It’s the part of practice the players look forward to most. After the stretching, tedium of drills, and the occasional water break, it’s time for the offense to face the defense in group scrimmage work.
As North makes its way through spring football, the Coogs are beginning to get a long look at their personnel, and a recent workout offered another glance at what will be, come the regular season in September.
So far in spring, the defense has been a bit ahead of the offense, mainly due to that unit’s plethora of returning veterans, most prominently in the secondary, where the group is back basically intact from 2008.
Everywhere one looks in the deep back, there is an experienced kid who knows the calls and also what it feels like to be on a Friday night island against the best of 31-5A. Battling the receiving corps Tuesday, the Coog DBs did the job.
Bryan Trevino, one of several vets fighting for time on the corner, closed out his man well and defensed a third-down deep pass for an incomplete. Safety Moses Beltran showed he could be a big hitter in 2009 by coming up to pound a ball-carrier for no gain.
Though converted QB Matt Munoz had scored earlier in the day on a floater from Raul Monsevais, the North D, with great pressure up front, had a good run. End Hector Trejo announced he was coming after Monsevais before one snap, and made good on the boast, barreling in to knock the passer off his feet with a thud. It was one of a number of good licks, including ones from linebacker Blaze Walker and tackle Heltrin Reyes.
And the fine performance from the D-line brings up the subject that is on everyone’s mind this spring. How will a rebuilt offensive line hold up under the pressure?
Line coach Damien Rodriguez has been here before, and like past years, he is confident that in time, the unfamiliar faces in the trenches will step up to the plate and deliver.
“We are really big this year, and strong, so we like that,” said Rodriguez, who must replace four starters on his 5-man unit. “What we lack is experience, and that’s why having spring is such a bonus for us. These guys will come along and before the season, they’ll be ready.”
The coach can say this because he knows that center Rene Pena, rumored to be transferring to Rio Grande City, is actually coming back in the fall. That is another plus for North, because the squatty Pena is among the best in the business.
“Rene is like a coach on the field,” Rodriguez said. “One game last year, I saw something I needed to change out there and when Rene came off the field, I told him about it. He said, ‘Coach, I already made that adjustment,’ and that’s the kind of smart kid he is. He controls the whole field from his position and having him back will definitely help.”
Now for the new guys. Start with Mike Zuniga, a massive tackle who got some varsity experience in 2008. He is penciled in to be a bellcow at tackle, as is Isaac Santos, the favorite on the left side left tackle. Both those guys are monsters in the weight room, especially Santos, who bench-pressed nearly 400 pounds. How the big boys get their footwork and assignments down will tell the tale in ’09.
The O-line sleeper of the month may be Joey Mercado, a youngster who has size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and room to grow on a lean frame. Rodriguez promised that he will be heard from down the road.
“It takes time to learn to play the line,” said Rodriguez, himself a Coog hog back in the 1990s. “They are working hard and learning what to do, and the next few weeks will be good for them.”
NOTES: The 7th annual RGVCS All-Star football game was held in Brownsville at Sams Stadium Saturday. Appearing from the city were: Marco Adriana and Adan Garcia of North; Michael Garcia and Michael Santos of Econ; and Edgar Castellanos, Enrico Salinas, and Isaac Nolasco of EHS.