Combine a rugged non-district schedule with the weekly gauntlet in District 9-6A, and it felt like an uphill climb all season for Jesuit.
Playing in one of the most challenging leagues in the state against perennial powerhouses from Allen and Plano, the Rangers struggled statistically to their worst season in 15 years since joining the UIL. They missed postseason play for the first time in almost a decade and endured their first losing record since 2009.
However, Jesuit has reasons for optimism before the next realignment cycle. The Rangers return 12 starters. Although the team finished last year on a six-game losing streak — just one of those defeats was lopsided.
The offense saw its production cut in half compared to a seven-win campaign in 2018. But dynamic running back E.J. Smith, son of Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, returns after tallying almost 1,400 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago.
New offensive coordinator Royce Slechta, who comes to Jesuit from Wylie, also will benefit from the return of quarterback Rance Holman. The senior threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale against Plano East, which was his only start.
The offensive line also features size and experience. SMU commit Branson Hickman is the son of head coach Brandon Hickman, and David Morales also is a three-year starter.
The Jesuit defense showed promise despite inconsistency last season, and the top two tacklers from that unit return in linebacker Tommy Roy and safety Jack Barton.