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COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF 2020: Alpine Fightin' Bucks - Odessa American: Football

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COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF 2020: Alpine Fightin' Bucks

Alpine the team to beat after winning district title

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Posted: Friday, August 21, 2020 8:30 am

Instead of vying to become the team on top of the mountain in district play, the Fightin’ Bucks enter 2020 as the team that the rest of District 1-3A Division II is trying to chase down.

Alpine won its first district title since 2012 thanks to an overtime victory against Crane in the regular-season finale en route to a 9-3 record, the most victories since that 2012 season.

As the team prepares for the upcoming campaign, the energy turns towards keeping that district crown for another year.

“They have to stay hungry,” Alpine head coach John Fellows said “It’s always easy to shoot for the guy on top.

“When you are that guy, you have to find a way to stay hungry and keep yourself motivated.”

The Fightin’ Bucks lost a number of key playmakers to graduation from last year, including quarterback Aaron Fellows and receiver/linebacker Travis Ruckman.

Despite the losses, John Fellows is confident that the team has what it takes to build off of last year’s success.

“You always like to have a talented group but if they really love each other and they work hard and have great leadership, that’s where you’re going to see a group excel,” he said. “I think that our kids have that.”

Fellows added that the offense will be a strength for the Fightin’ Bucks thanks in part to its experience up front. Alpine’s offensive line returns four starters from last year and will be a unit to lean on.

Also returning are senior receivers Brady Crump and Isaiah Nunez, with both expected to have expanded roles on offense.

Like their head coach, both players said that the key to repeating as district champions will be to take care of each other and be responsible.

“We have a lot of returning people this year,” Crump said. “And we really have to keep that same energy to go get another district championship.”

Nunez added: “The standard is high. Last year’s seniors set the standard for us and I know that they would want us to raise the bar and not to let them down.”

The road map to get that second straight district crown is slightly different for Alpine this season. The new District 1-3A Division II includes the Fightin’ Bucks, Crane, Anthony, Tornillo and newcomer Compass Academy.

Before they get to that district slate, the Fightin’ Bucks also have to deal with a unique scheduling quirk.

With COVID-19 forcing teams to reshuffle schedules, Alpine will begin the 2020 season with a home-and-home series with Fort Stockton. The first matchup is Aug. 28 in Fort Stockton before playing Sept. 4 in Alpine.

“It was just one of those things where we both lost our first week and everybody’s been scrambling,” he said. “They (Fort Stockton) are 65 miles away, they’re a good football team and it’s going to be two great games.

“I think we’re going to get a lot out of it for the year and with the way things are going, we didn’t want to leave any holes in our schedule.”

The unique scheduling arrangement is simply about making the best of the situation and players and coaches understand that things are different this year.

Both Crump and Nunez said that they were happy to be back and see their teammates again even with all the adjustments having to be made.

“It still feels a little bit weird with having to social distance, wearing masks and having to keep our helmets on,” Crump said. “But it’s just great to be back out playing with my teammates.”

Having the opportunity to coach this particular group is something that Fellows is grateful for. He credits his team to handling the situation as best it can and also gave a shout out to his assistant coaches, trainers and the parents to help provide this chance to make it work.

“I wouldn’t be able to do that without some good assistants, good trainers and our parents,” Fellows said. “Our parents are going to help us this year and it truly is going to take a village to get this thing done.”

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