Pigskin Preview: Sanderson Eagles

The Sanderson Eagles may start the season with only six players. However new coach Justin Hilliard and this team could still earn a playoff berth.
Published: Aug. 20, 2023 at 12:04 PM CDT
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SANDERSON, Texas (KOSA) - The Sanderson Eagles may start the season with only six healthy football players. Even by six-man football standards, that is low.

The Eagles hope to get a few back, and maybe have nine players at the start of district play.

“There’s not a lot of us, but we’ve got a lot of heart,” sophomore quarterback Kai Hilliard said.

“We lost four starters who were all seniors last year,” sophomore running back Derek Campos said. “We had some other boys that were gonna play this year but they moved. So now it’s just us.”

New head coach Justin Hilliard comes to Sanderson from Chester, a 1A school in East Texas.

“We scrimmaged against Leakey and Nueces Canyon,” he said. “Walking out with six kids against big 1A’s with 25, 26 kids. We held up pretty strong against those teams.”

Kai is Coach Hilliard’s son, and his dad said he was an All-Region kicker as a freshman at Chester. Kai doesn’t seem to mind the move to West Texas.

“There’s a lot more to see,” he said. “There’s mountains. It’s dry. The football is a little bit different. I like it better out here.”

“People say it’s hot right now, and it’s warm, but it’s not East Texas humid,” Coach Hilliard said. “This stadium is beautiful out here, and the area is beautiful.”

That stadium is one of the most unique settings in Texas football. Surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs and sunken into the ground, it’s nicknamed “The Pit.”

“It’s our Pit,” Campos said. “It’s our home. They join us down here, and we’ve got a home advantage.”

Sanderson plays in District 3-1A DII, with state-power Balmorhea, Grandfalls-Royalty, Sierra Blanca, and Dell City. Sanderson does not have any seniors on this year’s team.

“All the experience we can gain this year is gonna translate well into next year,” Coach Hilliard said. “I think we can still compete for a playoff spot. I’m just excited to be out west, and we’ll see how the season goes.”