St. Thomas More Cougars
2021 Record: 8-5
Head Coach: Jim Hightower
Note: QB Battle between Sam Altmann and Will Taylor, as the Cougs look to replace 5-star QB Walker Howard
Jim Hightower has been the head coach at St. Thomas more for 37 years. He's guided the Cougars to 3 state title, all in the last 7 years.
So Hightower knows the recipe to a championship team. And his 2022 group has already mastered the number 1 ingredient.
"This is the highest character group I've had in a long time," Hightower admits. "They've got a tremendous group of leaders in the group and just the team chemistry. All the intangible, all the things you look for off the field. They're A1."
"This will be my fourth year," STM senior defensive end Austin Hollier adds. "Out of all the senior groups, I think this senior group has more leaders or people stepping up. This incoming freshmen group is feeding off of it."
Among the leadership group, the Cougars have 11 starters returning, including 6 on defense.
The biggest shoes STM will have to fill is obviously at quarterback, as they lose the top QB in the nation in LSU's Walker Howard.
Juniors Sam Altmann and Will Taylor are now competing for the job under center. They each enter the season with valuable experience, as both filled in when Howard missed 5 games last season with an injury.
"We got 2 guys who both got a lot of live experience in District ball games," Hightower said. "They did a fine job for us last year as sophomores. The competition has continued. You know, they're dead even. When you said we will have a new starting quarterback, we might have new starting quarterbacks."
"That was amazing for their growth, because when they first stepped in to fill in the shoes of Walker, they were scared, they were nervous," STM senior center Kohl Brown explained. "So as those games went on, they got more comfortable in the pocket. They got more comfortable being with the O-line especially. I like it a lot more now, since I've had some experience snapping to them, blocking for them. I feel it helped them grow a lot."
When it comes to the playoffs, STM may be competing in a new bracket this season. The Cougars are waiting for an LHSAA Executive Committee meeting in early September, to determine if they will move to Division I for the postseason. STM has won 2 of the last 3 Division II titles.
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