New Deal High School Football in the COVID-19 Era
21 Varsity Lettermen Returning for 2020 New Deal Football Season
The kettle corn, brisket and raffle tickets being sold just inside the gate: this is a familiar scene on August Friday nights at Noland Stadium. For the 2020 football season, you will walk up the ramp to the New Deal High School home bleachers and also notice some major changes: fewer fans in the stands, a later start are among just a few of the changes decided implemented by the UIL in response to COVID-19.
It has only been two years since the New Deal Lions’ first Football State Championship appearance. Last year, the team had an impressive 10-2 area-finalist finish. The 2020 Lions were led by a strong group of returning starters and they look to improve on the second place (4-1) finish in District 2-2A D-I.
The Lions return eight starters on both offensive and defensive sides of the ball. After being plagued by the injury bug last year, the Lions will be relying on a younger core, who had valuable reps filling in the gaps for injuries. Twenty-One Varsity Lettermen will be returning for Coach Matt Hill for the 2020 season. Coach Hill is in his fifteenth year at the helm for the New Deal Lions and his team will have a few standouts that you should be looking for.
Junior: RB/LB: Leric Eaton In 2018, as a freshman, Leric Eaton was a force on the defensive side of the ball for New Deal. Leading the area in fumble recoveries, the young freshman was a welcomed addition to the linebacking corp. that was - at the time - anchored by then-junior Dylan Jerden. In 2019, Eaton continued to wreak havoc on opposing offenses from his linebacker spot, but he also became the number one running option for the Lions offense. Amassing more than 1,000 yards on the ground last year, Eaton quickly became a cornerstone joining first year starting Quarterback Hayden Caudill in the backfield. With Caudill and Jerden both graduating and moving to play football at the next level, Eaton will once again be a leader on both sides of the ball. Eaton is predicted by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine to be the District Defensive MVP.
Senior: WR: Kyler Reed Kyler Reed is a tough “hit you in the mouth” kind of receiver. The incoming senior already has a reputation of leaving defenders’ jaws on the ground after making highlight reel catches game after game. Reed, who is also well accomplished on the baseball diamond, will have a season to talk about in 2020.
Senior: WR/LB Derrick Delacruz Coming off a spectacular interception to seal last year’s final District Game against Sundown, Derrick Delacruz started the playoffs on a hot streak. In the Bi-District round of the playoffs, Delacruz could not be slowed down by the Hornets’ defense from Amarillo Highland Park. With seven carries for 94 yards and 5 receptions for 145 yards, Delacruz turned what was a tight game into a comfortable win for the Lions. Look for this Senior to go out with a bang!
Now to Defense, the side of the ball where New Deal hangs their hats. In 2019, this hard-hitting defensive group forced 25 turnovers in the regular season. They allowed less than one touchdown per game in their first 8 games. While the defense will be anchored by Eaton, you can also look to a few younger players to control the temp of the game. Specifically, watch out for Sophomore Kendrick Nelson, Junior Bron Fitzgerald, and the Rodriguez Twins - Juniors, Noah and Jonas. This crew can be expected to continually hand the ball back to the offense.
There are a lot of uncertainties as the New Deal Lions look to navigate the COVID-19 health crisis. Heading into the 2020 season, many are still not sure what the fans’ experience will look like as the UIL continues to make changes for the safety of `everyone involved. That said – fans of the Lions can still expect to hold their breath a little as the fight song plays and the Green and Gold run out of the tunnel. The 2020 season is already shaping up to be an unforgettable one – both on and off the field.