By Bill Spinks
The changeover to a new head coach was a smooth one for Life School Waxahaxhie — Micah Stanley has been a part of the Mustangs for six seasons already as an assistant coach, after all.
Stanley was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach last December after the resignation of former head coach Heath Blalock. If anything else, the new skipper will be looking to open the throttle on his offense even more, with more multiple sets.
"Our success will be largely dependent on how well our team adapts to its new offense," Stanley said. "We have good speed on our defense and at receiver. Top to bottom our district is the toughest 4A district in the state of Texas."
In 2019, Blalock coached the Mustangs to a 7-4 record and a fifth playoff appearance in his six seasons there, but the team suffered a bi-district loss to Palestine. Blalock, who was 34-30 overall at Life, resigned at the end of the season and has since accepted the head coaching position at Prairiland High School near Paris.
In the meantime, the Mustangs suffered heavy graduation losses, including star running back Sir Michael Veazley and multi-sport athlete Gage Mayfield at quarterback along with 24 lettermen in all. However, the Mustangs will return 21 seniors in all this fall.
Veazley rushed for 1,393 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019, and Mayfield threw for 12 TDs and ran for nine more while finishing with 959 yards on the ground. Mayfield also caught 18 passes for 371 yards and three TDs with classmate Coby Oder under center.
Justin Tims, a junior, is the heir apparent to the duo of Mayfield and Oder at quarterback, although a collection of freshmen and sophomores are jockeying for the position. Fullback Jamal Whitman is the only listed backfield returnee.
"We are a fairly young team in some crucial spots," Stanley said.
Senior Christopher Gillespie is back at wide receiver, and speedy Jalen Mann is expected to take on a larger role on offense. Sophomore Sevin Butler is likely to find a spot on the field as well.
The trenches were depleted by the passing-along of diplomas on both sides, but senior Brent Arnold will start on both the offensive and defensive lines. On defense, Mann returns to his starting spot at cornerback, with Whitman at inside linebacker.
Junior Jackson Sibley-Maxwell is among the candidates to take over kicking duties for graduated standout Raul Acosta.
The COVID-19 pandemic and local jurisdictions’ reactions to it have thrown some 11th-hour kinks into Life’s 2020 varsity schedule.
Two previously-scheduled away games at Waco Connally and Pilot Point are out because of the changes. Instead, Life will open the 2020 football season on the road Aug. 28 at Godley and will play its home opener on Sept. 4 against former district rival Athens. The Mustangs then will face Brownsboro at a site to be determined on Sept. 11 before hosting Caddo Mills on Sept. 18 for homecoming.
The Mustangs have also scheduled a non-district road game at Texarkana Liberty-Eylau on Sept. 25 that was originally slated as a neutral-site contest.
All games are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
District 5-4A (I) play begins for Life on Oct. 9 at Mustang Stadium against Alvarado. The Mustangs will host Midlothian Heritage and Brownwood in 5-4A action while traveling to Stephenville and 2019 state runner-up Waco La Vega.