You won't find too many football programs in East Texas more respected than Liberty-Eylau, but the Leopards have struggled to find consistent success the last several seasons.

First-year head coach Steve Wells is hoping an influx of young talent will breathe life into a program that's won two state championships since 1999, and is widely regarded by East Texans as annually one of the most athletic football teams in the area.

Since capturing the Class 3A Division I championship in 2006, L-E has been a model of mediocrity, producing a cumulative record of 39-36 with no wins in the playoffs.

The Leopards bring back just six starters from last year's 6-5 bi-district finalist, but there are several key players Wells is expecting big things from in 2014, most notably the small but explosive backfield duo of Donelle Hoof and D.Q. Steels. That tandem combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall.

Steels suffered a knee injury during the offseason, so it is uncertain when or if he'll be able to contribute, but if both backs are healthy, L-E will be difficult to stop on the ground.

Defensive back Corey Braxton and linebacker Ricky Johnson, who both are capable of playing at the next level, return to anchor a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game on average in 2013.

L-E will be reunited with Paris, Paris North Lamar and Pittsburg in District 7-4A Division I, while gaining Quinlan Ford and Princeton as league foes this fall. A tough non-district schedule, which includes the season opener against perennial state power Gilmer, should prepare the young Leopards for the second half of the regular season.

2014 Liberty-Eylau Leopards Schedule

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