive starters from last year’s 7-4 squad that finished third in the District 2-2A Division II race.
Key returnees include first-team all-district running back and second-team safety Cody McWilliams (689 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 65 tackles), running back/safety Cason Allen (514 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 21 catches for 304 yards, 6 TDs; 80 tackles, 3 INTs), and first-team all-district utility player Ketch Thomas (5 catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs; 51 tackles), who lines up at tight end and outside linebacker.
Leading the charge on defense will be defensive lineman Rylie Conlee (68 tackles), coming off a district newcomer of the year campaign; linebacker Strait Oskins (43 tackles); honorable mention all-district linebacker Austin Rankin; and Thomas.
Returnees expected to see expanded playing time this season include offensive/defensive lineman Jody Collier, receiver/cornerback Ryan Reed and offensive/defensive lineman Keegan Tillery, while varsity newcomers include running back/cornerback Ryan Hopkins, offensive/defensive lineman Brennon Funderburk and quarterback/linebacker Justin Gresham.
“Cody McWilliams is a senior and a returning first-team all-district tailback for us,” Purvis said. “He’s had an unbelievable summer and offseason. I think he’s going to have a great year. Another one is Cason Allen, he’s a returning two-way starter for us, he plays safety and he may be our quarterback, or a running back. He’ll be carrying the ball a lot.”
The greatest strength by far, according for Purvis, for the Buffaloes this season is team speed.
“This is the fastest team I’ve ever had, top to bottom,” Purvis said. “I expect our team to contend for a state title in track, I think we have that much speed. We’re not very big, it’s one of the smallest teams I’ve ever had, but it’s also the fastest, I don’t know how that will turn out, but we will see. Hopefully it’s a good thing.”
Cross Plains will host Menard, visit Goldthwaite, venture to Haskell, welcome De Leon, and travel to Miles in non-district action.
“We’re playing some bigger schools like Goldthwaite, De Leon and Haskell. We’re playing up a classification against a lot of those guys, so I want to just see us compete,” Purvis said. “We’re going to be outmanned by every one of them, some of those schools are twice our size, but I’m eager to see how we’ll we compete. I feel like I’ve toughened up our pre-district schedule a little bit and I hope it sharpens us for district.”
The Buffaloes have moved to the new District 8-2A Division II this season, where they will challenge Hico, Santo, Meridian, Ranger, and Albany.
“I think it’s the best district I’ve been in since I’ve been here,” Purvis said. “We’ve been in some doozys, we’ve had ranked teams and all that in there year after year, but I feel like this is a district where we can compete really well. We feel like we’re one of the best teams in this district. I’m not sure how it’s going to shake out as far as first, second, third and fourth, but we feel like we’re definitely one of the playoff teams and we want to finish as high as we can.”
Cross Plains has bowed out of the playoffs in the first round each of the last three years, last notching a postseason victory in 2016. Purvis is hopeful that streak ends this year if the Buffaloes are fortunate enough to extend their season past 10 games.
“The biggest keys for us are turnovers and how my little offensive and defensive lines hold up not being as big as a lot of teams we’re going to play,” Purvis said. “I just want to see how they hold up against those bigger kids and bigger schools, both health-wise and being able to block and stop people defensively.”
CROSS PLAINS BUFFALOES
VARSITY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 28 Menard
Sept. 4 Goldthwaite
Sept. 11 at Haskell
Sept. 18 De Leon
Sept. 25 at Miles
Oct. 2 OPEN
Oct. 9 at Hico*
Oct. 16 Santo*
Oct. 23 at Meridian*
Oct. 30 Ranger*
Nov. 6 at Albany*
* District 8-2A Division II Game
Tuesday, Aug. 11 Cross Plains
Wednesday, Aug. 12 Comanche
Thursday, Aug. 13 Coleman
Friday, Aug. 14 Goldthwaite
Saturday, Aug. 15 San Saba
Sunday, Aug. 16 Richland Springs
Monday, Aug. 17 Blanket
Tuesday, Aug. 18 Brookesmith
Wednesday, Aug. 19 May
Thursday, Aug. 20 Zephyr
Friday, Aug. 21 Early
Saturday, Aug. 22 Bangs
Sunday, Aug. 23 Brownwood